Ponce de Leon, Diamond Lil, and the Secret of Eternal Youth

There is a quaint little town on the East Coast of Florida called St Augustine. It is considered the oldest continuous European settlement in the continental United States. But that’s not what makes it famous. Tourists flock to St Augustine because they are dying to stay young forever. According to the official Fountain of Youth website, you can actually go and drink from Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth:

“Water From the actual Fountain of Youth located in historic St. Augustine, Florida.
Bubbling up from the Floridan aquifer for millennia, this spring water supported the Timucua people of Seloy – a Native American village that thrived on these grounds for over three thousand years. This unique water quenched Ponce de Leon’s thirst in his quest for eternal life, and this water was instrumental in the 1565 decision by Pedro Menéndez to establish the First Colony of St. Augustine here on the Park grounds.
Please note: We sell the bottle empty as a keepsake from the Park.
We then fill it with Fountain of Youth Spring water for FREE!” (http://www.fountainofyouthgiftshop.com/water.html)

Ummm… Unique water? Eternal life? Bring your own container, fill it at no charge, and stay young forever? Sounds a little too good to be true? It’s because it is!

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Juan Ponce de Leon, a conquistador who participated in Columbus’ first voyage to the New World, was a descendant of King Alfonso the Wise (on the wrong side of the bed). Apparently, genetics played its role, and noble Don Juan became known for his wisdom and political savvy. On his second voyage, after several military victories and bloody conquests, he was appointed Governor of Puerto Rico. But political storms started rolling over his head in huge ocean waves. Christopher Columbus dies, his son Diego Colon arrives in Hispaniola as the Viceroy and claims rights to inherit all titles and privileges granted to his father by Queen Isabella. Isabella is also dead by this time, and the widowed King Ferdinand just doesn’t have her iron will, so he gives in. Ponce de Leon, having amassed a considerable fortune, stands to lose much; therefore, as a wise politician, he takes a way out – a new exploration voyage. He’s heard tell of some hitherto undiscovered islands, especially something called Bimini where the natives, according to a rumor, were known for exceptional longevity. The deal he offered to the King was as follows: let Don Diego Colon have whatever Papa found; I’ll find other lands and even finance the voyage myself on the condition that his grubby paws don’t touch anything I discover. And by the way, Your Majesty, have you heard about this longevity thing?  Just make me a life-long governor of whatever I find, and you’ll live forever!

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No sooner did he receive the royal contract to “search for the islands of Benimy” (spelling was not the King’s strong point, evidently), than he stepped on verdant land bursting with a riot of colorful flowers. As this happened to coincide with Pascua Florida (The Festival of Flowers), he named the new land La Florida, still thinking of it as an island. Since his landing in 1513, for many years it was believed that it eventually became a settlement called St Augustine. Later archaeological findings indicate that it may not have been the exact spot, but the important point is – remember? – longevity. Of course, the brave explorer landed in the wrong place, but he persevered, and, lo and behold! found a little spring of “unique water” which he promptly declared to be the famed “Fountain of Youth.” Drinking from it, unfortunately, was no remedy against war wounds and poisoned arrows. The wise and savvy politician was killed, still unaware that he had made two silly linguistic errors: first, it wasn’t Bimini he was looking for, but the Bahamas where the natives brew an herb called “the love vine” as an aphrodisiac; secondly, he simply mistook the word “vid” (vine) for “vida” (life), thus creating a legend (Molander, Arne (2012) “The Horizons of Christopher Columbus: Using the Heavens to Map America”).

Exit Ponce de Leon, enter Dr Luella Day McConnell, AKA Diamond Lil. Here is an interesting lady! Born in 1870, she became a practicing physician during the times when women were routinely barred even from becoming nurses. On the cusp of the century, she went to Yucon where the “gold rush fever” was raging. Appalled by the corruption of local officials, she couldn’t keep silent, so her medical license was suspended. In the interim, she managed to get married. In 1904, together with her husband, she comes to Florida sporting a diamond embedded into her front tooth. The nickname “Diamond Lil” popped up instantaneously and became her trademark. She heard the legend, bought a chunk of land, and created a tourist attraction. Quite a flamboyant personality, she would weave all kind of stories to amuse tourists and entertain the locals.

Here is the inimitable Mae West who was so impressed by the character of Diamond Lil that she wrote a play where she herself played a title role.

Ponce de Leon died at 47, Diamond Lil lived to be 57. Obviously, both have not benefited from the “unique water.” Perhaps, instead of exploring misspelled islands looking for water, Ponce de Leon should’ve explored Columbus’ diaries where a delicious fruit found in the New World is called “food of angels.” Maybe, had he not gotten into a power struggle with Don Diego Colon, he would’ve discovered the magical properties of papaya!

KP Salad 1.jpg

We love St Augustine, have stayed there often, on the way up North, and always enjoyed the little gem of a town with rich history and strange legends. I encourage you to go there, but meanwhile, let’s take half of a ripe but firm papaya, cleaned of seeds, and about two cups of loosely packed kale, torn into bite size pieces. Peel your papaya and cut it, also into bite size pieces (I don’t know the size of your bite size, so judge for yourselves!).

KP Salad 2.jpg

Next you’ll need to mix some balsamic vinegar with olive oil, freshly ground pepper, and sea salt. Pour the dressing over your kale and papaya, mix well, and leave it alone for a while. The longer it marinates, the better it will be, but at least an hour, until kale softens and darkens in color.

kp-salad-3

I sprinkled some shredded coconut on top and garnished it with a few blueberries, but feel free to use some chopped nuts and any berries of your choice. I have drunk water from the Fountain of Youth, out of curiosity, but as far as the Secret of Eternal Youth is concerned, I would definitely recommend a delicious papaya and kale salad.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups of kale, loosely packed, torn into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 ripe firm medium size papaya, de-seeded and peeled
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
  • Optional: shredded coconut or chopped nuts and fresh berries to garnish

PROCEDURE

  • Cut papaya into bite size pieces. Mix with kale.
  • Mix the rest of ingredients, pour over papaya and kale, mix well. Let stand for at least an hour until  kale softens and darkens in color.
  • Serve garnished with shredded coconut or chopped nuts and fresh berries.

Enjoy!

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75 Comments Add yours

    1. Thank you so much for reblogging!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. randyjw says:

    A bonanza of discovery and an extravaganza of healthful inspiration! Looks like a great taste combination; yum!

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Oh you wordsmiths – the words you find! Thank you so much!

      Liked by 4 people

      1. randyjw says:

        Only the best for you will do, dear Dolly!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thank you – I can see you selecting those million dollar words, dusting them out and putting them together in a diadem!

        Liked by 2 people

  2. susieshy45 says:

    Dolly
    As usual a very informative post.
    Dolly, can you explain the difference between Kosher salt and other salt and again between sea salt and rock salt ?
    Susie

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, dear Susie.
      In kosher cooking, coarse salt is used to drain blood from meat, as we are not supposed to consume blood. So coarse salt used to be called “kashering salt,” and eventually they shortened it and started calling it kosher salt. It is regular salt but coarse. Sea salt, especially Mediterranean, is made by evaporating sea water and leaving all kinds of minerals necessary for a human body. Rock salt is derived from salt mines, i.e. literally from rocks. Pink Himalayan salt is considered very good because it also contains useful minerals. I hope this helps.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. susieshy45 says:

        Thanks, Dolly. I enjoyed the post.
        And the salt information.
        Susie

        Liked by 2 people

      2. e very welcome, dear Susie!

        Like

  3. Interesting story Dolly and your salad looks very delicious 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, dear Irene! Do you have papaya where you are?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, Papaya are possible to buy here too 🙂 I don’t know, if they grow them here, but some shops do sell them.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am sure they don’t grow them, but papaya transports well. Tip: when you peel it, wipe your face with the peels. It’s the best face mask you can have!

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Thank you Dolly, I will try that 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      4. My pleasure dear!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds like a great place to visit.
    I’m not a big fan of kale, but love the color and flavors of the salad. I’m thinking of making it with arugula instead. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’ll work with arugula, I am sure, and arugula will benefit from the marinade. I should try it myself, but I just love kale. Thank you, Ronit!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Your posts are always a delight, Dolly. I lived in Florida as a child, but did not taste my first papaya until a trip to Hawaii in my very early 30s – and it was HUGE – hanging off the dinner-sized plate on which it was served for breakfast (not like the babies available in grocery stores here). I was exposed to Ponce de Leon tales in grade school Florida history classes, of course – but nothing as charming and informative as what I just read here.

    I also explored St. Augustine – dust and heat when I was there – but I loved the old city anyway. I certainly hope I don’t live forever, given today’s nonsense, but I did drink some of that water, so I guess it’s wait and see.

    The salad, however is moving to the top of my list immediately. I love every single ingredient, but never thought to put them together. You are SUCH a creative kitchen maestro.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Have you been to the Old Windmill Restaurant in St Augustine? One of our favorite places. We can’t eat there, but we sit on the porch with a drink a listen to live rock. And we’ve always stayed at Santa Monica Hotel – it’s my annual treat.
      I don’t think I am a “maestro” – i am just crazy. I start thinking, what if I put this with that – would it work? It should – or maybe not? Then I do it, and if it comes out good, I write it up.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Given the number of posts, a lot comes out good – pretty, too.

        No Old Windmill – it was many years ago, I was a college student, and my parents set the agenda.
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you for your kind words! It’s college students who have all the fun, usually! I know I did…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. AH for the return of some of those days. Wasted on the young. 🙂
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I don’t buy this cliche! Nothing is wasted on the young, and every experience is valuable, even having fun during college years.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I don’t really buy it either, Dolly. I do, however, believe that we fail to really appreciate the meaning or importance of many of the events in our young lives until we are quite a bit older – which is what I think most people mean when they use the phrase (and what I meant when I did).
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Perhaps, if you interpret it this way…

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Sounds gooooood! 🙈

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You are welcome 🙈

        Liked by 1 person

  7. randyjw says:

    Oooooohhhh, diadems. Love those! You’re right! Sparkly little words (or big words) on a diadem would be up my alley (and on my head)!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. randyjw says:

        I don’t know how you did. Amazing. Psychic, too! Too cool! Really… How did you do that?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am a witch, darling, and I have a black cat for a familiar.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. randyjw says:

    Cats and lizards definitely earn their reputations for mischief. Kitty’s black-and-white, so I’m afraid she’s conflicted between Glenda, the good witch, and the Maxwell House Coffee lady, who plays the bad witch — thereby, cancelling each other out and making her neutral. But, ever so slightly more bent toward All Hallow’s eve…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Beba is black and white, too, but she is totally not conflicted; she is very definitely mischief-oriented. Barmalei is all black but he has 13 white hairs under his chin (I counted). My husband says that he is my familiar. I don’t like to discuss All Hallow’s etc. l’havdil…

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I like the way you take me to a place with stories of explorers and fountains of youth spring water and then, bam, give me papaya and kale salad 😀 Those ingredients are nothing less than fountains of goodness, isn’t it? Lovely! Only my mother stuffed me with papayas during my growing years because according to her it was a sureshot way of maintaining healthy, glowing skin. Now, I am a bit scarred by papaya.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mothers are always right! Not only do I eat – and love! – papaya, but also use the peels as face masks. I am glad you like the post; coming from a professional writer like yourself, it’s a valuable compliment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are so welcome. You are professional yourself too. What are such designations about anyway 🙂 I had plenty of those masks/facials as well. Turmeric, rice flour, chickpea and papaya masks. Dolly, you are bringing back memories! My mother, if I told her now, would cackle with glee. I would have never thought I would do this but I do keep going back to my childhood memories and borrow so many of her life tips. They work 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Yes, I am also a professional journalist and writer (not a professional chef, though), and designations are about a set of skills. Sometimes, there is also a talent, but first and foremost, it’s skill-based. I am sure you drive a car, but you wouldn’t presume to enter into a professional race, and neither would I. Yet many talented people presume to write and publish without any writing skills or even basic grammar knowledge (I am not talking about second language people, either). You, on the other hand, have not only impressing skills, but also a considerable talent.
        P.S. I have to try turmeric and chickpeas as a mask, thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That is true. Yet I do know some bloggers who are not professionals in the strict sense of the term. They fascinate me by their grasp of the skill of writing. But hello fellow journalist, glad to know you are one 🙂 Turmeric with milk. And separately chickpea flour with lemon and milk. Cheers.

        Like

      4. I was one, darling, but I guess it’s like sex or riding a bicycle – once you learn, it stays with you!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Hah the metaphors rock 🙂 I am glad you did not say swimming but because that life skill abandoned me somewhere along the way.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. It’s not my joke! I think I heard it for the first time when I crushed my first two-wheeler at the age of five. Adults don’t always realize that most kids have ears extending around the corner, like the Weasley twins in Harry Potter.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. That is a dramatic start to your two-wheeler journey! 😀 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Sure – bloody nose and a broken bike!

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Not at all pleasant at that moment I am sure. Sounds painful!

        Liked by 1 person

      10. Oh well, childhood incidents come with the territory. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Jirah Merizz says:

    This is such a nice post, it’s very informative and I absolutely love it! Papayas are abundant here in the Philippines though we eat it occasionally. x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, dear! I am glad you like it.

      Like

  11. After just being told by my doctor to increase calcium from diet instead of pills, I was delighted with your kale and papaya salad. Now I can obey doctor’s orders and find sweets at the same time.

    Like

    1. I am so happy that I was able to be of help! Thank you so much for your lovely comment, and you can always replace papaya with mango or tangerines, if you like. Be well, dear!

      Like

  12. randyjw says:

    Shabbat Shalom, Dolly!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shabbat Shalom, Rachel, have a truly restful day!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Uttley says:

    Outstanding post. Now – tag – you’re it – b/c this post reminds me of one i did lo these 4 yrs ago now: http://quidproquoreviews.blogspot.com/2013/02/progress.html
    See what you think!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Eugene! I love your post, I remember “The Lost World” fondly (it was many-many years ago!), and I am happy to be “it” – what does it entail? I am signing off for Shabbos in a minute, but hopefully, I’ll find your answer tomorrow night.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. lilyandardbeg says:

    I’ll try this one 🙂 I’m not the biggest fan of raw kale but I love kale chips -and I like papaya. Great story-as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! This is not raw kale, it is marinated, and the longer it marinates, the less raw it tastes. Let me know how you liked it!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. My favorite explorer. By the looks, ingredients and prep I am certain Ponce de Leon would love this dish!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yes, he was an interesting character and became a big part of Florida lore.

      Like

  16. Joshua says:

    This website online is mostly a walk-via for all the info you wanted about this and didn’t know who to ask. Glimpse right here, and also you’ll definitely uncover it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Than you, but glimpse where?

      Like

  17. What a lovely story! How do you make these connections??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really don’t know. I love history and I love doing historical research, and it sort of all comes together.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is very ingenious. I learned a lot and got a good recipe. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I made them for shul, as a part of breaking the fast that I do every year for my mother’s Yurzeit. Let me tell you, they were INHALED! Americans have never seen anything like that, and they loved it. The Rebbetzin and her older daughters said they would make it their project next year, b”Mizrat H-shem.
        P.S. One of my princesses changed her mind and turned into a rock star, just like her older sister – monkey see, monkey do! So I had two rock stars, a princess, a soccer referee, and a queen who was having fun in France.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yaffa was Elsa from Frozen. She was VERY happy!🤸‍♂️🎤💃

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I have no idea who that is, but I am sure she was adorable!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yaffa ❤️ the Disney movie Frozen. She sings the music from it all the time. And, she was completely adorable. She really is the life of the party.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. That is fantastic! Can’t wait to see the pictures.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I didn’t take too many. We heard Megillah with the Friendship Circle. It was a reminder to be grateful for the troubles that I have and not someone else’s.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Oh yes! Do you know the old parable about every Jew having his own package?
        Many pictures are not necessary – one is enough!

        Liked by 1 person

      9. We are expecting snow, so tomorrow will be a good day to write and Raizel is coming home today!🎉

        Liked by 1 person

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