Wednesday, April 3, 2013


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.

1 comment:

  1. The hands-down best honey I have had in my life is from the Greek islands. It tastes almost like caramel and is as thick. If you see any of the Attiki brand for sale in specialty stores, but it. It's worth the cost!