A Trip to the Beach-Melinda & Robert Blanchard Part 1

April3

For my family and friends who are Islaholics you won’t believe the similarities between Anquilla and Isla Mujeres.  Check out the narrative that begins in Chapter 1:

“From the air Anquilla looked narrow, flat and scrubby, but that was only part of the picture.  In my mind, I saw the real Anquilla: sea grape and crimson flamboyant trees, women steadying pails of water on their heads, sand that might have been poured from a sack of sugar, the terra-cotta flours of the Hotel Mallioujana.  The sunshine alone was enough to make me smile.  Stepping off the plane, I felt the breeze from the east, scented by the hibiscus that grew alongside the terminal.  Those cool currents made the sun seem unthreatening.  Poor Bob, with his fair complexion, would be pink in a matter of minutes.

In Anquilla it is customary to greet everyone with a courtly “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon”.  As we approached the young woman at the immigration counter, we were greedy enough to hope for more.  We’d seen her many times on our visits to the island.  We wanted to be recognized, to be told that we were different from mere tourists-connected.

“Good afternoon”, the young woman said smiling.  “Welcome back”.  Anquilla had begun to cast its spell.

As our taxi made its way westward-slowing for potholes, speed bumps, people, goats-I counted the ways I loved this little island.  Unlike its neighbours, Anquilla (rhymes with vanilla and pronounced Ann-gwilla) had no casinos, no duty-free shopping, and no cruise ships.  Visitors here looked for less not more.  They tended to arrive one or two at a time and not in packs.  Their intentions were simple: to walk on the beach, go snorkeling, read a good book, take a dip in the water.  They’d found a place where handmade signs beckoned them to “Easy Corner Villas”, “Sandy Hill” and “Blowing Point”.  Drawn to this tiny British outpost only sixteen miles long, they appreciated the rhythm, the balmy pace.  Little school girls in handmade uniforms skip along the road, holding hands.

The idyllic life on Anquilla isn’t an illusion manufactured for tourists.  The island’s standard of living is higher than its neighbours’.  No gambling means no gambling problems.  Limited work permits for outsiders ensures plenty of jobs for locals.  This is a country with no taxes, where a dollar earned is an actual dollar.  There is no unemployment, and eighty-five-degree temperatures with sunshine everyday.  Life is good.

There are several world class hotels on the island, all criminally luxurious.  Over the years we have alternated between them, savouring their brands of exquisite tranquility.  One, Cap Juluca, boasts villas with Moroccan-style domes, and bathrooms so vast that they have their own gardens.  Another, Malliouhana, was created -a breathtaking view of the clear turquoise water and is lovingly cared for-by a retired English gentleman whose lifelong dream had been to preside over such a hideaway.  Here life is serene, with little stucco arches, ceiling fans that seem to lull away ones cares, and a breathtaking view of the clear turquoise water from the top of a cliff.”

They end many chapters with one of their own tried and true recipes.  Here’s their entry for Rum Punch:

“We tasted rum punches around the island and worked together to create the perfect mixture.  Some, we agreed, were too sweet and bright red with grenadine.  Others didn’t have the fresh taste we were looking for.  Guava juice, we discovered, was the missing ingredient from most we tried, and freshly squeezed orange juice was a must.  Still, our final recipe was simple.

Combine equal amounts of pineapple juice, quava juice , and Mt. Gray rum.  Add just a dash of grenadine and another of Angostura bitters.  Pour over ice and top with a sprinkle of nutmeg.”

The story continues through the trials and tribulations of opening their own restaurant on the island (a dream that our family has had since we first went to isla Mujeres in 2005). Stay tuned for Part 2.

Kath’s quote: “When treasures are recipes they are less clearly, less distinctly remembered than when they are tangible objects. They evoke however quite as vivid a feeling-that is, to some of use who, considering cooking an art, feel that a way of cooking can produce something that approaches an aesthetic emotion. What more can one say? If one had the choice of again hearing Pachmann play the two Chopin sonatas or dining once more at the Cafe Anglais, which would one choose?”-Alice B. Toklas


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