Friday, January 29, 2010

The Spice Necklace: Mango Chow Recipe

While it seems somewhat ill-timed that a book about sailing through the Caribbean be promoted during the horrific aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, I can honestly tell you that The Spice Necklace will bring people a warm-hearted picture of the land and people of the area. The descriptions of Ann’s travels, the people, and the foods she encounters are simply astounding, and will make readers want to plan their own Caribbean adventure.

I think you will love this recipe from the book, and I hope that you’ll take a peek at the author’s website at Check out her photo galleries – they’re stunning!

Meandering from island to island by sailboat, Ann Vanderhoof takes readers along as she gathers nutmeg in Grenada, hunts crabs and freshwater crayfish in the mountains of Dominica, and obsesses about oregano-eating goats in the Dominican Republic. Along the way, she is befriended by a collection of unforgettable island characters who share with her their own delicious recipes.
mango chow

by Ann Vanderhoof, author of The Spice Necklace

This is probably the all-time favorite snack on Receta. It’s quick to make, requires only five ingredients, and can be adapted to whatever fruit is in season. The recipe is meant to be only a general guideline: “Make it to your taste,” the Trinis say.

2 unripe or half-ripe mangoes, peeled and sliced (see Tips, below)
¼ cup finely chopped chadon beni or cilantro
¼ to ½ Scotch bonnet or other finely chopped hot pepper (preferably red, for color)
2 tsp coarse kosher or sea salt
½ lime

1. Place mangoes in a serving bowl. Add some of each of the remaining ingredients and toss well.

2. Taste and adjust balance of hot/tart/salty/sweet by adding more of the ingredients as you please. Serve with toothpicks to accompany drinks.

Makes 4 to 6 snack-size servings.

• While an authentic Trini chow uses completely unripe fruit, we like it with just a hint of sweetness and use mangoes that are about half ripe.

• Try the same technique with cucumbers, wedges of mandarin orange (the Trinis use a similar fruit called “portugals” in season), pomme cytheres (also called golden apples) or any half-ripe crisp fruit such as pineapple, guavas, or even unripe peaches or tart green apples.

Excerpted from The Spice Necklace by Ann Vanderhoof Copyright © 2009 by Ann Vanderhoof. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved.

Photo © Steve Manley

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

And You're Rushing Headlong

I haven't done a meme in a long time, but this one was too fun to pass up. And it weirdly turned out interesting instead of just totally mismatched lines. (Well, mostly.) Wanna try it too? Let me know when you post your results!

Put your music player on shuffle, and write down the first line of the first twenty-one songs. Post the poem that results. The first line of the twenty-second song is the title.

And You’re Rushing Headlong

Flash! Aaaaah!
Ohhh, ohhh, Agnus. Agnus Dei.
Hey old friend, let’s look back,
Dear Celie, oh I love you.

Everytime we say goodbye I die a little.
Hey sister, whatcha gonna do?
A hand above the water, an angel reaching for the sky;
Sometimes I get to thinking I was back in the old days long ago.

When I’m bored, sittin’ in the corner
Wake up in the morning with a head like “What ya done?”
I’d sit alone and watch your light:
Another constellation dies

We can go out dancing;
Sun follows rain.
I’m undecided about you again;
The nickel dropped when I was on my way beyond the rubicon.

Steve walks warily down the street.
Do you hear that playin’?
It’s getting late, have you seen my mates?
Been workin so hard, I’m punchin’ my card.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

20 Writerly Questions for Beth Powning

The Sea Captain's Wife is a book I've been talking about to anyone and everyone for the last nine months or so since I've read it. It's wonderfully written, and utterly engaging. I could go on and on, but you'd do better to take a peek at the more eloquently written reviews in The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Winnipeg Free Press, or Quill & Quire.

But before you go too far, take a peek at this fun Q&A with the author:

Beth Powning is the author of several books, including The Hatbox Letters, Edge Seasons, Shadow Child, and The Sea Captain’s Wife. She lives in an 1870s farmhouse with extensive gardens in Sussex, New Brunswick, with her husband, artist Peter Powning. For more information about Beth and her books, please visit her website

1. How would you summarize your book in one sentence? The Sea Captain's Wife takes the reader around the world on a square-rigged sailing ship in the 1860s with a young woman and her captain husband; beneath the dramatic and fast-paced events of the adventure are the small, painful, and subtle moments that constitute a marriage.

2. How long did it take you to write this book? Three years.

3. Where is your favourite place to write? In my studio, which is a big room over the kitchen in our 1870s farmhouse. The room has tiny, low doors that even I have to duck to go through. There’s a skylight and narrow east-facing windows overlooking my vegetable gardens, forests and pastures.

4. How do you choose your characters’ names? In various ways: "Azuba" came from a caption under a photograph in a history book. Some of the last names came from looking through a phone book. "Carrie" came from studying names of 19th century children. "Mr. Dennis" came from a friend who is a sailor. I make lists of names and reject ones that don't work.

5. How many drafts do you go through? With this novel, there was a major first draft. Then about 8 more drafts. Each draft is closer and closer to the final book. At the end, there is one draft that gets repeatedly “tweaked.” Sometimes there are many, many drafts of a particular part, usually the beginning.

6. If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be? Tolkien’s trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings,” a series that I first read in 1965, and have read countless times. It is less a book, to me, than a place to go. What a gift to have given the world!

7. If your book were to become a movie, who would you like to see star in it? I definitely see The Sea Captain’s Wife as a film, and did so even as I was writing it. I don’t remember names, but there are some wonderful young British actors and actresses. Viggo Mortensen is too old for Nathaniel, but he would have to be in it. I was an acting student. I want a bit part as Azuba’s mother.

8. What’s your favourite city in the world? Toronto.

9. If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask? I would like to talk about historical fiction with Rose Tremaine. I would ask her about how her books start, what ignites her creative impulse.

10. When do you write best, morning or night? Morning.

11. Who is the first person who gets to read your manuscript? My agent, Jackie Kaiser.

12. Do you have a guilty pleasure read? Children’s books at bedtime – like Swallows and Amazons. These books don’t get my mind spinning.

13. What’s on your nightstand right now? Let’s not talk about my nightstand! I always have at least 2 books going, and seldom read the “serious” book before trying to get to sleep. On my coffee table is The Bishop’s Man by Linden MacIntyre.

14. What is the first book you remember reading? I learned to read at such an early age that I can’t remember. I had an older brother who was an avid reader and I adored him, and copied him – therefore, I could read fluently before I started school.

15. Did you always want to be a writer? I decided to be a writer when I was 8.

16. What do you drink or eat while you write? Coffee. I never eat while writing.

17. Typewriter, laptop, or pen & paper? I write my notes with pen and paper. I keep them in a journal. I compose on a laptop, but if I have a complex idea while actually writing, I scribble it with pencil on a scrap of paper next to the computer. I save these scraps in a folder dedicated to each chapter.

18. What do you wear when you write? Jeans, turtleneck sweater, heavy socks and crocs. I take off my rings and bracelets.

19. How do you decide which narrative point of view to write from? I “live” my writing, so I close my eyes and enter the scene. Originally, I saw some of The Sea Captain’s Wife from Carrie’s point of view, but in the end my editor and I decided to keep it all in Azuba’s point of view. This is probably because the 1st draft of the novel was in the 1st person.

20. What is the best gift someone could give a writer? A beautiful fountain pen with a good supply of cartridges. Writers (me at least) adore the physical act of writing, the feeling of ink flowing into paper, the artistic act of forming letters. It’s as good as eating chocolate cheesecake.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Reading into 2010

Happy New Year, friends! I hope you've had a lovely vacation, and are back into the swing of things. Did you read anything good over the holidays?

I'm happy to report that I did sneak in a bit of reading time over the past week or so:

Precious (Push movie tie-in) by Sapphire was heart-breakingly amazing. Precious Jones is a broken girl with big dreams, and staggering challenges surround her. She's one of those characters who will linger in your heart & mind long after the last page.

You can listen to a snippet of the audiobook here:

I'm also still working on Frostbitten by Kelley Armstrong. I just love her werewolf series! This one's perfect for the winter months...set mostly in Alaska. But the chase scenes will heat you up (not to mention the frequent "wrestling" matches with Elena and Clay in the forest, in the hotel, behind a building, in the truck after being chased by a giant mystery beast, etc. etc.). :-D

Also, I popped open my ereader for a sneak peek at Carol Burnett's upcoming memoir, This Time Together. I remember watching her show when I was a kid. Remember the Gone With the Wind sketch?

Well surely that's enough to start the New Year off right. So tell me...what did you read over the holidays?

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