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An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude

An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude

4.2 13
by Ann Vanderhoof

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Who hasn't fantasized about chucking the job, saying good-bye to the rat race, and escaping to some exotic destination in search of sun, sand, and a different way of life? Ann Vanderhoof and her husband, Steve, did just that.

In the mid 1990s, they were driven, forty-something professionals who were desperate for a break from their deadline-dominated,


Who hasn't fantasized about chucking the job, saying good-bye to the rat race, and escaping to some exotic destination in search of sun, sand, and a different way of life? Ann Vanderhoof and her husband, Steve, did just that.

In the mid 1990s, they were driven, forty-something professionals who were desperate for a break from their deadline-dominated, career-defined lives. So they quit their jobs, rented out their house, moved onto a 42-foot sailboat called Receta ("recipe," in Spanish), and set sail for the Caribbean on a two-year voyage of culinary and cultural discovery.

In lavish detail that will have you packing your swimsuit and dashing for the airport, Vanderhoof describes the sun-drenched landscapes, enchanting characters, and mouthwatering tastes that season their new lifestyle. Come along for the ride and be seduced by Caribbean rhythms as she and Steve sip rum with their island neighbors, hike lush rain forests, pull their supper out of the sea, and adapt to life on "island time." Exchanging business clothes for bare feet, they drop anchor in sixteen countries—forty-seven individual islands—where they explore secluded beaches and shop at lively local markets. Along the way, Ann records the delectable dishes they encounter—from cracked conch in the Bahamas to curried lobster in Grenada—from Dominican papaya salsa to classic West Indian rum punch—and incorporates these enticing recipes into the text so that readers can participate in the adventure.

Almost as good as being there, An Embarrassment of Mangoes is an intimate account that conjures all the irresistible beauty and bounty from the Bahamas toTrinidad—and just may compel you to make a rash decision that will land you in paradise.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With wit and candor, Vanderhoof, who's worked as a magazine and book editor, recounts her sometimes complicated but always enlightening two-year voyage from Toronto to the West Indies and beyond with her husband in their 42-foot sailboat, Receta. As they escape the restraints that have bound them to their desks for years, the pair undergo not just a change in physical appearance (the noticeable weight loss is an unexpected bonus) but also a change in attitude. And although their trip may sound terrific, it's no three-hour tour. Along with sunset cruises and afternoons spent on untouched beaches (where "you can sit and stare at the ocean for hours scarcely seeing another soul"), they encounter "blinding forks of lightning" during a big squall, hailstones during an unpredicted hurricane and other tumultuous events. The book's strength undoubtedly lies in the way local cuisine and agriculture seep into Vanderhoof's tiny galley. While island hopping, she hunts for the freshest mangoes, conch and papayas even if it involves trekking miles through uncharted territory. These long trips are always worth it, as the author befriends Grenadian and Bequian natives, learning how to reproduce scrumptious local fare. Vanderhoof excels in painting a perfect picture of every island as well as filling in the gaps with historic explanations and authentic recipes, saving the book from becoming merely a flashback and steering it in the direction of a potential reference for those wishing to exchange their Bud Lights for a case of Presidentes. Map not seen by PW. (On sale Jan. 13) Forecast: This lighthearted memoir straddles two lucrative markets-travel and cooking-and with its splashy jacket, a national print-ad campaign and promotional recipe postcards could lure in readers seeking a winter escape. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
If one ever had dreams about stepping out of the hustle and bustle of the daily grind and living in the Caribbean for a year or two, this book by writer and editor Vanderhoof is essential reading. Vanderhoof and her husband quit their jobs, rented out their Toronto home, and sailed south (literally) on a two-year adventure to the islands. Along the way, they encountered storms, crushing poverty, mishaps on board their 42' boat (a stalled engine, a backed-up toilet, and torn sails) but also have the time of their lives experiencing foods, festivals, and, most important, the people on their 16-nation, 47-island, 7000-nautical mile journey. At the end, Vanderhoof includes recipes of the meals she vividly and masterfully describes. Who can resist her Cream of Callaloo Soup, Saut ed Dorado with Creole Tomato Sauce, or Spicy Island Gingerbread? A savory and delicious book; recommended for all public libraries.-Lee Arnold, Historical Soc. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Finely crafted chronicle of a two-year cruise through the Caribbean. Canadian journalist Vanderhoof and her husband Steve saved their dollars and cents over a five-year period so as to take an extended sailing journey to the Caribbean from their home port of Toronto. In this highly satisfying travelogue, Vanderhoof reports back on the two years they spent sailing from island to island, catching the beat of daily life in Bimini, Grenada, the Dominican Republic, Hog Island, Trinidad, some 16 countries in all. Evocative landscape descriptions capture the heavy, scented air under the spreading ginnip tree, a night sky the color of a shark's skin, the cool, green mornings. The writer also shows an able hand in profiling the human element, from sailing friends to island citizens. But she is best at taking the measure of a place through its stomach. Readers get a full immersion in island food, complete with recipes, starting with the low-country shrimp and grits of the Intracoastal Waterway and moving on to the curries and conch of the islands, coconut water, peas and rice and hot sauce, and the various countries' spirits: wine, local rum, raw fire. Small-scale distilleries concoct beverages to rival any cognac, and Vanderhoof goes so far as to attend a rum tasting-drink a glass of water between slugs, she advises. Fidel Castro and the Mighty Sparrow make appearances, as do shoeshine boys and cockfighters. Hard travel takes the couple to the most glorious parts of the Caribbean, uncrowded and pristine: "Weed out all but the most committed by first making the beauty spots tricky to enter and then uncomfortable once you arrive." Enrapt island portraits that prompt us to see and to yearn: whattravel writing is all about. Agent: Jackie Kaiser/Westwood Creative Artists
From the Publisher
“Finely crafted…portraits that prompt us to see and to yearn: what travel writing is all about.”— Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

Doubleday Canada
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.93(w) x 8.52(h) x 0.97(d)

Read an Excerpt

Pasta from Mr. Butters's Garden

Quick, easy and tasty. Serve the pasta with crusty bread and sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with chopped basil. The tomatoes provide a lovely contrast to the green pasta sauce.

1/2 pound smoked sausage, sliced thin, or fresh sausage, casings removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bunch escarole, roughly chopped (about 10 cups)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Splash white wine (optional)
1/2 pound penne or other pasta
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

1. In a large frying pan, cook the smoked sausage for a few minutes until it releases its fat, or cook fresh sausage, breaking it up with a fork, until lightly browned. Removed meat from pan and set aside. Drain fat from pan.

2. In the same pan, heat olive oil and gently sauté garlic. Add the escarole a bit at a time, adding more as the first batch begins to wilt., and sauté until it is all wilted. Season with lots of black pepper and a little salt. Add a splash of wine or some of the pasta-cooking water if it seems dry and cook a minute or so longer. Return the sausage to the pan and toss all together.

3. Meanwhile, cook the penne and drain. Combine with the escarole mixture and serve with Parmesan sprinkled on top.

Serves 3 - 4, depending on how hungry the crew is.

Meet the Author

Ann Vanderhoof is an award-winning writer and magazine and book editor whose work has appeared in publications in the U.S. and Canada. She lives with her husband, Steve Manley, in Toronto, with their sailboat Receta currently berthed nearby on Lake Ontario.

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An Embarrassment of Mangoes 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a must readif your a boater, foodie, or world traveler looking for an adventure.
BeasBuzz More than 1 year ago
An Embarrassment of Mangoes is a delightful, true story of an escape from everyday life. A couple walked away from their corporate lives in frosty Canada for a sailing adventure to the Caribbean. From figuring out how to finance their expedition, buying a sailboat, cramming their belongings onto the boat, the seasickness and finally--a dreamy island life--they shared it all. I first read this book a few years ago--it was so delightfully crafted and the subject so interesting that other travel books I've read since then have paled in comparison. I put this book on par with, "Under the Tuscan Sun."
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was absolutely fabulous! Packing up all of your belongings, leaving the hum-drum corporate life behind, and traveling the islands of the Caribbean! What more could a person want out of life! This book encapsulated all of the beauty that surrounds island life and leaves the reader craving for more. The visual descriptions of the meals they experience leave your mouth watering! Luckily, there are many of those same recipes scattered throughout the novel for your own enjoyment. This book is truly a jewel to be experienced by every travel buff (or for those who aspire to be)!!
TeachCO More than 1 year ago
I am so happy to review this book! I read it worlds ago, then again, and again, have purchased it for gifts, and those recipients have purchased it for gifts. It is witty and adventurous, and a must read even armchair travelers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading this I almost want to travel around the islands on a sailboat. But alas, I am a land lubber. The author, Ann, is easy to love. Makes one want to fish and swim and visit the Caribbean.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book about escaping the workaholic lifestyle and discovering what is truly important in life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a fabulous adventure...about which many of us fantasize! This is a great little book in the genre of 'A Year in Provence' being equal parts a travelogue, an adventure story, and a cookbook. Nice snippets of history, geography, meteorology, and seamanship. I shared the author's sorrow upon her return to the 'real' world. Nice map. Some color photos would have been a great addition.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While sailing around the world myself I read this book and couldn't have been less surprised. In typical cruising literature style the author gushes on and on about how wonderful everything (and I mean everything) is. And then goes on to bore us to tears describing meals for pages and pages. Adventure? Please.