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The Spice Necklace: My Adventures in Caribbean Cooking, Eating, and Island Life Paperback – Bargain Price, February 7, 2011

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Product Description
While sailing around the Caribbean, Ann Vanderhoof and her husband Steve track wild oregano-eating goats in the cactus-covered hills of the Dominican Republic, gather nutmegs on an old estate in Grenada, make searing-hot pepper sauce in a Trinidadian kitchen, cram for a chocolate-tasting test at the University of the West Indies, and sip moonshine straight out of hidden back-country stills.

Along the way, they are befriended by a collection of unforgettable island characters: Dwight, the skin-diving fisherman who always brings them something from his catch and critiques her efforts to cook it; Greta, who harvests seamoss on St. Lucia and turns it into potent Island-Viagra; sweet-hand Pat, who dispenses hugs and impromptu dance lessons along with cooking tips in her Port of Spain kitchen.

Back in her galley, Ann practices making curry like a Trini, dog sauce like a Martiniquais, and coo-coo like a Carriacouan. And for those who want to take these adventures into their own kitchens, she pulls 71 delicious recipes from the stories she tells, which she places at the end of the relevant chapters.

The Spice Necklace is a wonderful escape into a life filled with sunshine (and hurricanes), delicious food, irreplaceable company, and island traditions.

A Look at The Spice Necklace
(Click on Images to Enlarge)

Photos from the Islands

Fresh lobster for dinner

Nutmeg and mace come from the same tree.

A seamoss farmer with a jug of seamoss drink

Author Ann Vanderhoof drinking coconut water

Cassia bark is rolled and pressed by hand to form cinnamon sticks

Cooking oregano infused goat

Spicy Bites: A Taste of The Spice Necklace

1. Wild oregano is a mainstay in the diet of goats that graze in the hills at the northwest edge of the Dominican Republic--which means the meat comes to the kitchen preseasoned, and infused with flavor.

2.Seamoss is a type of seaweed that is reputed in the Caribbean to be a potent aphrodisiac, the island version of Viagra. It’s dried, boiled until thick, then mixed with milk and spices (such as cinnamon and nutmeg). One restaurant in Grenada calls its version of the milkshake-like seamoss drink “Stay Up.”

3. Nutmeg and mace come from the same tree. When its apricot-like fruit is ripe, it splits open to reveal a lacy, strawberry-red wrapper around the hard glossy brown shell that holds the nutmeg itself. This waxy red corset is mace, and more than 300 pounds of nutmegs are needed to yield a single pound of it.

4. On the Scoville scale of pepper heat, Trinidadian Congo peppers rate about 300,000 units. Even the most fiery Mexican jalapeño only measures about 8,000.

5. Coconut water--the clear liquid inside a young or "jelly" coconut--has the same electrolyte balance as blood and was given intravenously to wounded soldiers as an emergency substitute for plasma during World War II. Coconut water is also better than energy drinks for rehydration, replenishing electrolytes and minerals such as potassium. For the same reasons, it's used as a hangover cure in the Caribbean.

6. Much of the ground cinnamon sold in North America is actually cassia, which is the variety of cinnamon grown in the Caribbean. Cassia has a stronger, more pungent flavor than true cinnamon. Once a year, the trees are harvested by carefully peeling the bark away from the branches. After the outer layer is removed, the inner bark is dried in the sun. As it dries, it begins to curl into sticks, and then is rolled and pressed by hand to complete the process.

7.The aroma of allspice is a sensuous combination of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper-- which leads to the common misconception that it is a blend of several spices. In fact, allspice is a single spice-- the dried berry of a tree that is native only to the West Indies and Central America. Jamaica produces 90% of the world's supply; Grenada, the remaining 10%.

8. To make removing coconut meat from the shell easier, bore holes in two of the eyes of the coconut using a pointed utensil and drain the liquid. Bake the nut in a preheated 400° F oven for 15–20 minutes. This cracks the shell and shrinks the meat slightly, so it virtually pops out.

9. Mauby, a popular West Indian drink, has a proven ability to reduce high blood pressure. It's made by steeping the bark of a native Caribbean tree with spices such as bay, cinnamon, star anise, and fennel.

10. Vanilla is the world's second most costly spice (after saffron). Not only do most vanilla flowers have to be hand-pollinated to produce beans, but the beans also have to be fermented and aged to develop their flavor. Straight off the vine, they're odorless and tasteless.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In this sunny cookbook-cum-travelogue. Vanderhoof (An Embarrassment of Mangoes) and her perpetually hungry husband ditched their Toronto publishing careers to sail around the eastern Caribbean ingesting as much of the island cultures as possible. Each chapter finds them coming ashore to sample restaurants and cuisine, visit farms and processing sites, and learn to make exotic local dishes. (Vanderhoof's kitchen mentors try to keep her away from sharp utensils, but she manages to acquire 71 recipes for everything from stewed goat to mango chow.) The result is a pleasant picaresque, as the couple take in Trinidadian herb plantations or a Grenadian chocolate factory or embark on a ribald quest for an aphrodisiac seaweed on St. Lucia. They endure lousy rental cars and encounter rudeness on Guadeloupe, but for the most part they marinade happily in the gorgeous scenery and the ebullient wisdom of friendly island characters. (One Dominican Rastafarian cooks a great stew and also moonlights as a midwife.) The book is a dizzying whirl of tourism and food porn, but Vanderhoof's breezy, evocative prose makes it pretty tasty. (June 23)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (February 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005OHSY6G
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,654,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

ANN VANDERHOOF is an award-winning writer and magazine and book editor whose work has appeared in publications including Gourmet, Islands, Sail, Outside, More, Explore, the Globe and Mail, and the Toronto Star. She is an avid cook, traveler, sailor, hiker, kayaker, and scuba diver. Her first book, An Embarrassment of Mangoes, introduced readers to her life aboard the sailboat Receta.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Boston Lesbian on April 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I love this book so much... The author talks about living on a boat and visiting various Caribbean islands. I would so love to live her life; the idea of living on a boat and traveling from island to island is alluring.

It is fascinating to learn about the islands and learning about the foods is a bonus. The foods sound very fresh and different, in a good way. I've made a batch of geera pork and it was fabulous. It starts by caramelizing sugar in oil and browning the meat in it. That gives the stew a deep and intense flavor I've never tasted before. I've also tried a corn soup that was great.

The books also discusses a black cake, made in Trinidad. It is a traditional Christmas treat. Although there isn't a recipe for it in this book I was so taken by its description I found a recipe online and my fruit is soaking (for at least a month) and I will make it soon.

Other recipes I've enjoyed are Seafood stuffed cocktail bites (shrimp or lobster), plantain crusted chicken fingers with green seasoning and lime squares.

I'm very pleased that I had a chance to review this book and I look forward to trying more recipes as well as reading her first book, "An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude".
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By prisrob TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Spice necklace is a collection of spices known to distinct countries in the Caribbean. Each spice is interwoven between natural beads, such as nutmeg with its cover of mace. They are colorful and fragrant. You can hang them in your kitchen or whatever room or place that you define.

Ann and her husband lived in Toronto as magazine editors. They had a 42 foot sailboat, The Cecheta, which means recipes in Spanish. They used the sailboats for weekend getaways and trips. One of their trips took them to the Caribbean for two years. Along the way they met many people and made friend boats. They were curious about the cultures and the food and asked questions. Their curiosity was rewarded with significant answers that made many new friends and many wonderful new recipes . But, alas they had to return home to make money to fund their next trip. At home they found they felt claustrophobic in their enclosed home and the Caribbean called them.

After six long years the call to the Caribbean was answered. They shipped their sailboat to Florida, and then flew to Florida. They sailed to Grenada, the land of nutmeg. And, then on to the Dominican Republic, Trinidad, Haiti, St Martin, St Kitts, Martinique, Tobago, St. Lucia, Guadalupe, and the Island of All Saints. Interspersed throughout each chapter are a collection of 71 recipes . Each recipe is pertinent to the country. The book is filled with wonderful spices and I could almost smell the aromas. At one point, they are invited to a oildown, which is a combination of vegetables, meats and spices mixed together into a very rich mix. The mixture of wonderful story -telling and recipes is not new, but this is one of the better combinations of this type of book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By atmj TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book is the result of a second journey to the Caribbean Isles of the author and her husband. They dock their ship the Receta in various ports along their way and live for a time on various islands. They meet up with friends they made on the previous trip as well as make new ones on the way. On their journey they sample the local food and spend time to learn how to cook it, to the satisfaction of the locals no less.

The following table of contents chapters give you a sense of what the book is about: (Please note, since this is an advance reader's copy, it could change)

Preface: The spell of the spice necklace
1: The Nutmeg Gatherers
2: Self-Spicing Goats
3: The Egg Ladies
4: The 151-Proof Spice
5: Bay in the Mountains, Crabs in the Pot
6: The Food Critics Visit the Easy Bake Boat
7: Rolling Rice and Drinking Jack Iron Rum
8: Curry Tablanca
9: Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot
10: Cramming for a Chocolate Tasting Test
11: Snow on the Mountains, Christmas on the Way
12: All Ah We is One
13: In Search of Passion
14: Barks That Bite
15: Dog Sauce and Rhum
16: Lunch with Moses
18: Back to the Isle of Spice

You get an idea that each chapter covers a particular spice or food item, person or a meal. Each chapter ends with a set of recipes in both English and Metric measures and considering typical North American ingredients (Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!). At least I can get close to creating some of the wonderful meals I have read about.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Yuni on April 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book is a travelogue of a couple who spent a few years sailing and cooking their way around the Carribean. The book is fashioned in a semi-chronological order, covering the islands they traveled to one chapter at a time. The stories that the author tells in the book are delightful, chronicling her friendship with loving Carribeans who welcomed her into their kitchens and homes, sharing their lives and recipes with her.

The recipes are interleaved within the relevant chapters and the author helpfully suggests alternative ingredients and methods that may be more accessible to the North American reader. At times, the tone of the writing can get indulgent, but seriously, this is a book about sailing in the Carribean. So sit back, relax, have a chilled drink within reach and enjoy this delightful read.
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