In the Garden: Memories of manta rays

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Free leftover tins from Bora Bora become planters. A nice memory, long after the cookies and the tan have been gone!

In September 2010, I was lucky enough to visit French Polynesia. I stayed on the islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora. The fanciful cuisine of the former — particularly the long-standing food truck tradition — was certainly a favorite memory. But it was only off the shores of Bora Bora that I got to scuba dive. And I do love nothing more than being underwater. Whilst immersed in the almost too perfect turquoise seas, I swam with pregnant manta rays and big fat lemon sharks. Gifts from the gods, to be sure.

I hadn’t completely forgotten about the dives, but almost two years later, they were far from my mind. And then, about a month ago, I got a message from an old dive buddy — a Frenchman who lives near Avignon.

“I was watching a documentary about mantas in French Polynesia and I saw you,” he wrote. “Did you see this documentary? I can try to capture few pictures for you if you want.”

And then it all came back.

A screen shot of me after the dive, from "Les reines du lagon."

It so happens that a French film crew was on my dive boat that September, and they were making a documentary about the manta rays in the motu. They filmed the briefing, the dive and then interviewed me afterward. Miracle of miracles, I made the final cut.

The film, “Les reines du lagon” (The queens of the lagoon”) is by Dominique Martial. Mon ami francais sent me a screen shot and some video clips. Apparently, I sound way more sophisticated in French!Β The parts I saw were magical. Hope I get to see the whole documentary one day.

I had saved some cookie tins from the resort in Bora Bora where we stayed while diving. They were the tastiest tropical butter cookies I’ve ever had! I poked drainage holes in the bottom of the tins, filled them with soil and then planted a trio of succulents in each.

Now, whenever i water them, I will be thinking of Bora Bora and my magical moment with mantas, en francais!

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Korean American Hapa foodie, I die!

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The Kim Family on their annual seaside vacation somewhere beyond Seoul, circa 1960s. My mom is the one in the funky cat-eye shades!

Props to KoreAm magazine’s recent article on “The Kimchee Chronicles,” a show on the wonders of Korean cuisine hosted by Hapa Korean American adoptee Marja Vongerichten. Not only is Marja a stunning former model and actress, but she happens to be married to the famed Jean-Georges, global chef extraordinaire. But what really gets my wheels turning is her apparent love for Korean food β€” the connection it brings to her culture of origin and her desire to share this love with the world.

Marja and I are the same age, which I like to think means something … Even though our experiences are worlds apart: I grew up with my Korean family in close connection and in Florida to boot. But I did spend several years in New York City, and I do know what it’s like to never have relations with part of your family until adulthood.

The show airs on PBS sometime soon … Can’t wait to see where she takes us. Makes me want to dig out my hanbok, some old family albums and a map. Perhaps I’ll plan a trip back to Seoul. (It’s been more than a decade since my first and last visit. What a shame!)

I have, however, been to French Polynesia recently, where I dined at Jean-Georges’ Lagoon restaurant at the St. Regis hotel in Bora Bora. It was quite a treat! (More on the Lagoon on Food & Wine’s site.)

Dining at Jean-Georges' Lagoon restaurant, which hangs over the turquoise waters of a motu.

Gratis creme brulee for dessert. We had a lovely French expat waiter, and it was magical to watch the fishies swim in the lights over the lagoon.

You can see a video preview of “The Kimchee Chronicles” on the New York Times Website, at http://video.nytimes.com/video/2010/11/26/dining/1248069100729/preview-the-kimchi-chronicles.html.