Amy Vanderhoof has given readers two Caribbena trevelogues to savour, first in her debut novel, An Embarrassment of Mangoes, and now in The Spice Necklace.
Her second Caribbean odyssey aboard her and husband Steve's sailboat Receta (recipe in Spanish) takes us on a deliciously slow cruise through the Caribbean.
It's been 10 years since their first two-year trip in the mid-'90s (as told in An Embarrassment of Mangoes), where the couple leaves behind the hectic pace of Toronto and sails from Canada to the Caribbean. They chuck their busy magazine jobs for a slow-paced life of soaking up the culture and flavours of the islands.
This time, anxious once again to escape city life, they lazily island-hop from the Dominican Republic to St. Lucia to Trinidad and dozens of points in between.
Along the way, Vanderhoof, who has written for Gourmet, More and Islands magazines, follows her foodie senses to local kitchens, markets and farms and meets a host of characters.
Among her collection of local fare is real nutmeg in Grenada and oregano goats in the Dominican Republic. In her tiny two-by-two-foot on-board kitchen, she turns out dozens of local recipes, which you'll find in the book.
We caught up with Vanderhoof to ask her a few questions about food and travel -- and the Caribbean pastime of liming.
Q: Why are travel and food so intertwined?
A: There's something in the smell and taste that cements memories. When I'm back in Canada, there are some tastes I just long for. In Trinidad, they make these roti with anything and everything in them. They include curry pumpkin in it or whatever's in season. It's making my mouth water just talking about it. Any of these foods call up these memories and the people we met.
Q: What's become your favourite place in the Caribbean?
A: The longer we stay in a place, the more we are likely to fall in love with it. We're still in love with Grenada, but now that we've spent more time in Trinidad and more time in St. Lucia or the small island of Carriacou ... it's stolen our hearts. The place we are in is our favourite. It's always hard for us to lift our anchor and move on.
Q: What's a must-do in one of your favourite places?
A: The more you spend time in a place the more you realize you've only scratched the surface. In St. Lucia, we climbed the Gros Pitons (one of the iconic peaks of the island). It's amazing. If you're in reasonably good shape I would recommend it, but there are many other hikes, too.
Q: Other recommendations?
A: Go to local markets (on any island). Have some small bills in your pocket and just buy a few small things. You get caught up in the smells... the hustle and bustle.
Q: Favourite souvenir?
A: In the markets of Grenada the women make spice necklaces. I just can't resist them. They make them with nutmeg, cloves, bay leaf, turmeric. You just breathe in the aromas.
Q: What do you most miss when you return to Canada?
A: Much to my surprise it felt claustrophobic. We had been accustomed to having an island as our backyard. I miss living in the outside world all the time. I also thought I'd enjoy having a predictable routine again, but it was the reverse. I missed how every day had an unexpected element to it.
Q: If you were limited to bringing one gadget, what would it be?
A: Everything has to serve many purposes and everything has to earn its keep. It would have to be a micro-plane. Another one that's not a gadget is a pressure cooker. It's valuable on a boat because it speeds up the cooking time.
Q: Is there a food you wouldn't eat?
A: The one thing I didn't like and still don't is maubi bark. It's used to make a tea... It has a shiver-inducing bitterness. I was also never a fan of goat and then we began to taste it in the Dominican Republic and I became a convert. Tasting the oregano goats is where my full conversion occurred.
Q: What have you learned about yourself in your travels?
A: I was a magazine editor before I left. I was Ms. Deadline. I learned there was more to life than that. In Trinidad, there is a word -- 'liming' -- used as a noun and a verb. It means, chilling or relaxing, spending time with friends. People say, 'who you liming with tonight?' I learned how to lime!
-- Canwest News Service
The Spice Necklace has dozens of recipes. Here's an easy one; it's Vanderhoof's favourite snack on Receta.
2 unripe or half-ripe mangoes peeled and sliced
1/4 cup (50 ml) finely chopped cilantro
1/4-1/2 Scotch bonnet or other finely chopped hot pepper (preferably red for colour)
2 teaspoon (10 ml) coarse kosher or sea salt
Place mangoes in a serving bowl. Add some of each of the remaining ingredients and toss well. Taste and adjust balance of hot/tart/salty/ sweet by adding more ingredients as you please. Serve with toothpicks to accompany drinks.
Check out spicenecklace.com for Vanderhoof's recipes, a blog and travel tips.