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Archive for June 22nd, 2009

honey

We drove up I89 yesterday to Vermont’s city, Burlington, to have dinner with Peter’s friend, the Irish poet, Greg Delanty, his wife Patti, and their son Dan (who gave Jack his outgrown tractor toys on indefinite loan).  It was rainbow weather.  The sky had been heavy and dark in Norwich—rain for days, all the Vermonters complaining about such an injustice, and on the solstice too!  But as we drove through the Green Mountains and into the Champlain Valley, the sky opened into a shifting patchwork of gray, white, and blue.  Some mountain tops were hidden in dark blurs, some were lit up bright green by shafts of sunlight. Some clouds were white wisps, some were poofy cumulous towers. We saw a rainstorm up ahead over the next valley, we were in it, and back in the hot sun again.

After this beautiful drive, we were welcomed onto a sunny deck by Patti, who is passionate about local food: there was late-afternoon local beer, and asparagus with dinner (to green up the Irish ham and potato plate).  This morning there were jumbo eggs from a nearby farm, toast from a nearby bread baker’s.

But the most delicious element of either meal was also the most local: Patti’s honey.  She keeps a hive in a wooden box in the side yard, the yellow walls of which match the yellow and purple trim on their old New England house, which stands at the corner of the lake-front street packed with other little old houses whose clapboards are whimsically painted other shades of purple, orange, or bright blue.  After breakfast, Jack and I went for a walk and stopped to sniff the roses, peonies, and lilies planted in abundant disorderly patches of overgrown grass in front of the porches along the way.  We saw bees dipping into these polleny perennials as well as into the flowering vines covering the fences and the little nosegays of wildflowers in cracks on the sidewalk and on the edges of driveways and yards.  Patti’s honey has all of the flavors and aromas of this big mixed bouquet.

Because of bees’ omnivorousness when it comes to nectar, and the portion of pollen that ends up in the honeycombs, eating local honey can help us ward off seasonal allergies, and is said to be an immunity booster in general.  But more importantly, honey is a comfort food for me: I associate it with childhood, with the pink and white clovers and buttercups of Vermont, and with Winnie the Pooh’s “little smackerel of something.”  I still enjoy it on toast and in tea, but there are more grown-up ways to eat it too: as a dressing for Mission figs and manchego; drizzled on soft goat cheese; or as a seasoning with braised lamb.

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