Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude by Ann Vanderhoof and Man Asian Literary Prize Short List 2007

Edmund Hendrix sells sugar cane, mangoes and spider apples at Raja Jahan’s along the North Coast Road in Trinidad.
pic courtesy: Chris Ramirez of the New York Times

A friend pointed me to the Travel Section of the New York Times on Sunday because they had an excellent feature on the Caribbean in general and on the eats of Trinidad in particular. As travel writer Sam Sifton took us through the country that was VS Naipaul's muse for so long and as she ate her way through "bake and shark" ( a fish sandwich) barbequed chicken, crab fritters etc., I was reminded of a book I read 2 years ago titled "An Embarrassment of Mangoes"

Category: Travel
Format: Trade Paperback, 320 pages
Publisher: Anchor Canada
Pub Date: January 12, 2005
Price: $21.00

"Embarrassment of Mangoes" is the account of a Toronto couple in their mid-40's who quit their high-paying jobs, rented their home and moved into a 42-foot sailboat to sail the Caribbean for two years. This book is part memoir, part travelogue, part nautical adventure and part recipe book. The couple sail through ports like Georgetown in Bahamas, Grenada, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad all the while treating us to vivid, warm and enchanting descriptions of the islands they visit and the fascinating islanders they meet. Altogether the Vanderhoofs visited 47 islands in 16 countries, for a total of 7,000 nautical miles ! Ann's account is entertaining, engaging and, if you enjoy sailing, packed with information on the joys and headaches of sailing.

I was lucky enough to hear the author speak at a library in Toronto and after she spoke all the attendees were treated to some of the edible goodies she discovered in the Caribbean. That night I gorged on mango and papaya salsa, pina colada cheesecake and coconut brownies. They were out of this world and prompted me to try more recipes from her book, all of which turned out wonderfully! I just wish her publishers had thought to include an index of recipes to make it easier to access in a hurry.

Here are a couple of simple recipes from Ann's awesome repertoire of Caribbean recipes:

One-Pot Coconut Brownies

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate (3 squares)
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup coconut milk powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup fresh shaved or coarsely grated coconut

# Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-by-9 inch pan.

# In a medium saucepan melt chocolate and butter. Remove from the heat, and add sugar,eggs, and vanilla. Stir until smooth.

# Stir in flour, coconut powder, baking powder, salt and nuts. Mix well.

# Spread mixture in prepared pan. Sprinkle coconut shavings on the top.

# Bake for 25-30 minutes or until brownies dimple slightly when you press them in the center. (If coconut shavings begin to get too brown, cover top loosely with aluminum foil)

#Cool and cut into squares.

(Makes 16-20 brownies)

For her MANGO CRISP recipe, please go here


Culled from CBC

Five authors from Asia have been shortlisted for the inaugural Man Asian Literary Prize, worth $10,000 US.

The five shortlisted works were chosen from a long list of 23 and are:

  • Jose Dalisay Jr., Soledad's Sister.
  • Reeti Gadekar, Families at Home.
  • Nu Nu Yi Inwa, Smile As They Bow.
  • Jiang Rong, Wolf Totem.
  • Xu Xi, Habit of a Foreign Sky.

The Man Asian Literary Prize focuses on new works which are still unpublished in English. It was created by the same company that sponsors the prestigious Man Booker Prize, open to published authors from the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of former British colonies.

Dalisay teaches at the University of the Philippines in Manila while Gadekar is originally from New Delhi, India. Rong was born in China and Xu Xi is a Hong Kong native of Chinese-Indonesian heritage.

Most notable on the list is Burmese author Nu Nu Yi Inwa whose book languished in the hands of government censors for a year before it was allowed to be published.

Smile As They Bow concerns the poor and socially outcast of rural Burma, also known as Myanmar. It follows the lives of three young people: Daisy James, a gay, transvestite medium, his partner Min Min and a young beggar girl. The book will be published in English in September 2008.

The long list included 11 writers from India, now whittled down to one, Gadekar. Her novel, Families at Home, is about the suicide of a young woman from one of New Delhi's leading families.

Canada's former governor general, Adrienne Clarkson, is on the international jury set to choose the winner, to be announced on Nov. 10.


Olivia said...

Mmm, have you ever eaten bakes? they are so versatile and taste so good.

I would have never thought to put mango in baking as it's usually in cold desserts, but it's a great idea! Especially as I always DREAD the berries in crumble or pies. Mango is much more agreeable :)

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Olivia!

No, I never have tasted bakes, but I would love to! I really would love to travel to the Caribbean sometime. Trinidad, Bermuda Cuba and Guyana would be my favorite ports of call to make unless someone can give me better suggestions.

Is it true that all bakes in Trinidad are actually fried? :)

I haven't tried making the Mango crisp yet but I really want to. I tried the Brownies and they are delicious!

Sanjay said...

Hey there Lotus, A truly wonderful post that combines two things a lot of people are passionate about food and travel very well. Reading this post a) made me want to travel to the Caribbean b) hungry for the kind of food that you wrote about in the post. Sadly neither of those can be engaged in at this point.:-)

I loved the picture you have of Edmund Hendrix and his shop, I loved the caption on the side “Turban Maker of Raja Jahan Products”, whatever that means.:). That was truly a wonderful write up in the travel section on the Carribean and the food.. oh the food!!!

“Embarrasment of Mangoes” sounds like a great read! I am glad the Vanderhoofs could do what they did, which a lot of us wish we could but few ever accomplish for various reasons. So it is great that readers can have these experiences via their written word.

Given that you have traveled extensively may I ask if you have been to the Caribbean? If so (or even otherwise) did you feel as if the Vanderhoofs did the typical touristy thing or did they explore beyond the usual beaten path?

Author readings/talks coupled with food from recipes from the books is something I would be completely partial to as well. I wish more of that happened. Can you tell I have a a lot of food on my mind!

Thank you for the yummy sounding recipes, the mango crisp sounds out of this world!

And an especially big YAY!!! to Nu Nu Yi Inwa for making the Asian Booker shortlist and to the other fine authors on that list. I can hardly wait to read “Smile As They Bow” and the other fine works. The author has to be applauded for coming out with what appears to be a fine piece of work despite the difficulties created by the repressive Burmese junta.

I am glad they have an Asian Man Booker prize, there is a lot of good writing coming out of that part of the world and this prize does acknowledge and encourage that.

I enjoyed reading this post although you do share the blame for making me hungry buddy! (just kidding). :-)

Lotus Reads said...

Hey Sanj!

Sorry to have made you hungry...I got hungry just writing the post...what wouldn't I give for a nice roti with shrimp curry at this moment, mmm!

I wondered at the name of the shop, too! Perhaps it's an advertisement for a place that manufactures head gear for the Rastafarian folks? I don't know!

No, I haven't traveled to the Caribbean unfortunately but I intend to change that...I really want to go! I don't know if the Vanderhoofs did the tourist dance,I think not actually. They were very much in contact with the locals so I think their entertainment would be along the lines of what the Islanders did.

I'm very excited about “Smile As They Bow”, I won't be at all surprised if it wins! Oh and there is a documentary on this particular gay or transvestite ritual in Burma that Nu Nu Yi Inwa travels to for her book, the name escapes my mind unfortunately but I saw it on zip.ca.

Thanks for your comment Sanj!

Brian said...

I was reading your blog just as my blood sugar took it usual mid-afternoon crash! What an idyllic escape for the Vanderhoofs (to say nothing of an act of significant courage). It's rare to see people return from such echappements, and to so bearing such wonderful gifts is a treat, indeed. Like Sanjay, I'm hungry! Thank you for this wonderful, pre-Halloween sweetmeat!

Susan in Italy said...

Oh how excellent! The brownies sound great (and intriguing, coconut milk powder, never heard of that) and Caribbean Lit. is right up my alley. An embarrassment of Mangoes reminds me of a poem about how the worst way to die in a hurricane is by getting walloped in the head by a flying mango. It's so undignified, so embarrassing.

Olivia said...

Oh yes, bakes are made all over the West Indies (incl Guyana), and they are all fried. You pat the excess oil out, and they are best eaten fresh on the day.

I grew up liking them, and I only found out last month when my friend, whose mother is from Barbados and father is from Trinidad, said she knows how to make them. And today is the second time I've heard of them outside of my own family.

Olivia said...

Oh, haha! I get the irony. Bakes are not baked, but fried....*duh*

Lotus Reads said...

@Brian ~ Thank you for your comment! I'd love to know what you meant by "Echappements" or is it a typo? Gosh, I am sorry for making all of you hungry especially as I know the humble cookie just won't compete with the coconut brownie! :)

@Susan ~ The coconut brownies are truly yum...I can't seem to build up any enthusiasm for the regular ones after I tasted these. LOL@ getting walloped in the head by a flying mango, what images that conjures up! :)

@Olivia ~ Are you going to get the recipe for bakes from your friend? I'd love to try them!

Booklogged said...

Oh, my goodness! What a delicious post, Lotus. M loves mangoes so would love the crisp. I think some raspberries with the mango sounds especially yummy.

And I thought we were so brave to drive from Utah to Newfoundland and back. It was a relief to get home without any car trouble or worse. Can you imagine traveling and living on a boat for 2 years? Amazing.

A Reader from India said...

Hi Lotus, "Embarrassment of Mangoes" sounds interesting, travel with recipes - an unusual combination!

Thanks for sharing the recipes, am going to try out the brownies - they sound delicious!

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, booklogged!

Actually I thought so much of you and Lesas I read this book! I think you and M should do a trip like this you will enjoy it!

Hi, Reader!

Yes, this book had my three favorite genres...memoir,travel and food! :) I hope you will like the recipes. The coconut brownies definitely appealed to my palate. Let me know what you! :)

hellomelissa said...

whenever i buy a box of mangoes, my intentions to use them in recipes are always good, but my ability to do anything but devour them is not.

Beenzzz said...

You said the magic word for me :
MANGOES! YUM! The mango crisps sound divine. Mango and papya salsa. Lotus, your making me drool! :)

Asha said...

Ooh! I love that book! Great title which attracts me. Recipes sounds great too. I made some Caribbean food yesterday, loved each one of them, will post. It's true, all the "bakes" are "fried" there!:D
Happy Halloween, don't forget to listen to the music in my blog!;)

starry nights said...

Lotus..mangoes,papaya and coconut.cannot go wrong with these fruits.i would love to go to the carribean someday.sounds like an interesting place to visit.Happy halloween to you.

Nanditha Prabhu said...

An embarrassment of mangoes' seemes to be a must read book. memoir and food and travel all bundled into one will surely be an interesting read.
have you read "monsoon dairy" by shobha narayan. I am sure you must have. It too couples a memoir and a recipe book.
it was nice of you to jot down such wonderful recipes too in the post...have book marked already !

Nanditha Prabhu said...

hey lotus! why did you choose a dancers picture in your profile snap?(if i may ask?)

jenclair said...

About 15 years ago, I taught a young man whose family had decided to take their sail boat and spend a year cruising the Caribbean. They left right after he graduated, he postponed college, and his sister skipped a year in high school for a home schooling situation on the boat. He opted out before the year was up, but his sister made the entire year before returning to attend the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, a state supported residential high school for students with high abilities. It was a great experience for both of them!

I'd love to experience something like this...even second-hand through the book!

Olivia said...

I'll just ask my mother!.........ok.

Flour - 2 cups
Water - enough to make into a dough
Salt - a pinch
Sugar - a pinch
Baking Powder - 1 tsp

Roll each out only a bit as they're quite small and somewhat bready, not thin but not too thick.

This will give you 4 to 6 bakes I think! It was hard to give you measurements because it's the kind of thing that mums make intuitively.

Also, you can add anything you want, like chopped onions or green chili....have fun with it.

I hope it works for you!

oooh...now I want some....!

Les said...

An Embarrassment of Mangoes sounds like a great book idea for my husband for Christmas this year. I'm not sure if we're capable sailors to attempt such an adventure, but I can easily envision living aboard a boat for a couple of years. So all we need to do is have some sail it for us then get off! ;)

The recipes sounds so yummy. Especially the Pina Colada Cheesecake! YUM!! Definitely a book to look for. Thanks, Lotus. (I think!)

Sanjay said...

what wouldn't I give for a nice roti with shrimp curry at this moment, mmm!

That made me hungry too and I just had dinner!! :-)

Thank you for your response buddy! I should try looking for that documentary on Netflix, the whole ritual I have to say is rather odd but yet fascinating!

Lotus Reads said...

@Melissa ~ I know what you mean...the scent is intoxicating it almost seems criminal to cook it, right? I would just use mango out of a can for some desserts.

@Beenzzz~ I miss the Indian alphonso mangoes....what mangoes do you buy?

@Asha ~ I wanted to visit your blog earlier but my day has been crazy! I will be there first thing tomorrow morning!

@Starry ~ Happy Halloween to you, too! Did the kids go trick or treating? We had a much smaller-than-usual crowd this time.

Lotus Reads said...

@Nanditha ~ Hi! Yes, I loved "Monsoon Diary" and cooked quite a few dishes from there...I wish she would write a full-fledged recipe book, don't you? I'm reading another food and recipe memoir at the moment...it's from Cuba. I can't wait to start experimenting with the recipes! Why did I choose a dancer for my profile pic? Good question, lol! I think it was chosen with my anthropology blog in mind,and then,because I was too lazy to pick another picture, I used the same one for my book blog! :)

Anali said...

OMG Lotus!! This sounds like my favorite kind of book! Travel, food, tropical islands. Wonderful! I'll have to put this book on my list. And thanks for the recipe. Any pictures of the food you made? ; )

Lotus Reads said...

@Jenclair ~ Wow, what an awesome experience for those kids to have! I believe traveling offers an education that you simply cannot find in a text book. Thanks so much for sharing. My big dream is to take a Caribbean cruise one day...hope it comes true.

@Olivia ~ You are such a darling, thank you!!!! I will make it and then let you know how it turned out. Thank you soooo much!

@Les ~ I thought very much of you as I read this book..it is definitely an adventure you would like to read about. Will mail you the Pina Colada Cheesecake recipe on the weekend.

@Sanj ~ I'll find you the name....will let you know on the weekend. I think zip has it so it shouldn't be difficult for me to locate the title.

@ANali ~ You will love this book! No, no pictures...it didn't strike me to take any, but I will the next time!

Nanditha Prabhu said...

lotus ,
anthropologist! that sounds interesting! I too love the feel of being an anthropologist. I was interested in the pic because I am a classical dancer and perform mohiniyattam , a dance form of kerala . , The pic of which you have as ur profile snap.n:)

Nymeth said...

I have just finished Naipaul's "Miguel Street", which reminded me of my old fascination with the Caribbean. "An Embarrassment of Mangoes" sounds like a book I would really enjoy. Thank you for another great review!

Happy Reader said...

Lotus, You do read some fascinating books ;) 'An Embarrassment of Mangoes' sounds really interesting! I need to see if my library owns a copy.
I would love to try out 'Mango Crisp'. It sounds delicious!

Olivia said...

Aloha! I tagged you round mine :) Tag!

Suzan Abrams said...

Thanks for having dropped by, Lotus.
I ferry between London and Dublin these days.
By the way, you have a very nice site.

heather (errantdreams) said...

I am SO adding the mangoes book to my wish list!!

I love the new header image, by the way. It reminds me of the book of Indian matchbox art I reviewed recently.

Lotus Reads said...

@Nanditha ~ You're a dancer, wow, how lovely!!!! When I was in Cochin last we were treated to a beautiful recital of the Mohiniattam, I was so blown away! I guess, this is why, the minute I saw this picture of the Mohiniattam dancer, I knew I had to have it for my blog. My friend's mother-in-law is a huge proponent of this dance discipline in Bangalore. She has her own academy and what not. Do you give recitals? Teach classes? This is so exciting!

Lotus Reads said...

@Nymeth ~ Thrilled to see you here, thank you for stopping by. Yes, it's hard to think of Trinidad without being reminded of Naipaul, isn't it?

@Happy Reader ~ I hope your library has a copy, you will have fun with the recipes! When do you leave on your vacation?

@Olivia ~ Thank you,(I think!) lol

@Suzan ~ I'm overjoyed to see you here and back in the blogosphere! I'm going to have a heady time following your adventures in Dublin and London. I am so glad you were able to return to London, you so blossom there!

@Heather ~ You got to review a book on Indian Matchbox Art? You lucky thing, you! A Reader mentioned it to me...I am going to head over and read what you had to say, thanks!

Tara said...

Ahhh, you've identified one of my biggest pet peeves regarding non-cookbooks that contain recipes. Please give us an index! Some of these recipes become favorites, but they are so hard to find. It would have been nice to have an index for Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Lotus Reads said...

@Tara ~ Dare we hope the publishers/editors are reading this? Honestly, an index makes so much sense, wonder why it doesn't occur to them?