Cooking with Honey

Cindy and Mr. 'B' s honey.   
Honey is one of the most amazing foods on earth.  The ancient Greeks agreed and believed it to confer immortality.   The Egyptians used honey in many of their sacred rites.  From the Holy Land to the Roman Empire, honey has played a special role in the culture and foods of societies past and present.

My first taste of local honey was from Joy Stinger; yes really,  that is her true name.  Joy, who once owned a graphic design firm, was having such a grand time at our company Christmas party, she left and walked home to get us a gift.  Missing for quite a while, she finally returned to the party with  a Tuperware bowl containing a honey comb chunk swimming in a pool of glistening liquid gold:  honey.  I never tasted honey so delicious, not over sweet and thick, but thin and smooth and delicately fragrant.  This was years ago when bees weren't commonly known to be endangered and still fell into the category of backyard pest.  This was in a day it was unheard of for individuals to keep bees, much less at an tony address in the city.  Thank goodness for the "Joys" of the world who have brought the miracle of bees to the attention of ordinary city dwellers and stimulated great interest in the local production of honey.

I fast forward to last weekend and the new sense of joy I experienced in seeing my dear friend Cindy and her husband with their bees.  New apiarists, they've taken over an apiary in the country amongst the thistle and goldenrod, with a clear lake for the bees to get water within view.  As Mr. 'B' suits up in his puffy white protective space-like suit, a soft scent - cotton, he says - hangs in the air.  The smoke from the burning cotton will calm the bees as he extracts the honey.

I had been reading Letters from the Hive: An Intimate History of Bees, Honey and Humankind prior to our visit with the 'B's.  It's a treat for Mr. 'B' to explain in a more matter of fact cadence the work and life of the bees, for the complexities of how this ancient civilization operates are remarkable.  My net:  There is no member of the society (colony) without a role.  There is nothing produced without a use.  The industry of a honey bee is not just admirable, it's an example we humans would do good to follow.

The stories and talk of the bees linger in my head.  I scrape with a spatula the residual honey on the side of a near empty jar.  The bees would never waste the precious product they produce; not one drop.  I become acutely aware of the waste that occurs in my own kitchen.  What was acceptable a week ago is no longer.  I step up my recycling and composting efforts.  And, I pledge to buy still fewer products in packages and have greater patience in cooking, for as the beekeeper understands, patience is a key ingredient in the making of a fine product.

As for honey, I will use it even more in cooking as a natural and unprocessed sweetener.  Honey has always had a well-deserved spot in the SimplyCooking® pantry,  used in Great Day Granola and Honey Mustard Chicken in 1/2 cup proportions and in a host of other SimplyCooking® recipes by the tablespoon, teaspoon or drizzle.  Now thanks to a little study of bees and first hand witness of their work, I have a renewed sense of value in this delicious and natural ingredient.