Grenada in a nutshell! I walked into the St. George's Spice Market on Grand Anse Beach, Grenada, in the sweltering heat one autumn Saturday morning a couple years back, wearing shorts and sandals, sun block dripping from my ever-reddening nose - and I was suddenly enveloped in memories of Christmas. Say what? No, I wasn't succumbing to delusions induced by heat stroke. Nor was I swamped by thoughts of gift-buying prompted by stall upon stall of potential Christmas presents for folks back home. It was the smell of nutmeg, assailing my nostrils from every corner of the bustling St. George's Market, that made me unexpectedly wistful and nostalgic for my family's traditional Christmas morning eggnog sprinkled with nutmeg and spiked with rum - both of which are plentiful on the Caribbean island of Grenada. Though billed as a "Craft and Spice" market (and yes you can purchase - or haggle for - straw handicrafts, wooden crafts, jewellery, steel pan, fruits, homemade sweets and clothing) the magnetic pull for me were the spices, notably the nutmeg, whose scent seemed to permeate from every corner of the market. (An aside: Be sure to wander around the nearby neighbourhood in St. George and admire the architectural reminders of Grenada's colourful history in many of the old buildings and churches.) Nutmeg is a staple in Grenadian cooking and you can taste it in stews, soups, jams, jellies, cakes - even in alcoholic drinks. The British first introduced nutmeg on the backs of spice traders journeying from the West Indies to the East indies in the 1800s. Grenada's first major nutmeg export - of 100,000 pounds - took place in 1881. Nutmeg has been in demand around the world for centuries. Upper-class toffs in the 1700s were proud of their silver snuff boxes filled with nutmeg. Women of the same era proudly wore silver pendants containing nutmeg to ward off illness. And in parts of Asia, this particular spice has long been considered an aphrodisiac. (If you browse the harbour stalls in and around Grand Anse you'll be invited to purchase 'special' nutmeg-infused rum which vendors claim will boost your, ahem, amorous inclinations). Enough said. [caption id="attachment_13877" align="aligncenter" width="298"] Visits to Grenada's spice plantations, such as Dougaldston Estate, showcase the history and production of popular Caribbean spices. (Courtesy: Grenada-Grenadines Tourism)[/caption]
•••My favourite culinary experience of nutmeg occurred one night when a chef from the Spice Island Resort barbecued chicken over smouldering embers of charcoal and nutmegs. The smokey-flavoured results were mouth-watering. And now, the tiny Caribbean island is hosting the first ever Grenada Nutmeg Festival (Oct. 26 to Nov. 4). The ten-day aromatic affair includes the Spice Fish Friday festival, The Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association Nutmeg Culinary Competition, Spicy Sunset City Festival, Nutmeg Art and Photography Festival, Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival and the Nutmeg & Spice Fair and Expo. You can find full details at www.grenadagrenadines.com. [caption id="attachment_13879" align="aligncenter" width="300"] A local tradition popular with tourists is the weekly Fish Friday. (Courtesy: Grenada-Grenadines Tourism)[/caption]
•••Grenada is one of those affordable and accessible Caribbean getaway destinations. And, as luck would have it, you can find some special deals on vacations to Grenada. It could be just the thing to spice up the dreary cold season that awaits. Have you been to the Caribbean? Any favourite islands? Do tell.