An avid traveler describes how local honeys can bring the world into your kitchen.
When archaeologists peered into the tombs of the Egyptians, they found vessels of honey, nectarous and edible as the day it was harvested from the hive. Because honey lasts, literally, forever. Somehow, it’s comforting to know that if the apocalypse comes, excavators centuries in the future will find my own trove of honey, fresh as a daisy.
Like wine, honey conveys a distinct terroir—the earth, sunshine, and flora of a place—in the primitive yet provocative raw material of buzzing bees. Unlike wine, it comes in tiny, surprisingly durable jars, which is why I pick some up from every place I travel.
My collection consists of a few dozen. There’s a dark, heady honey I found on a drive through Montalcino, Italy, some creamy stuff picked up at a vineyard outside Rioja, Spain, a fruity, clear avocado one from a co-op in San Francisco, and an inky, savory honey from an argan tree plantation along the coast of Morocco. Each one tastes unmistakably like its homeland.
So honest an expression of place are these honeys that in a teaspoon they revive vivid memories of standing on a sun-drenched roadside in Italy or watching Moroccan goats climb dusty trees. I haven’t yet picked up any ancient Egyptian honey, but one day I will. I have a feeling it can wait.