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An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude [Paperback]

Ann Vanderhoof
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

8 Feb 2005
Under the Tuscan Sun meets the wide-open sea . . . An Embarrassment of Mangoes is a delicious chronicle of leaving the type-A lifestyle behind -- and discovering the seductive secrets of life in the Caribbean.

Who hasn’t fantasized about chucking the job, saying goodbye to the rat race, and escaping to some exotic destination in search of sun, sand, and a different way of life? Canadians 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 16 countries -- 47 individual islands -- where they explore secluded beaches and shop 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 making the journey itself, An Embarrassment of Mangoes is an intimate account that conjures all the irresistible beauty and bounty from the Bahamas to Trinidad -- and just may compel you to make a rash decision that will land you in paradise.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (8 Feb 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767914279
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767914277
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 13.3 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 411,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Perhaps the hardest thing, we realized in hindsight, was making the decision to go. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brings the Caribbean to life 17 Jan 2005
Format:Hardcover
The Caribbean is one of my favourite places in the world, and there seems remarkably little travel writing focussing on it, so I was delighted to come across this book.
The balance between sailing anecdotes, island stories and recipes was, in my opinion, just about right. I was not particularly interested in the technicalities of sailing when I first started reading - it's a mark of how well Ann Vanderhoof manages to get her reader to empathise with her, that I was drawn in all the same. The chapters on Grenada were particularly good, no doubt because of the relationships which developed between Ann, her partner Steve and some of the locals - there was more insight and emotional pull, alongside some wonderful descriptions of the island's flora - in particular the nutmeg plantation. I was also favourably impressed with some of the recipes. Some ingredients are demystified, there is a "hunter/gatherer" mentality over a variety of different things pervading the book, and I loved the descriptions of the preparation of conch and lobster.
By the time I reached the conclusion of the book, I felt really sorry that the couple had to return to Canada, and felt that I'd been on quite an emotional journey with them. I only wish that they could have spent longer exploring some of the other islands and therefore expanded the book. It seems a shame, for instance, to visit Trinidad and not Tobago, and to either completely bypass or rush through wonderful places such as Nevis and the British Virgin Islands.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Antidote for the Midwinter Blahs! 25 Feb 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Thank you Ann Vanderhoof for lifting me out of the grey that is Toronto in February. An Embarrasment of Mangoes is a wonderful and unique escape to the colours and warmth of the Caribbean.
Being a sailor myself, the female perspective on "sailing away" for a year (or two) is always fascinating. I've read many cruising stories, but they're usually written from either the male point of view or concern themselves with the psychological wrench of leaving friends and family behind while going off crusing. Ann's book is a breath of fresh air! Ann's love of food and cooking is obvious and her sense of humour is contagious.
Makes me want to run right out to the store to buy some of those mangoes - or better still, sail off to the Grenadines to get some for myself....
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Escapism 14 Nov 2006
Format:Paperback
Anyone familiar with the caribbean or indeed caribbean cuizine will love this book. It tells the story of a couple sailing off to the caribbean during a year off from normal life. Although, not a sailor (yet) I fell in love with the life. Obviously, the couple are real foodies and the recipes and details of ingredients were fab. Great all round book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  120 reviews
49 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great reading adventure if you're on cruiseboat deck 21 April 2005
By secret squirrel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
`embarassment of mangoes' is much less a sailing book than a `wife's view' of a two-year vacation through the carribean. like plenty of sailing couples, ann vanderhoof does not really have the bug, and instead follows gamely along with partner on a toronto-carribean loop. she was the founder of `cottages', a modern magazine incarnation of the `house and garden' ilk, and the book is reads like a 200 page version of one of those chatty recipe article from `cruising world' or `coastal living': `we pulled into unknown Bay x after a horrid/delightful/tumultuous passage, and the next morning while drinking/walking/looking for parts, we fortuitously ran into authentic local fisherman/housewife/fellow sailing couple/non-profit organizer, who fed us amazing/delicious/tasty local x, and here is the recipe.' the peril of a dragging anchor is in this book is equal parts damage to the boat and the threat of upsetting the dinner guests; ms. vanderhoof's sense of adventure is heightened by the profound psychological growth of giving up her toronto hairdresser for two years. and on and on. for a girly-girl sailing adventure, there is precious little about their relationship, hubbie steve instead plays a background role as a sort of invisible lovable oaf. Ann is certainly a capable writer and the book flows along on an even if somewhat predictable and superficial keel, like a seamless dinner conversation with someone intent on subtly pushing their vacuous politically correct message points: we were authentic - we developed real friendships with the locals! we do care about the environment - we felt bad about tossing that old fishing net garbage back into the sea! it did seem like a shame to develop the old man's veggie patch into a resort! we did meet all the icons of the carribean: herb the weatherman & the minister of rum. we gave alms to the poor islanders! we went back to visit! we were sad when it was over, really! So if you're a serious armchair sailor, this book may not be so compelling, the author's progress over two years from ICW to `not being scared of an overnight passage' is child's play. For very light vacation reading of the carribean, or if you're a domestic, tag-along spouse, perhaps sitting on a cruiseboat wondering what life on a sailboat is like, `EoM' may be just the ticket. It is certainly pleasant, light reading -- and the recipes at the end of each chapter do look fantastic.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good winter reading 13 Jan 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It's a good read for these winter days, a nice, long, leisurely tour of the Caribbean islands over a couple of years, taken by sailboat. The food and drink recipes at the end of most chapters make it easy to travel along with the crew of the Receta-Ann and her husband Steve-by preparing for yourself the same cuisine they enjoyed. And, it's heartwarming to see them get along for the entire two years-there's no crisis, no threats of divorce, just a happy couple taking a long break and learning to see some of the nicer things in life.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Infused with warmth, color, and flavor. A winner! 21 Feb 2004
By ben - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
What a great book! Ann Vanderhoof gives a rich portrayal of the Caribbean that most of us never see, but surely want to.
An Embarrassment of Mangoes is infused with warmth, color, and flavor. As if the vivid descriptions of local markets (you can smell the fruit), ancient rum distilleries, and exploration via the local buses aren't enough, the variety of characters she meets bring the islands to life.
Best, Vanderhoof and her husband are easy to identify with. They took their midlife break on a sailboat. She relates challenges and experiences with a humor that non-sailors will enjoy, and a level of detail that I'm sure sailors will appreciate. But her trip is no near-death escapade. These are real people on an achievable adventure, doing something all of us could do. Vanderhoof steers us off the beaten path to sample real life, deftly capturing the local food, music, language and, most of all, the Caribbean spirit.
"Ann of a Thousand Deadlines" (as she calls her former self) never admits bravery, but her will to leave a good job and the comfort of everyday life for two years shows real courage. The book and its premise are compelling. The recipes at the end of each chapter are a bonus (my wife has already baked the Spicy Island Gingerbread).
I want to go. Now that I have read An Embarrassment of Mangoes, I feel I have gone.
As the review on the book cover says, "what travel writing is all about." Give this one an unarguable five stars.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I am off to Grenada!!!! 8 July 2004
By Philip Sammarco - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I don't write a lot of reviews, but thought this book deserved more attention. Since reading it, after American Airlines thought enough of it to include excerpts in their magazine, I was intrigued by the stories of the islands, the people, the culture, the food and sailing the Caribbean (good weather and bad). First off, I love to travel to off-the-beaten path countries and I love to cook (and eat!) different cuisines. This book is perfect if you have these interests. It doesn't hurt that the author is a travel writer, but this is much more than a travelogue or cookbook. I don't like fiction so much, thus this is perfect non-fiction. Ann could not have possibly made up more interesting stories about the people and conducting life on the islands and the boat. I now have a yearning to visit Grenada, Trinidad and some of the other colorful islands. The author must have been concerned she was going to make Grenada more popular, but it probably was well on its way before her book. Good luck Ann! Thanks for sharing your adventure. Your storytelling and descriptive style paints a warm picture of wonderful people and places.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Introducing what so many nauctical stories leave out. 7 April 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
First, this is not Mr. Junger's, "Perfect Storm" the epic of battling one of the worst storms in history or even similar to the "Dove" in which Robin L Graham sails singlehanded around the world. This is simply a book recounting the events of a couple who have done what many of us dream about...leaving the fast paced world behind for awhile and adapting to the world they enter.
I appreciate that it was Ann that wrote it as she shows her fears of overnight passages and weather reports. She not only talks about great food but gives so many receipes that it will take us all awhile to try them.
Overall, I appreciate this book mostly because Ann and her husband Steve didn't try to change those they came in contact with to what they were used to but rather adapted or more likely adopted the lifestyle of those around them. So many times when people travel to get away they bring everything with them they are trying to rid themselves of. Ann and Steve tried the local food, socialized with the local people and were ultimately courteous and thoughtful.
Thank you!
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