Miel: How to find sweetness
A blanket of yellow has descended on Yucatan. The tajonal flowers are everywhere. They are as tall as me insistently pushing their way into the narrow country roads that I spend so much time on recently. These flowers make the air feel thick and full with pollen and change the sound of the low scrubby jungle to a muted buzz. This is the temporada of honey. It is the time when little fires burn on bumpy roads sedating the bees with thier sweet smoky haze. And the time when campesinos can be seen making their ways down these same roads carefully swathed in thick white netting atop their motorcycles.
They tell me this year is a good honey year and I can’t help think of all the sweetness that this means. It means a year where the flowers bloom because of enough water. It means a corn harvest just pulled from the fields ready to feed families. It means animals happily full of enough water. For the campesinos here in Yucatan it also a good honey year because prices are high enough (22 pesos a kilo) to make some money with their extracted sweet syrup.
Before I came here I had no idea what honey could mean. Where I come from honey is something that sweetens your tea or that you suck from bright colored straws at the farmers market. It comes from blackberry, citrus, or clover flowers. Once I had some that came from the pollen of oak trees, it was dark and musky like a coastal spring.
Here though people know honey like Californians know grapes. They know where it came from. And yesterday at lunch the señora pulled out a a honey comb of honey fromtajonal flowers for me to stick my finger in to compare with the richer wilder one she had given me. A few weeks ago over dinner we found ourselves sticky with the tastes of honey pulled from different bottles around the house. It’s because like everything else here honey is made from great knowledge, it is medicine, magic, and hard work all combined. And when they give me jars of honey I also get to know the cures and stories of where and how this kind of sweetness came to be.