Picking up where An Embarrassment of Mangoes left off, we find that while Ann and Steve returned to Toronto, to their “land-based” life, they realized after a couple of years that they missed the easygoing, 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.
At first glance, this book just rehashes the same territory as Ann’s first book: food, friends, sunshine. But, knowing that, Vanderhoof was smart: this one (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 come 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, my envy of 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 — still permeated my reading.
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.
Rated: Moderate for drinking, mild swearing and one f-bomb.