Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Entertaining jaunt through exotic treats

  • Print

The Spice Necklace

A Food-Lover's Caribbean Adventure

By Ann Vanderhoof

Doubleday Canada, 459 pages, $33

FOR most of us, our knowledge of spices is confined to little glass bottles sitting in rows in the grocery store.

But Toronto writer Ann Vanderhoof's newest tale of sailing the Caribbean islands brings readers into the world of nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon and the ground it comes from.

Part travel book, part cookbook, The Spice Necklace continues from Vanderhoof's previous effort, 2004's An Embarrassment of Mangoes, a tale of workaholic 40-somethings casting off the shackles of regular life and taking to the seas.

Ultimately, it's a quick and entertaining jaunt through a world of exotic treats that belongs in the kitchen rather than the literary shelf.

Vanderhoof and her husband explored the Caribbean in the 1990s, losing themselves in the people, landscapes and food. They have returned to the Caribbean in Spice Necklace after a 10-year hiatus and are ready to continue their adventure.

What follows is an ode to the cuisine and native ingredients of Trinidad, Grenada and a host of other islands. Vanderhoof visits cocoa plantations and watches locals as they go seaweed fishing.

She samples goat fattened on oregano leaves and shellfish plucked straight from the ocean. She picks up the secrets to making perfect breadfruit stews and crisp lobster fritters from the local island women (and sometimes men).

Vanderhoof's tale is incredibly airy and bright, but in a world where the politics of food has become about much more than just what's on our plate, it also seems flippant.

Touring through some of the poorest parts of the world, Vanderhoof skates at the edges of the issues that plague farmers on these islands, for example the swaths of valuable agriculture lost to Hurricane Dean in 2007 and the divide between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

As a result, her exploration feels hollow and lacking any real insight into the culture she purports to cherish.

The same lack of depth is found in her connection to the people. She claims lifelong friendships with some of the islanders, and yet we never learn anything about them aside from their names and which spices they tip into the stockpot.

She haphazardly pieces together information with no connection from one idea to the next. We might start out hunting for cloves and find ourselves learning about guava berry liquor with no transition in between. The only indication she's changed topics are the numerous section breaks in each chapter.

Vanderhoof's writing style is accessible and mostly engaging. But it's her native island recipes, many developed in the small kitchen aboard her boat, which are the book's highlight.

Twice-fried plantains, coconut drops, pepper shrimp and mango chow -- many sound good enough to induce hunger pangs just by reading their names. Although some of the ingredients are likely only found in a market in St. Kitts, Vanderhoof does an admiral job of making them accessible to any North American kitchen.

Nisha Tuli is a Winnipeg writer and an avid foodie.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 30, 2010 H8

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Jets This Week: Crunching the playoff numbers

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project. Baby peregrine falcons. 21 days old. Three baby falcons. Born on ledge on roof of Radisson hotel on Portage Avenue. Project Coordinator Tracy Maconachie said that these are third generation falcons to call the hotel home. Maconachie banded the legs of the birds for future identification as seen on this adult bird swooping just metres above. June 16, 2004.
  • A mother goose has chosen a rather busy spot to nest her eggs- in the parking lot of St Vital Centre on a boulevard. Countless cars buzz by and people have begun to bring it food.-Goose Challenge Day 06 - May 08, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Do you think the CMHR made the right decision in banning selfie sticks?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google