It’s not so much that we use honey all of the time in our Lebanese cuisine. It’s that I have had this friendly feeling for honey that began with my affection for Winnie the Pooh when I was very small, a feeling that has surpassed friendly and become so strong that I can now say it aloud: I’m in love!
Last year, or was it the year before, I read a lengthy, heart-sinking treatise in the New York Times about refined sugar and its adverse effects on the body. A sad and sobering day for someone like me (and you, if I had to guess…). That might have been a turning point in my taste for a natural sweetener like honey.
I’ve been buying jars of golden honey for years on my travels and back at home when I lived in Chicago—like the gorgeous honey I procured from the hills of Umbria, Italy, made by this man and his family.
They sculpted every kind of beeswax delight you could imagine, and Grandpa sat there working away as my food-writer friends and I looked on. That was the day I learned that the word “Regina” means “queen,” as in Queen Bee. An oddly late discovery for a Catholic girl of 30-something who’d been singing the Salve Regina her whole life. But then that’s the same girl who thought, for quite some time, that the priest was saying, during the preparation of the gifts at Mass, “cleanse me of my nicotine,” when he was really saying “cleanse me of my iniquity.” I like to think he meant both.
There was also the urban honey that I learned about when I wrote a piece for the Chicago Tribune about the farmers at the Green City Market. I headed straight for the Chicago Honey Co-op stand and discovered that the city grows wildflowers that are the basis of very good and plenty local honey, despite the wipe-out of the bee population over the last few years.
Seems I was more of a honey collector though, than a honey eater. But I thought it was so beautiful I bought it and kept it in my larder anyway.
Now honey has become my honey, and I eat some every day—the thick raw, unprocessed honey from Pond Hill Farm in Harbor Springs that spoons up like butter; or the gilded syrupy Northern Michigan honey that pours in a heavy drip; or honey comb, an incredibly satisfying chewy sweet that I’ve recently become devoted to. Honeycomb can be eaten in total, spread on toast for example, or chewed until you’ve had enough, like a piece of gum once the flavor’s done. Honeycomb is one of the seven wonders of the world to me when I think of how organized, how perfect the comb is and in turn how OCD and perfect the bees are, all called from wherever they might be in the wide world of their nectar-gathering back to their Regina.
Tomorrow we’ll have a simply delicious, simply pure and fragrant way to get your honey-fix—and a warm up for the winter chill—every day.