A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean

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9780091879426: A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean

Set on a beautiful Caribbean island, this is a story filled with calamities and comedy, culinary disasters and triumphs and indelible portraits of the people who live and work there. The story begins when Bob and Melinda Blanchard sell their successful Vermont food business and decide, perhaps impulsively, to get away from it all. Why not open a beach bar and grill on Anguilla, their favourite Caribbean island? One thing leads to another and the little grill turns into an enchanting restaurant that quickly turns into an enchanting restaurant that quickly draws four-star reviews and a celebrity-studded clientele eager for Melinda's delectable cooking. As the Blanchards learn to adapt to island time, they become every more deeply attached to the quirky rhythms and customs of their new home. Until disaster strikes in the shape of Hurricane Luis - a category-4 storm with two-hundred-mile-an-hour gusts which devastates Anguilla. A Trip to the Beach is a love letter to a place that becomes both home and escape.

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Review:

Mel and Bob Blanchards' 10-year pursuit of the illusory notion of "island time" is documented in A Trip to the Beach: on a vacation with the family in Barbados, the Blanchards stumble upon a tiny restaurant/shack on a Caribbean beach. In a literary heartbeat, they abandon the "concrete jungle" that was Vermont and open a restaurant on a little-known island in the British West Indies called Anguilla ("rhymes with vanilla").

Narrated by Mel Blanchard, A Trip to the Beach dispels tired notions of the Caribbean--the steel drums, the lush landscapes, and acres of swaying palm trees--and instead focuses on the understated elegance and easy rhythms of the sublimely "flat, and scrubby" island. Though lacking the richness and finesse of Frances Mayes, and the wit and wisdom of Peter Mayle, Mel Blanchard nonetheless forges a new path in travel writing as the Martha Stewart of the Caribbean. A remarkably intuitive and inspired chef, Mel writes poignant passages on running a kitchen in Anguilla. Here she exposes the meat of the story, sharing her many outrageous adventures--how to cater to pampered and demanding guests, how to cook for a full restaurant in the darkest of island night with no electricity, how to prepare for recurring and utterly devastating hurricanes that wipe out your business.

In these chapters the writing is as good as her cooking--inspiring, colourful, and easily digestible. Although she sometimes relies heavily on well-worn clichés and expresses naïve and rather privileged assumptions--"Why would anyone choose to live surrounded by concrete and traffic rather than fishing boats, water and palm trees?"--discerning readers will see the true nature of this tiny island--a place of simplistic beauty that struggles to maintain its independence while it depends on tourism for its livelihood. With a strange concoction of anecdotes, island politics, recipes, and sweet memories, the Blanchards seduce readers with the allure of "island time," bringing Anguilla home to the rest of us. --Daphne Durham

Review:

"A Trip to the Beach is the next best thing to being there. The Blanchards have given us a smart and amusing tale of running off to chase a dream. It's just as tasty as their cooking."
-- Tom Brokaw, Anchor, NBC Nightly News
"If you think it takes courage to open and operate a fine dining restaurant, just try doing it the Blanchard way. Pick a beautiful but remote island with cultural idiosyncrasies, build it from scratch, make it seasonal to assure up and down business, and subject yourself to the most powerful hurricanes Mother Nature knows how to create. Other than that, it's easy. I love the Blanchards' determined sense of hospitality and appreciate the rich texture they have woven into Anguilla's colorful fabric."
-- Danny Meyer, Coauthor, "The Union Square Cafe Cookbook"

"A Trip to the Beach is the next best thing to being there. The Blanchards have given us a smart and amusing tale of running off to chase a dream. It's just as tasty as their cooking."
-- Tom Brokaw, Anchor, NBC Nightly News
"If you think it takes courage to open and operate a fine dining restaurant, just try doing it the Blanchard way. Pick a beautiful but remote island with cultural idiosyncrasies, build it from scratch, make it seasonal to assure up and down business, and subject yourself to the most powerful hurricanes Mother Nature knows how to create. Other than that, it's easy. I love the Blanchards' determined sense of hospitality and appreciate the rich texture they have woven into Anguilla's colorful fabric."
-- Danny Meyer, Coauthor, The Union Square Cafe Cookbook

-A Trip to the Beach is the next best thing to being there. The Blanchards have given us a smart and amusing tale of running off to chase a dream. It's just as tasty as their cooking.-
-- Tom Brokaw, Anchor, NBC Nightly News
-If you think it takes courage to open and operate a fine dining restaurant, just try doing it the Blanchard way. Pick a beautiful but remote island with cultural idiosyncrasies, build it from scratch, make it seasonal to assure up and down business, and subject yourself to the most powerful hurricanes Mother Nature knows how to create. Other than that, it's easy. I love the Blanchards' determined sense of hospitality and appreciate the rich texture they have woven into Anguilla's colorful fabric.-
-- Danny Meyer, Coauthor, The Union Square Cafe Cookbook

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Melinda Blanchard, Robert Blanchard
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