Title: The Spice Necklace
Author: Ann Vanderhoof
Release Date: June 23, 2010
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Rating: 4 out of 5
Ann Vanderhoof and her husband Steve are a little bit in love with the Caribbean. That’s why they decide to wrap up their affairs and day jobs and spend three years sailing around the Caribbean, living on their boat. Along the way, they get to know the locals and sample the varied cuisines of the amazing islands they visit.
I love travel memoirs, but I don’t think I’ve read one yet about the Caribbean, so when I first heard about The Spice Necklace, I was really intrigued. Sailing around the islands, getting to know the locals? It sounded like a lot of fun, and I was eager to give it a try.
I really enjoyed The Spice Necklace for multiple reasons. First, Vanderhoof and her husband visit many different islands. The reader really gets a sense about how divergent they are, how they have their own distinct cuisines and cultures. Often, the Caribbean is painted with a broad, singular brush, so it was a lot of fun to see how varied the region really is.
Another aspect of The Spice Necklace that I really enjoyed is how Vanderhoof and her husband seek out locals on each island they visit. Playing tourist isn’t enough for them; they really want to immerse themselves in the cultures they find. Vanderhoof wants to learn how to cook each island’s cuisine from the people that do it best. She learns about the ingredients and the processes and then tries to replicate the experience in the tiny galley of their boat. She includes the recipes she learns in the book, including substitutes for harder-to-find ingredients.
Getting to know the locals, rather than just playing tourist, makes this book a much more personal memoir. It works wonderfully as a travelogue and as a foodie book, as Vanderhoof describes the food she is eating in mouthwatering detail. I definitely recommend this one to those of you who enjoy either of these types of memoirs.