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!

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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!

55 Comments Add yours

  1. ShiraDest says:

    Hmm, interesting: I always seem to recall de Soto’s expedition and the famous trek across the continent in search of the 7 cities of gold, so I don’t recall hearing of this fountain of youth.
    It does make sense that the Spaniards would have sought that, as well. But it never occurred to me that it might be made of papaya!
    🙂

    I like the mix of the basalmic vinagrett with it, to temper the taste.

    Bon appetit,
    ok,
    בתיאבון
    Shira

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you visit St Augustine, you have to take a midnight tour or two; they’ll tell you all kinds of stories…
      Thank you so much for stopping by, darling!
      Love,
      D

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Array says:

        Interesting…
        Hugs!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hugs right back to you, dear Shira!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. ShiraDest says:

        Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds like such a lovely place! I’ve been to Florida once but it was around Orlando area for Disney World on a family holiday but would love to explore the rest of the state at some point!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We have many lovely places on the East coast of Florida, darling, plus beaches, the ocean, and the most incredible sunsets!
      Thank you for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. bernlag says:

    What made you think of combining papaya and kale? Interesting combination.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have no notion how my funky brain wroks, dear Bernadette, but it has become one of our favorite salads.
      Thank you for stopping by!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. ShiraDest says:

        Yes, that was my question, too, thanks to Bernlag for posing it!
        🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. And I have no answer for both you, ladies! 😻

        Liked by 1 person

  4. It does sound like a nice flavor combination, and pretty too!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, dear Dorothy; it has become one of our favorite salads and very popular with all our friends.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. In my travels around the Southeast, I’ve come across many springs where the locals can be found filling water jugs and swearing by the health benefits of the water. One with an interesting story is Healing Springs near Blackville, SC. It was sacred to the Indians. During the Revolutionary War, some badly wounded Tory soldiers were left to die. The Indians took them to the spring and restored them to health. The land changed hands through the years. The last owner deeded it to God so everyone could enjoy the benefit of the water. It’s called God’s Acre.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This is fascinating! Thank you for sharing this with me, dear Marie.

      Like

  6. lghiggins says:

    Interesting story, but I think your healthy salad might produce a longer life than the water in San Augustine. It sounds delicious too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. LOL Thank you so much, dear Linda; I agree.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The Quitter says:

    This sounds fantastic! Will have to definitely give this one a try.

    Liked by 1 person

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

      Like

  8. Are the benefits of the water retrospective? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL I doubt it, sadly, since had this been the case, Ponce de Leon would have eventually turned into a newborn.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Once I saw the word “papaya”, I knew the secret to eternal youth. Love, love, love it! 🧡🌿

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Gail; stay young eternally! 😻

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m trying, but some days the body doesn’t pay attention. 😜

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I know whereof you speak, darling, but as long as your mind is young, you are young. I am always 18 and I stick to it!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. -Eugenia says:

    We love St. Augustine! I visited there many times as child, and when we lived in Jacksonville, FL, my hubby and I visited St. Augustine frequently and even spent weekends there. It is a very charming city and so rich in history. Your salad looks delicious!❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Eugenia! We have also spent many delightful days – and nights! – there. We usually stay at Casa Monica, where I enjoy myself immensely immersed in the Medieval ambiance.
      It’s a hop and a skip from Jacksonville; we would’ve probably gone there every weekend, just for fun!

      Like

  11. A_Boleyn says:

    I enjoyed the story of Columbus and Ponce de Leon … amazing what greed for gold and longevity will get you. Papaya sounds like a great fruit. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for a lovely comment, dear friend! I am surprised that an accomplished cook like yourself has never tasted papaya; I am sure it is available at your local supermarket, albeit not locally sourced, the way we have it. It is delicious and is chock-full of nutritional

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A_Boleyn says:

        I’ve just never been tempted to try papaya. I remember trying canned lychee years ago and didn’t care for it. I’ve been told fresh lychee are much better. One day, I may give papaya a try as I know they’re available in local grocery stores as are many other tropical fruits.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Make sure you get a yellowish but firm papaya, otherwise, it might turn you off this fruit. And yes, fresh lychee are delicious, while the canned ones – meh…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. A_Boleyn says:

        My dad ate the rest of the can so it wouldn’t be wasted. He’d eaten a lot of things that I don’t care for in his long life and just shrugged when I asked about his opinion. 🙂

        Should there be some give in the papaya flesh?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. No give at all, but totally firm. I ususally buy papayas when they are still green and have them ripen at home. It takes 4 – 5 days. You have to watch the color of the skin.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. A_Boleyn says:

        Ok, thank you.

        I wondered if it was like with avocados. Skin colour change and a slight give.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Glad to be of help, dear friend. Perhaps for the first try you could buy a half, rather than a whole papaya, and pay attention to the bright orange color of the flesh and the yelowish-greenish color of the skin, as well as the texture.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. This is so interesting, Dolly. Thank you for sharing!

    Shavua Tov,
    David

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thank you for stoppng by and commenting, David.
      Shavuah Tov,
      D

      Liked by 1 person

  13. The fact that Ponce de Leon is no longer w/ us tends to cast some doubt on the powers of his Fountain of Youth. As for Diamond Lil, she is supposed to have dined at a famous NYC restaurant called Luchow’s. Unfortunately, Luchow’s is no longer in existence. But I got to dine there myself as a girl! How’s that for 6 degrees of separation (LOL)? Wishing you all good things, A. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow – you and Diamond Lil!
      I think that Ponce de Leon stayed young until he died – the fountain is supposed to be of eternal youth, not immortality! – and I intend to do the same.
      Be well and stay safe, dear friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Sounds to be a very healthy salad, and the story of the “unique water” shows the dream tourists always having too. Lol I remember such a pont from Delphi (Greece). I was used to drink, because from the monastery we stayed we only got a lunch package without drinking. Inside Feta (made with a lot of salt) and a apple. This day it had near 40 degrees Celsius. The spring water had at least helped me to survive the day. Lol Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Besides water, did you get any meaningful prophecies fro the Delphi oracle? LOL
      Have a great weekend, Michael.

      Like

  15. That salad sounds amazing! And simple, that’s always a good thing.

    All the stories of the explorers used to leave me wondering about the fates of the people they conquered.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have always thought of that and have written about the conquered natives.
      Thank you for your kind words, dear Mimi; I am glad you like the salad.

      Like

  16. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    THIS SHOULD BE GOOD FOR YOU—ALL THAT DIETARY FIBER WILL KEEO YOU YOUNG! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reblogging, dear friend, and yes, it is good for you and delicious!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. purpleslob says:

    I had NO IDEA Diamond Lil was a DR!! But oh yes, the fountain of youth! lol And I was also unaware that papaya is native to the new World. Well, I guess South America is the new world, so maybe I did. lol
    Kale is not edible, in my world! Papaya just might change that for me. But, not willing to risk it! 😉 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of these days you’ll come to my house and I’ll sneak kale onto your plate, and you won’t even know what hits you!
      I’ll even color it purple, to make it more palatable for you.

      Like

  18. Lovely post and what a compliment to my favorite expeditions and explorers. I have always felt badly that De Leon never made it to India. 😒 your yummy vegetarian dish gives

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Neither did Columbus – they simply hadn’t gone far enough. Thank you for a lovely comment, darling!

      Like

  19. …to the old saying, “the grass is greener on the other side”!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL You are right! 😻

      Like

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