Honey is making lots of headlines these days. First – and by far most important – there is growing concern over the dwindling bee population, which was first noticed in 2006. It goes beyond not having to worry about bee stings; don’t forget that bees, especially honeybees, are responsible for pollinating a good deal of our crops and produce. Sadly, it’s our food production that seems to be driving bees’ disappearance: pesticides, especially a nicotine-based formula, genetically modified crops which produce a certain toxin, as well as malnutrition from only being able to feed on certain plants (such as the diet of bees kept for commercial purposes) are key culprits.
It’s easy enough to forget the important role bees play in our food production, and more so when you consider the magic that is honey. Millions of tiny bees feed on their flowers of choice or convenience and convert it – via a complicated process of regurgitation – into a glorious, viscous liquid that’s more telling of its terroir than wine. Go beyond that omnipresent squeezable bear – a consistent and crowd-pleasing blend — and taste a delicious world of wildflowers, or clover, blueberry, mesquite and buckwheat, to name but a few varieties.
Honey is one of the most natural products on store shelves these days, and shares the same level of sweetness that good old granulated does. And yet… honey seems more sophisticated and special than the white stuff. Tea with honey is the stuff of cozy couches and afternoon parties using grandma’s china; tea with sugar sounds like a sad choice from an automat. Sugar sprinkled over plain Greek yogurt is a desperate sugar fix, but drizzle honey over yogurt or – even better, ricotta or mascarpone – and it’s practically Dionysian. And, while we’re still on the Greeks, where would we be without baklava?
From a utilitarian standpoint, honey makes sense in sauces, such as for stir fries or making barbecue sauce from scratch, where it’s easily blended into the other liquid ingredients, or anything requiring a certain stickiness without resorting to high heat (see this week’s recipe, or honeyed ham). While it can be used in baking, unless a large quantity is required, honey’s delicate taste might go unappreciated – an unfortunate trade-off, especially considering that honey is a fairly inexpensive sweetener.
Interestingly, honey is again starting to be appreciated in a different realm – as a beauty product. I say “again” because the ancient Egyptian – such as Cleopatra – would bathe in it (and use it for embalming the dead, which is a different story entirely). It’s been used to treat wounds since it has antiseptic properties, and has long soothed sore throats.
Lately, honey has popped up as a note in a variety of fragrances, as well as in moisturizers, as honey is a wonderful humectant, keeping skin hydrated. And it turns out that even bee venom might have some benefits; pricey skincare line Rodial has a range of potions containing venom, in an effort to mimic the positive effects of being stung (increased circulation and production of collagen and elastin, both which firm skin).
In the interest of getting the most bang for your buck, however, I suggest trying out a honey-based face mask that you can make from your pantry. Just wash your face, apply a thin layer (less than a tablespoon) of honey to your skin while still damp, and then relax for 15 minutes. Rinse off using a soft washcloth to help. Follow with your usual skincare routine. The few times I’ve tried this – always after a trying day – I was amazed by how much plumper and softer my face felt. You can also add cinnamon to boost circulation, or mix honey and Greek yogurt to exfoliate and moisturize at the same time.
Many of us will be bogged down with a surplus of Halloween candy the next few weeks, and there’s not much healing honey in those fun-size bars. Try this tasty, savoury snack to enjoy while waiting for trick-or-treaters – or tuck the recipe away for upcoming Christmas parties.
(from Food & Drink, Holiday 2012)
Preheat oven to 250°F. Combine 1 cup Cheerios, 1 cup Shreddies and 1 cup pretzel sticks in a bowl. Melt 3 tbsp. unsalted butter and stir in 2 tsp. honey. Drizzle butter mixture over Cheerio mixture and stir until evenly coated.
Combine 2 tsp. mild curry powder with 1 tsp. garlic salt and sprinkle over Cheerio mixture while stirring, until well combined. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until mixture has dried out and become lightly toasted. Let cool on baking sheet and stir in ¼ cup sultana raisins if desired. Makes about 3 cups.