Monday, November 20, 2006

Eating/thinking. wild honey.

There is a song that goes something like you can go there if you please, wild honey, and if you go there, go with me, wild honey, and whenever I drizzle honey over my toast or into my tea I think of this song, sing it softly to myself as I lick the dribbles of honey from my spoon. When we were in the market yesterday I saw a stall selling jars labelled Bee Spit, with a cartoon of a smiling bee holding up the letters; it made me laugh. In this very market as a child I would buy straws filled with honey, different flavors, bite one end and suck out the honey until I was dizzy with the sweetness. When I was little honey came (and still does) in a plastic squeeze bottle shaped like a bear. Honey is Winnie-the-Pooh, childhood, tea and toast or honey-kissed Cheerios for breakfast, or graham crackers around campfires. It makes me think of the Agatha Christie novel where one of the suspects is poisoned while having afternoon tea, eating hot scones with honey. The king was in his counting-house, counting out his money; the queen was in the parlor, eating bread and honey.

Wild honey is something else. Its sweetness has something untamed and dark to its taste, something more complicated than the sharp shock of sugar, it is the gentle sting of the bee, almost a kiss, the taste of sunlight and wildflowers, the feeling of running through fields of tall grasses and meadowflowers with the wind in your hair. In a small shop on a cobbled street in a tiny hilltop town in Tuscany, I found shelves and shelves of wild honey, lavender or millefiori or clover or thyme or perhaps rosemary. A clear gold, it is as though all the sunlight on a hot summer day, that shimmering light which hovers over the distant landscape like a pale haze, is distilled and concentrated and captured in each small, octagonal jar. I take two jars home, and when I look at them I feel as if I have brought something of the bright Tuscan sun back with me; I open the jar and the heady scent of wild honey and lavender fills the kitchen with its warmth.

When I am sick I squeeze lemon juice into a mug of hot water, hold a spoonful of honey aloft, tilt it so that it pours down in a thin golden stream, stir it all together; it will warm me, soothe me, make me dream of sunny days ahead. For breakfast I might butter a slice of toast, draw a gleaming spiral across the roughly browned surface, breathe in the buttery sweetness. In the days when we were swinging from the trees, I was a monkey, stealing honey from a swarm of bees...

1 comment:

Juanita J. Sanchez said...

I think I'm going to have to move to Seattle. There's nothing to eat in Kansas City. Not one thing.