“You have to see a nutmeg still in its shell,” Chris, my driver, told me. He spotted one several feet above us -- the only problem was he’d have to stand on a concrete ledge over a deep ravine to get it.
“It’s fine!” I said. “Please -- we can get nutmeg somewhere else. Anywhere else.” This was true. Grenada, the island country I was touring, produces gobs of nutmeg, exporting enough to earn its moniker as “The Spice Island.” Chris laughed in my face, stretched on his tiptoes, plucked a freshly cracked nutmeg fruit, and handed it to me. I’d never really thought about where this particular spice came from. In my hand, it looked like an alien. A fleshy, pallid, yellow outer fruit gave way to a black seed covered in waxy red veins -- like someone had spilled a candle in a sliced pear.
This was the first of many surprises I found in Grenada, a deceptively rad Caribbean destination in the lesser Antilles that Americans tend to forget about. (Some 110,000 people live here, yet it supports just 1,600 hotel rooms.) Before I arrived I could tell you embarrassingly little about the country. I knew of the large medical school, St. George’s University, which since the ’70s has trained thousands of American physicians. I also knew that back in 1983, in perhaps Ronald Reagan’s most infamous military venture, the United States invaded Grenada after the country had an unsuccessful Marxist coup. Even Americans who don’t remember that invasion recall the association, perhaps keeping Grenada largely off the mainstream Caribbean tourist track.