if the fda asks, i rub these tonka beans under my armpits, like deodorant
So, yes, it has been a while. I am not ignoring you and I promise I have not forgotten all the time we have spent together. But I have no doubt been distracted by some pretty significant happenings around here, the most important and commanding being that I am moving to California in June. In case you were wondering why, the most compelling reason looks like this:
The other reasons are less compelling—you know, just my adorable nephews and the entirety of my family live in California, but that’s just a coincidence (Attention Family: That was a joke. Now that I am going to live in close proximity to you we need to be clear that I sometimes employ sarcasm as a form of humor. Humor is good because it makes people happy and then they laugh. Please, read up on it and let me know if you have any questions).
Anyway, in addition to beginning the super fun process of moving, this week I was lucky enough to get a visit from a family business partner/mentor/friend/awesome pastry chef named Kendra Baker (perhaps you have heard of her). While in town on business for less than 48-hours, she was gracious enough to bestow upon me a small gift: a handful of tonka beans.
So what the hell is a tonka bean? I didn’t know either until she clued me in. They are pungent seeds from the rainforests of South America that are used as a tobacco-y, vanilla-like flavoring or scent in some countries. They smell like nothing I have ever smelled before and I can’t really put my finger on what exactly I am smelling. It’s very floral and sweet but also spicy, earthy, and musky at the same time. Maybe like a tropical cowboy smoking flowers and incense out of an old tobacco pipe? Kendra advised that they can be grated with a microplane (like you would whole nutmeg) to infuse dessert components with their pungent aroma, a standard practice in France. But, then she also told me that they are illegal to use as food in the United States, so forget everything I just said.
Apparently, they contain coumarin which is toxic to your liver in large doses and is the basis for the pharmaceutical synthesis of anticoagulant drugs (but is not an anticoagulant itself). You can buy them in the US, but you can’t use them in food. So clearly, even though I am posting about tonka beans on my food blog, was given them by a pastry chef I admire, have read that they are used by other chefs I admire, and can still smell their sweet musk on my hands from handling them hours ago, just so we are clear, I am totally just going to rub them under my armpits like deodorant. Delicious, aromatic, vanilla-cherry-almond-tobacco-smelling deodorant.