Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Spice Necklace

"The Spice Necklace" by Ann Vanderhoof
Pub 2009
480 pages

Subtitled "My adventures in Caribbean cooking, eating, and island life", this 450+ page book follows Canadian natives Ann and her husband Steve as they sail around the Caribbean in their boat, Receta, immersing themselves in the similar-but-different island cultures over the period of about 2 years. (This seems to be a follow-up to an earlier book along the same vein, An Embarrassment of Mangoes, and it's not necessary to read them in order.) Chock full of island history, characters, cultural experiences, adventures, over 70 recipes, jokes, and a lot of information about spices and their histories, there is a lot to take in, and it was all very interesting. That being said, it felt like the middle got bogged down, saturated in information, and could have used a sharper editorial pen. However, without eliminating islands (and therefore reference points later on) I don't know how it could have been done.

Most of the recipes sound delicious, and if I was a seafood-lover (which I am not) I'd be in heaven. A handy map of the islands on the inside of the front and back covers is a helpful visual reminder of where they travel to, and of the relative size of the islands. Part of me loved this book and part of me got a bit bored by it. I mean no offense to the author, truly I don't, but it got a little too "Spice Necklace-y" sometimes. A nice addition to the travel lit and foodie genres, it was a mini tropical escape in the midst of a cold and snowy Wisconsin winter. Recommended if traveling and food are things you like to read about. 3.6 stars

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