by Ann Vanderhoof
First sentence: “This time, I bring my rolling pin to the Caribbean.”
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I read, and fell in love with Vanderhoof’s book of her first trip to the Caribbean,
Embarrassment of Mangoes, nearly five years ago. I didn’t even know there was a book about a second trip until a few months back, when someone pointed it out to me. Of course, I had to read it! And, unsurprisingly, I had much the same experience with this one that I had with the first book.
Ann and Steve returned to Toronto, to their “land-based” life, but after a couple of years, they realized that they missed the easy-going, food-saturated life they had in the Caribbean. So they did what they could to put things in order, got out their boat, Receta, and headed south again.
In many ways, this one covers much of the same territory as the first one did: there is food and friends and sunshine. But, knowing that, Vanderhoof was smart: the book (as evidenced by the title), is mostly about the spices native to the islands, and the many, many uses they have in everyday life. And because I don’t know much about the spices I eat, I learned a whole lot. Like how nutmeg is grown, and the fact that mace and nutmeg comes from the same plant. And that the islanders (especially on Trinidad) love their peppah HOT. I also learned a whole lot about rum (I had to turn to a friend to explain proof, just so I could understand why the 151 proof Saba Spice was so difficult to get down), and the ways in which rum really does permeate island culture.
My favorite island this time was Trinidad; Vanderhoof made it come alive, and made me curious about the African/Indian blend of cultures and cuisine they have there. They also spent a lot of time in the Dominican Republic and Dominica, both islands would be fascinating to visit. Mostly, though, I envied their approach to seeing the world: parking in one spot for months at a time, soaking up the culture and the cuisine, meeting people, and learning about a place rather than just seeing it. I would (still) love to travel that way.
But the next best thing to a vacation is a well-written, food-heavy, travel book about an area. And this one is just the ticket.