Everything is possible and nothing has to be: Good Lime between southern Hesse and the Caribbean

When Beni Tonka, who was born in Rüsselsheim, found out at the age of 26 that the man he calls Dad wasn't his father, he went in search.

Everything is possible and nothing has to be: Good Lime between southern Hesse and the Caribbean

When Beni Tonka, who was born in Rüsselsheim, found out at the age of 26 that the man he calls Dad wasn't his father, he went in search. With nothing but a name as a clue, he sets off - and finally finds what he is looking for in Trinidad

What is it like not knowing where you come from, where your roots are? I myself don't know this searching, urgent feeling, I know where my roots are. Beni Tonka touched me all the more with his life story. In his book "Good Lime", published by Brandstätter Verlag, Beni Tonka shares his story between southern Hesse and the Caribbean with us. He tells of the adventure of how he got to know and love his father and his whole family in Trinidad and Tabago, mainly through the food and the way of life. Today, Beni Tonka lives as a writer and artist in Cologne, writes short stories and poems and works in networked art projects.

Born in Rüsselsheim, Beni grew up with mom, her sister Ingrid and grandma Änni. He called the US soldier, whom his mother married when Beni was four, Dad. His sister Jazzmin is born, the family emigrates to North America and has to move every few years because of Dad's job. After finishing school, Beni goes back to Europe to Grandma Änni, who now lives in Baden-Baden. At some point his mother comes to visit and tells him the truth about his biological father: a man from Trinidad. Beni calls. Nothing. The phone is idle. At 23 he gave up the search, went to Spain, took photographs, wrote poems, worked in an olive oil factory and tried to find himself. Beni moves on, this time to Cologne. Here, in the vibrant art and designer scene, he settles down. In July 2012, when Beni was 26, he found a new phone number while doing an internet search. Beni calls. someone picks up

Six months later, now 27, Beni is standing at Trinidad airport

With "Good Lime", Beni Tonka gives us a touching cookbook and reading book with the best vegetarian recipes of his German grandmother and his new Caribbean family: such as Aunt Cynthia's fluffy coconut bake, fried okra, but also grandma's beloved potato salad. Since his first stay in his second home, Beni Tonka has been returning regularly, collecting stories and recipes that have shaped him. "Good Lime" is a biographical cookbook and a culinary journey into the author's past. It's a book about identity and the search for one's roots.

The book is a conglomeration "of what happened – and what it tasted like," says the introduction. This is a beautiful summary of what to expect in Good Lime. I had never heard of "liming" before, as well as I had never been to any Caribbean island. "Liming is a central part of everyday life in Trinidad and Tobago. Chance encounters on the street corner spontaneously evolve into long, happy gatherings after a few drinks."

Historically, the "blame" was on British sailors who suffered from scurvy and tried to supplement their vitamin C deficiency with limes when they went ashore. Therefore, the locals gave them the nickname "limeys". After the limes came the rum; Men and women on the islands adopted the pattern and became "limers" themselves. So get out of the hectic everyday life and enjoy life to the fullest! Shouldn't we all do that once in a while? Yes. Do we do it often enough? no

So let yourself be inspired by "Good Lime" and find your way (at least once in a while) to this easy, Caribbean way of life "where everything can and nothing has to". A playlist (QR code in the book) provides the right sound for it with soca and calypso music. There is a QR code and the internet address for the equally indispensable hot soka sauce. A guide to Caribbean ingredients provides security when choosing food, tips help with shopping and use.

We learn a lot about cocoa, how it should taste and how it works - also on the skin; how to smartest eat a grapefruit; that only "morons" harvest papayas with bare arms, in sandals and without a hat and taste like insanely juicy pineapple with salt, garlic and chili sauce. Speaking of chili: I love chili and therefore like to eat it really spicy - and just like Pop and Beni's cousin Rocket, I burst out laughing at Beni's brave (???) "self-experiment" with a "Trinidad Chocolate 7-pot". This chilli is one of the hottest chillies from the Caribbean.

The name comes from the claim that you can season seven cooking pots full of food with a single chili pepper. If not more... The confusing "chocolate" merely refers to the dark color, not the taste. "Boy," says Rocket, shaking his head, "we don't just eat them!" No wonder there's a Trinidadian saying, "You never put a bottle of chili sauce directly in a friend's hand. That will burn the friendship." The recipe for this adventure kindly includes just a pinch of chili...

The book is full of such stories. And there are recipes for all of them: spicy, sweet, intense, colourful. Beni Tonka's experiences are full of amazement, trying, approaching. He breaks out in a sweat (and so do I) when he mistakes a black and yellow staff sticking out of the ground for such a thing and only recognizes the snake in it when it curls up. Tarantulas and vipers, pipe guns set up by farmers in the thicket not only to deter intruders ... "I still have so much to learn," says city dweller Beni Tonka over and over again. Discovering his resemblance to his great-grandfather Ben ("It always ends up being the ears."), he plants his first tree in Trinidad, a coconut palm, with Great-Uncle Jack: "'Every time you come home,' he says, ' you have to plant something.'"

All of this is told in an entertaining and lively chatter, so that the images arise in front of the inner eye, for example when Beni talks about the lively chaos at the street carnival: rousing rhythms, a lot of bare skin, heat, humidity, eroticism everywhere. Even a Caribbean wake does not go quietly on stage, but loudly and with a little Moruga grass, "the best grass in all of Trinidad and Tobago". And of course with hot chocolate, which Beni calls "holy chocolate" (including recipe): "I feel enlightened or sublime – whatever you want to call it. A tingling rises in me, from toes to fingertips. On cool air blows between the soles of my feet, my sandals and the floor. Real vibes! I stare engrossed at the torch for a while. Until Uncle Ragoo nudges me again. 'The chocolate's good, isn't it?' He grins, the flame reflected in his glasses."

Beni Tonka shows us that cooking is much more than just preparing meals. Cooking creates memories, shares joy with other people, and establishes new relationships through shared enjoyment. In a way, he got to know his Caribbean family through food: Every time he met new family members, he got to taste new foods and drinks. In a video, Beni Tonka says about himself: "I'm a culinary hybrid." That makes me a little jealous.

"The ideal curry mixture for the recipes in this book. Tastes even better if you roast and grind the ingredients yourself."

Preparation: Put the unground spices without fat in a saucepan and roast for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. When they are dark and golden brown, remove from the heat and let cool. Mix and grind finely in a spice or coffee grinder.

Then add the turmeric and chili. Store in an airtight container at room temperature in a dark place.

"Bene balls have their origins in the African traditions of the enslaved people of Trinidad

Preparation: Add sesame, tonka bean and nutmeg to a heavy skillet. Toast over medium-high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. Take it from the stove and let it cool off. Put the sugar in a saucepan and let it melt over medium heat.

Stir constantly until the sugar caramelizes. Don't let it burn. Remove from the heat, add the sesame seeds and salt and mix thoroughly with a tablespoon.

Leave to cool briefly.

Put a little oil in your hands, take a tablespoon of the warm mixture and roll it into a ball with your palms. Since the mass has to be processed hot, you have to hurry. Place on parchment paper and let set. Stored in a mason jar or other airtight container, the balls will keep for months.

"This casserole is very popular with Trinibagonians and is often served with lunch and river limes."

Ingredients: Boil water in a saucepan, add 1-2 teaspoons of salt, cook the macaroni. Strain and set aside.

Melt butter in a deep saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the shallot and roasted peppers until soft and lightly caramelized.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cornstarch. Pour in the coconut milk. Place the pot back on the stove over medium-high heat and stir. Cook until small bubbles form.

Add 150 g of grated cheese. Stir and remove the pot from the stove. Fold in the macaroni and return the pot to the stove.

Stir in the salt, pepper, thyme, turmeric, paprika, and chilli powder. Beat in the eggs until fully incorporated.

Pour the mixture into a buttered casserole dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Place on the middle shelf of the oven preheated to 180 °C top and bottom heat. Bake for about 35 minutes until the top is golden brown. Let the pie rest for 15 minutes before serving.

"Grandma always baked this cake for me when I came to visit - especially on her birthday and mine."

Preparation: Preheat the oven to 180 °C top and bottom heat. Place the baking tray on the second lowest rail. Sift flour, starch, salt and baking powder through a sieve into a bowl, then mix. Sift in the tonka bean and powdered sugar. Crack the eggs into a bowl and add to the mixture along with the oil and eggnog.

First beat the dough with the hand mixer for about 2 minutes on low speed, then on full speed until a smooth mass is obtained. Pour the batter into a greased ring mold and place in the oven. Remove from the oven after about 15-20 minutes - close the door again immediately.

Score the cake in a ring about 1 cm deep and place back in the oven. After a total of 45 minutes, pierce with a toothpick. If nothing sticks when you pull it out, the cake is done. Otherwise bake for another 15 minutes.

Remove the finished cake from the oven and let it cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Then turn out onto a cake rack lined with baking paper and let cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving. Don't powder the whole cake. While this looks nice, let the crust soften.

I'm already looking forward to the first cold days, because the first recipe I'll try is the "holy chocolate", I'm excited about the "vibrations". Heidi Driesner wishes you a lot of joy of discovery with "Good Limes".

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