Along for the ride:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tahitian Dreams

In my twenties, I lived and worked at an equestrian center near Nice, in the South of France. The stables and house were recessed in a wooded valley, set far back from the main road, leading to Grasse, where the perfume factories grow their jasmine, and where nightingales called to one another across the scented crepuscular calm.
FanFan was my boss's sister, who also lived with the family. Mature, but not an old fashioned "Auntie"; FanFan zoomed around in a rattling 2CV Renault; graceful, slender build, flaming red toenails and vigorous curls belying the marks of time that many decades of sun-worship had inscribed, like tree rings, on her neck and forearms.
Little by little I gleaned the story of some of FanFan's adventures. We would gather fresh raspberries from the garden and sit chatting for a while after work. FanFan had a secret recipe for a lethal rum punch, brought back from her life, with her husband, in Tahiti. An inch or two of her marvelous nectar,  combined with tales of her colorful existence, confirmed the incongruity of her presence in such rustic surroundings.
FanFan was living with her brother's family whilst her husband completed his prison term. On one voyage home from the islands, their yacht had been searched and some packages "they'd been carrying for a friend" turned out to be contraband. They had been charged with drug smuggling. The yacht was confiscated and their money was drained, whether as fines or legal fees, no matter, and FanFan made the best of it, in limbo.
I thought of FanFan this morning, when I came across plump, ripe, green limes at the vegetable market, ten for a dollar. First I scraped the zest with a fine grater, into a jar with brown sugar. Next I squeezed in the juices and added finely chopped crystalized ginger. I warmed the mixture to melt the sugar and release the other flavors and then I added dark brown rum. Well shaken and poured over ice cubes, that was FanFan's memorable secret sipping potion.
We varied it up today by adding pineapple juice, to make a long drink, more suitable for midday consumption. There will be other moments when we will open the potion jar again and sit outside on a warm evening with a glass of lime, ginger and vanilla scented memories.


  1. Oh now that sounds delicious! I may well being making a substantial lime purchase this weekend ;) although there is no way I'll be getting the equivalent of 10 for a dollar in these parts.

  2. Wonderful memories and a wonderful recipe. It sounds wonderful. And FanFan sounds fascinating!

  3. That's a lovely evocative story beautifully written. Odd though that you always show up as the "FanFan" of my stories... Worse things could happen, I suppose. And I'm wondering about the provenance of that dark brown rum...

    "My bags are packed
    I'm ready to go"

    I'm sitting here half-watching
    'The Big Bang Theory'
    in syndication
    and in my Sheldon-esque fashion
    trying to second-guess
    the potential for success of
    tomorrow morning's gauntlet run
    from the sidewalk
    outside the SuperShuttle
    to the concourse on the other side
    of the AA ticket counter
    where my two pieces of
    hedging-50-lbs each straining
    at the seams and zippers
    rolling duffel luggage
    must pass muster before being
    checked into the belly of the beast
    and their accompanying
    wheeled-briefcase and
    must get by the TSA minions
    without being dismantled
    LAX here I go
    CDG here I come

    Au revoir

  4. Thank goodness for the FanFans of this world. We need some colour in our lives.

  5. It was different then , wasn't it . And so were we !

  6. You're making me long for Tahiti again. I remember it fondly.

  7. I think we should all raise a glass to FanFan.

  8. Trudi, you don't need ten limes, one or two will get you there. Substitute lemon or even orange. There are no rules:)Enjoy!

    Annette, this family were all great to me and, now i think of it, they provided ample blog-fodder for future posts. ie, my boss divorced one sister to marry the other...

    Ms. Pliers, many regrets that you are headed back to France. Although your baggage is expansive intellectually as well as physically. (Of course, I meant that in the best possible way, as you've accumulated extra knowledge:)

  9. Martin, in my memory she'll always be wearing red Bermuda shorts and a smattering of gold.

    S&S, I don't feel so very different. I still have to remember that I'm a grownup now.

    Stephen, this was as close as I've come to Tahiti so far. I'm not sure that it's high on my "Bucket list"

    Steve, any excuse works for me, but Yes, I remember her with fondness.

  10. Di, check out Centre Equestre Villeneuve-Loubet to see what's become of the place. It's all been revamped to host International competitions now.

    Frances, right back at you.

  11. I'm touched and moved by your story. The recipe looks delicious. :)

  12. Dear ER, sounds like heaven... the punch of course, not the husband in prison...

    Just spent a few days in Toulon in that lovely southern sun with my sister in law and her husband who just returned after five years in Tahiti. Fortunately they came home by airplane and no one gave them any packages to carry.

    And what do I see above ??? Madame Pliers is returning at last to her home across the pond ?

    Hope all is well with you and dogs and life in California...

  13. Owen, life's not too shabby just now. Thanks for asking. No in-house dogs at the moment but I'm walking Abbey this weekend, for her Mom, who's just had knee surgery. I'm off now to the stables to ride and I'll do it again on Sunday. Hard to believe I had put this all on hold for so long.
    I hope to see some photos soon of your latest travels.

  14. CNC, savoring all aspects of life is important.

  15. A lovely portrait you've drawn, ER. You had, and are having, a most interesting life, that's for sure - FanFan is straight out of a book.

  16. Deborah, the world is an interesting place. I think one of my motivations to learn languages was the desire to hear people's stories wherever I was. The blog-world is a continuation of that interest.

  17. The sense of smell and the sense of taste are the most evocative of memories. I think this tale proves the point. I can almost imagine what Tahiti was like.

    And Fan! She sounds like quite an amazing personality.

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  19. Everybody should know, and be friends with, at least one FanFan in their lives. How colourful she was. How drab so many of us are.

    While enjoying the nectar she bequeathed you, drink a toast to her and her husband, wherever he may languish now.

  20. Jean, I agree, smell and taste really can transport one.

    Friko, no languishing (although they've almost certainly aged-out by now). FanFan's husband served his time and was released. The two of them set off on new adventures and that was the last I saw of them, because I too moved on.

  21. Fan Fan and her husband sound like a couple of characters I would have loved to meet. You were lucky to get her recipe and enjoy it along with your memories. Wonder what ever happened to them when he was released, I'm sure they had many more adventures.