Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tonka....Not Just For Trucks!

Last week my sister returned from a fabulous trip to Paris. I was there, of course, to welcome her home with open arms. Well....really, open hands. I was SO excited to see what her trip would yield up for me in the way of a gift. I knew it would be rude to ask, so I waited and listened to her adventures. I love any conversation that involves Paris or traveling, so my ears hung on every word that came from her mouth. It was so delightful that I got lost in the story and forgot all about the possibility of a gift.

Then in mid-sentence she said, "Oh! get my purse! Your present!" Ahhhh. My attention was alerted, and my heart quickened. What was in that purse? My palms began to sweat as she dug deep into the black hole of what she calls....her purse. Rummaging and riffling, her hand swept and punched the inside of the bag. It looked as though she was fighting a small dog in there. What could it be? I had great visions of a scarf, a book, or even better some yummy french food item! That would be my pick....food. Suddenly her hand stopped moving, "Ahhh HA! TONKA" she exclaimed. Tonka? I grew flushed with irritation and confusion. Tonka? She brought me a little yellow truck? Who goes to Paris to get their sister a truck?

But a truck it was not. Out of her purse came a little clear bottle containing strange seeds. It was tonka, a bean from a tree that grows in South America. They were black and wrinkled, not appetizing at all. But, when I lifted the lid the most amazing smell of vanilla, almond and cinnamon all rolled into one wafted past my nose to fill the house. It was relaxing and intoxicating all at once.
My sister explained that she had taken a cooking class while in Paris where they made pistachio custard tarts. Tonka was a key ingredient in the dessert. I was so thrilled, but scared at the same time because my oldest son is allergic to nuts and some seeds. I immediately got online to check it out. Tonka is actually a seed that comes from a bean tree in the tropics. It has been used by many countries in desserts, tobacco products and perfume.

I was not fully convinced of its safety for my boy. Why had I never heard of this flavor enhancing bean/seed/spice? Why? It is actually banned from use in food in the United States! It is not even allowed to be sold. The little gourmet item contains an anticoagulant. Well, what do you know? Big sister brought me a fragrent anticoagulant all the way from Paris. It was the thought that counted. I felt very honored! I mean, how many Americans can say they have tonka in their spice collection? Although I fear I shall never use my unique gift, I will have the pleasure of opening the bottle from time to time to breath a little Paris into my life.

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