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.

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