You've probably figured out by now that I gather books like other women gather shoes, and books on food and cooking are especially welcome. A few years ago, I picked up a book called Sweetness and Light: The Mysterious History of the Honeybee. I bought it mostly for the title, which comes from a story by Jonathan Swift (the author of Gulliver's Travels) that I have always liked. In it a bee and a spider are comparing the merits of their work (web v. honeycomb). The bee wins the argument handily:
" We have chosen to fill our hives with honey and wax; thus furnishing mankind with the two noblest of things, which are sweetness and light."
At that point I knew nothing about honey other than it was sticky stuff, made by bees, that came in jars. The book turned out to be fascinating. For instance:
- Honey is naturally sterile, and was used to dress wounds to prevent infection
- Honey does not go bad. Ancient honey from Egyptian tombs has been re-constituted and found to be completely edible.
- Honeybees are not native to North America, but a European import
As I started getting interested in honey, I found that there were as many types of honey as there are flowers. The clover honey in the supermarket is barely scratching the surface. And honey is a terrific souvenir, there is almost always a local honey for sale.
|The honey I picked up in Mexico - isn't the Mayan bee great?|
I have 7 jars in my house at the moment. Some are from vacation (NYC, Mexico) one was a present (buckwheat) and the rest I picked up during regular shopping. They all have very different flavors, though in general, the darker the honey, the more agressive the flavor. Chestnut is a bit metallic, the buckwheat is almost like molasses, and the rosemary is distinctly herbal. My favorite, the one I'm hoarding because I can't get it anymore, is walnut, which is very complex, almost bitter. Plain yogurt and a spoonful of walnut honey makes me a very happy woman.
I don't eat honey every day. Not even every week, but as I said before. it doesn't go bad. So having seven jars of honey in the cupboard isn't that big a deal. And if it crystallizes, you can zap it in the microwave, or just stick the jar in hot water. It will liquify either way.
I don't have a recipe for today, though if you want to do something easy, beat a couple of spoonfuls of honey into a stick of butter. The resulting compound butter turns toast into a gourmet experience.