NOTE: Please check out Cook the Books Club for great foodie reads. It was the catalyst for this post.
I remember being an impressionable adolescent, living in the landlocked Midwest, reading Dove by Robin Lee Graham and being swept away. I was virtually mesmerized by his teen adventures, all the time wondering how he managed to slip away from the adult world and strike out on his own in the vast wonderland of the ocean. He became as much a romantic hero to me as Mr. Darcy or Rhett Butler. I fantacized about being out on my own, with no one to report to but myself, away from all the worries and angst of adolescence. What would it feel like to have no worries?
Fast forward about thirty years.
As I read the first chapter of Ann Vanderhoof’s An Embarrassment of Mangoes, I nudged my husband. “I think this might not be a good idea.”
“What?” he asked.
“Reading this book. It is about a couple of ‘forty-somethings’ who chuck it all in and sail the Caribbean for two years.”
“That’s nice,” he replied.
“No really. This could be dangerous.”
As a current impressionable ‘forty-something,’ I found myself reading this book at every opportunity with the same eagerness I had once given Dove. I even skipped over the recipes which is something I rarely do just to get back to the travelogue. I wanted to be there, wherever that was—Naussau, Puerto Rico, or Granada. I wanted to feel the wind, breathe the salt air, and sip a mildly warm Presidente. And the stars, I wanted to lay out at night on watch and feel the vastness of space and sea envelope me.
I wanted to escape.
Yes, it was snowing outside as I read.
Yes, my husband and I both felt like we were in dead-end jobs.
Yes, we were both going through mid-life crises.
Yes, it was a dangerous time to read this book.
When do we dare to make our crazy dreams a reality and when are we prepared to just let them lie dormant and die?
Can we really ever afford to say “We’re really too old to do that” or “We can’t start that now at our age”?
So, I forced us to sit down and make a list of things we thought we needed to do—our own five year plan. We listed career changing choices as well as adventures, everything from hiking O’Keefe country to opening a garden shop.
If nothing else, Anne and Steve made use reevaluate a bit. I don’t think we will be quitting our jobs anytime soon, but we are viewing things in a different light. And who knows, someday we may open that garden shop/bookstore/pottery studio/food truck combo!
In the meantime, we will sit on our patio, dream our little dreams, and dine alfresco with a cold island beer. Here is a little recipe that was inspired by the book (we developed it from a fish taco dish). This is a great summer meal!
1 ripe yet firm mango, peeled, diced
1 c. grape tomatoes, halved
½ red onion, minced
1 T. jalapeno, seeded, minced
1 t. Agave nectar
1/4 t. fine sea salt
1/4 t. ground coriander
juice of one lime
2 T. chopped cilantro
Mix together and let set at room temperature for 30-45 minutes.
3 T. flour
3 T. cornmeal
1 t. chili powder
3/4 t. fine sea salt
1/4 t. cayenne
Two tilapia fillets
2 limes, juiced
Canola oil for frying
6-8 large lettuce leaves
Whisk together flour, cornmeal, chili powder, sea salt, and cayenne. Set aside.
Cube fish and soak in lime juice for ten minutes. Shake cubes to drain and then cover with dry coating mixture.
Heat oil in a large skillet and fry fish.
Arrange lettuce leaves on serving plate. Mound mango salsa in middle of plate and top with fish. Sprinkle with extra cilantro if desired.