Monday, August 07, 2006

wild honey

Sophie's houseAbout this time one year ago, while on a visit to my beloved Provence, I trekked into the Alpilles countryside to visit my bee-keeper friend, Sophie Berton. We feasted on honeyed delights: pork glazed with rich and potent chestnut honey, plum tarte with delicate lavender honey, beets and oranges flavored with tilleul honey (that of the lime tree blossom), and we tasted countless others collected from all the wild flowers and herbs of provence. It's a sacred thing, honey, with as many varietals as regions in the world, with as many distinct flavors and hues as the blossoms that inspire them.

Honey is also believed to have healing and nutrional values not only for the bee, but for humans as well. It's said to have been found--well-preserved--in Egyptian tombs dating back thousands of years. But what's most fascinating about honey is its power to evoke a piece of nostalgia in all of us.

olive tree and Provence flowersIt's much more than a sweetener to me; it conjurs memories of wild clover, Vermont summer meadows, and long-lost friends; it reminds me of Heath apple orchard just north of the Canadian border where we'd suck the sweet nectar right from the honeycomb and then chew on the beeswax to savor every last drop. Slowly drizzling honey on a pot of fresh yogurt takes me away to southern France, where on one lovely summer day, I lunched on honey, goat cheese, mint, olives, and rosé in an ancient Roman ruins not far from Sophie's home.

These memories and more wafted out of my honey jar last night, and so I say, if you want to savor a moment forever, sweeten it first with wild honey.

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