Before there was sugar - a very long time before - there was honey. Honey is merely the nectar of flowers, collected and then regurgitated by bees, to feed bee babies. It varies enormously in flavour, depending on exactly which flowers supply the nectar – and it can even be poisonous, if the flowers are poisonous and the ‘uncapped’ honey is eaten.
There is evidence from very ancient times that humans would go to great lengths to steal honey from the bees – climbing up to crevices in the rocks where wild bees were nesting, and risking severe stinging in the process. Until well into the Middle Ages it was essentially the only sweetener; sugar was an exotic imported ‘spice’, far too expensive to be used in any quantity. The monasteries of
All of which, in a round about way, brings us to the honeymoon, our theme of the week being wedding-related. There are a number of theories as to why the ‘honeymoon’ got its name. Nowadays it means the traditional holiday taken by a newly-married couple, but this is only a relatively new idea – since about the second half of the nineteenth century. The word used to refer to the first month (‘moon’) after marriage, and it is the ‘honey’ part that is mysterious. Some say it derives from the Old Norse word for ‘hiding’ – because the usual way of obtaining a bride was to abduct her and hide her until the family stopped looking. Another northern story is said to be the seclusion of the young couple for the first month, honey wine (mead) being supplied to them each day by their families. The young bride was supposed to be pregnant by the time they re-entered society.
Honey cakes (A German Recipe).
Put two ounces of butter into a saucepan, and when melted, stir in half a pound of honey. Let it boil, stirring briskly all the time. Take it from the fire, and when slightly cool. Mix with it the finely-minced rind of half a lemon, two ounces of sweet almonds, blanched and coarsely pounded, the eighth of a nutmeg, grated, and half a pound of flour, and last of all, half an ounce of carbonate of soda dissolved in a small quantity of warm water. Leave the mixture in a cool place twelve or fourteen hours. Roll it out half an inch thick, cut it into small square cakes, put a thin slice of candied peel in the middle of each cake, and a slice of blanched almond in the four corners. Bake in a moderate oven for twenty five minutes.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery, circa 1870’s.
Quotation for the Day …
The only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey....and the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it. Winnie the Pooh.