Monday, April 4, 2011

We Have a Winner… for “An Embarrassment of Mangoes”

Thanks to all of your culinary and writing efforts, our wonderful author and judge Ann Vanderhoof had a difficult time in choosing a winner for this selection of Cook the Books, “An Embarrassment of Mangoes.”
Here’s what Ann had to say direct from the Receta!
Thank you so much for choosing An Embarrassment of Mangoes for your book club and, especially, for asking me to judge the entries. What a delicious opportunity for an author to get an intimate look at how readers respond to her book!
I got tremendous pleasure from reading all the entries, and seeing what the book inspired you to cook. But, hey, a winner must be picked, and Deb said it was up to me to set the criteria. I settled on two broad ones:
1. The writing had to capture something of the spirit of the book – whether that was the feeling of the Caribbean, or the hunger for escape, or the exploration of something different or new.
2. The entry had to make me hungry. For Caribbean food.
Fat lot of good this second one did me. All of you made me want to run immediately to my galley and cook. I loved the way you riffed on the meals in the book, and I wanted to taste everything. A couple of special mentions: Crispy Cook’s idea of using the lobster shells from Dingis’s Curried Lobster to make a base for Lobster Rice to accompany it was brilliant. I’m going to try it for sure (…next year; lobster is now out of season here). Ditto Kahakai Kitchen’s Pineapple Cream Cheese to go with my Papaya Banana Muffins. I could taste what a great pairing it would be. Foodycat’s Shark and Bake with Shadow Benny Sauce (and fried plantains on the side) was irresistible – how did she know that’s one of my favourites in food-obsessed Trinidad? (And my favourite place to eat it is Maracas Beach, not on Receta; frying bakes and fish and plantains in my tiny galley is a hot, challenging exercise.) And Can’tbelieveweate’s Lime and Coconut Pie…one look at that photo and I craved a piece. Maybe two.
But the winner is…Eliot’s Eats. I thought her Fish Taco Salad was a nifty spin on the classic fish taco, and mango salsa is a fabulous combo with fried fish. She’s right: Eating it al fresco, accompanied by a cold island beer, would be just the ticket – and I plan to try it in Receta’s cockpit (substituting a local fish like dorado for her tilapia, and a little sugar cane syrup for her agave nectar, which isn’t available in the Eastern Caribbean, where we are). That said, it was her lovely, evocative writing that tipped her into first place. I loved her use of dialogue and description (“And the stars. I wanted to lay out at night on watch and feel the vastness of space and sea envelop me”), and the way she used her adolescent reading to launch her story. She writes a mean photo caption, too.
When do we dare to make our crazy dreams a reality and when are we prepared to just let them lie dormant and die?” she asked. “Can we really ever afford to say, ‘We’re really too old to do that’?” It gave me great pleasure to know that my book inspired her not just to cook something with Caribbean flavor, but also to think about questions like those. Eliot, I want to be a customer at your garden shop/bookstore/pottery studio/food truck.
Thanks again for allowing me to participate in your club.
warm wishes,
aboard Receta, currently anchored in Deshaies, Guadeloupe

Congratulations Eliot of Eliot’s Eats!
We will be sending your coveted Cook the Books winner’s badge shortly to display proudly on your blog and will be adding you to the list of esteemed CTB winners on our sidebar.
Much thanks to the talented Ann Vanderhoof for writing such a wonderful escape for us and for taking the time (and internet access) to judge while on her current adventures!
Hey Cook the Booksters–stay tuned for a post from Rachel, The Crispy Cook with the next three books that we will be reading and cooking along to, after our current selection “Lunch in Paris” by Elizabeth Bard, hosted by Johanna of Food Junkie Not Junk Food.

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