Monday, January 28, 2008

GRENADA: ISLE OF SPICE by Norma Sinclair

The Book: Norma Sinclair, GRENADA: Isle of Spice, Second Edition. M Caribbean trade paperback, 1992. Very good condition.
First read: 1994
Owned since: 1994

How cold is it? This cold: the clasp on Dizzy's leash was frozen shut at the end of our walk, and I had to warm it up with my hand before I could get the leash off. That's never happened before; the temperature's not even that extreme -- the thermometer says 13, and it's been colder. The clasp must have gotten some snow on it.

Time to dream of warmer climes. This book was purchased at the Borders at 18th & L in the middle of a Washington, DC winter, when I thought I knew what cold was. My friends Carla and Bill had an extra spot in a resort suite they'd booked at Twelve Degrees North, on the island of Grenada, and invited me to come along. I knew nothing about Grenada, except that it had been the site of a U.S. military intervention in December 1983, so I bought this book.

It's a compact, thorough introduction to one of the Caribbean's best-kept secrets. In 1994, Grenada was a fantastic bargain -- though I don't know whether it is now -- and it had some of everything. The beaches are small, but you can take a charter boat out to any of a dozen uninhabited islands that have lovely beaches. The diving is great, but you can see just as much with a snorkel and a face mask. Grenada is a volcanic island with a rainforest at its center, and waterfalls, and one of the Western Hemisphere's oldest rum distilleries.

The rum distillery was fascinating. The operation was much as it must have been 200 years ago, all exposed to the open air and about as dirty as any outdoor enterprise could be. Children and skinny dogs ran around the dusty courtyard, and the rafters over the giant sugar cane kettle were black with centuries of soot and burned sugar crystals. It hardly matters; the distillation process kills everything, and if it didn't, the rum produced is more than 90% ethyl alcohol, so could serve as its own antiseptic. The only way you can drink the rum is diluted with juice and water, in punches, with nutmeg syrup to cut the sweetness.

Nutmeg is the characteristic flavor of Grenada. As the book's title suggests, the island is home to major spice plantations, where they grow nutmeg and cacao, as well as other spices. I came home from Grenada with nutmeg syrup and nutmeg jam, and made them last as long as I could.

Whenever I hear that friends are going to the Caribbean, I always recommend Grenada. It's because I want to go back. NOAA says the current temperature there is 82 degrees, mostly clear, with breezes from the east.


Ed Lamb said...

Speaking of the Caribbean, I heard from Dad yesterday. He is off the sailboat and on Tortolla/St. Thomas. He sent his regards to one and all and promiosed to have tales of adventure to share when he gets home next weekend.

Stay warm, sis.

-- Ed

Anonymous said...

And speaking of tropical islands, today it is rather chilly here in tropical Singapore, with rain all day. When I went to the NY Times website this afternoon the weather box up in the left corner said "Singapore, Freezing Rain 23 degrees." Now the concept of freezing rain in the tropics is an interesting one. And it is 23 degrees here, but in celsius, it's 73 in fahrenheit. Of course, I am freezing because when you're used to it being in the 90s all the time, 73 can feel really, really cold. But, of course, not freezing! Dreaming of 12 Degrees North. That was a fun vacation!