An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude
by Ann Vanderhoof
Broadway, 320 pp., $14.95 (paper)OK, I agree that the premise may be trite, but it is an ideal subject for summer reading. After all, who hasn't dreamed of ditching life in the rat race in exchange for the laid-back lifestyle of a tropical island? In the dreaded eight-to-five of my gray-cubicle daily life, I know I have. So did Ann and her husband, Steve, a couple of fortysomething professionals who decided to actually put a stop to the growing stress of their successful publishing careers. They designed a five-year plan, saved their money, bought a sailboat, and left behind their hectic lives in Toronto to embark on a two-year adventure along the Atlantic coast and the Caribbean all the way to the West Indies. Ann recorded the experience through the eyes of an avid cook discovering a new world of foods, flavors, and cultures. Interspersed with travel anecdotes, sailing misadventures, and an account of the challenges of cooking in a 2-foot-by-2-foot kitchen are the enticing recipes collected and created by the couple as they tasted new ingredients and learned local techniques from the islanders. The fish en escabeche, for instance, was a recent success in my own kitchen, a simple yet delicious dish perfect for a warm summer day. The mango crisp and the rum punch are next on my list to try. This book is not only passionately written and entertaining, it is also highly informative. Topics ranging from the importance of nutmeg in Grenada to the history of rum production in the Caribbean allow readers to make their own discoveries and feel as if they were going along on this liberating voyage. I am starting my five-year plan now.