We found raw honey two nights ago. It was easy to find, just like everything else here (well, no, not everything. Not coconut oil or books in English). We just popped in at a house down the street with a sign that says “Miele.” They had three kinds on hand: castagno (chestnut. a very strong flavor, and one that we’ve been enduring since I bought a kilo of chestnut honey in Saluzzo months ago), dandelion, and melata.
Coincidentally, I was just reading about melata honey the other day when I was researching apitherapy (healing with honey and other bee products). We’ve done a few rounds of royal jelly, but I wanted some unprocessed stuff straight from the farm. That’s the way I like everything. Straight from the farm. Melata is acquired by the bees from secretions of some other type of insect, and not as nectar from flowers. It has a sweet, wild, mysterious flavor, like flowers opening secretly in the dark. I love it, although I feel a little ambivalent about something that’s been through two sets of insects. Best not to think too much about it.
Manuela, the beekeeper, speaks perfect English. Tony was very impressed when she correctly used the word “centrifugate” in a sentence. The honey is raw and unprocessed. They do run it through a centrifuge to get rid of all the sediment, but it’s unpasteurized. That’s important because pasteurization destroys all the good stuff, just like in milk. The bits of pollen in it are great for allergies. After honey is pasteurized, it’s basically just sugar.
In a few weeks, Manuela said they would have millefiori (wildflower, or literally, “a thousand flowers”) honey, which is very good for people with allergies. We are looking forward to that. She was very sweet when she was talking about the bees. She said all the beekeepers were having problems because the farmers spray the corn, and it kills the bees. Some of the beekeepers have lost many “families” of bees. She looked very sad as she described how the pesticides were bad for the “little ones.” It was a tender image until you pictured who those little ones actually were. (I confess I still battle a childhood insect phobia)
Meanwhile, we went into town and asked what types of cheese go well with honey. We came home with caprino (goat cheese), castelmagro, toma piemontese, and a soft, crumbly, tart tomino. They were all delicious. We ate them with dandelion honey. When we go back to the apiary for wildflower honey, we’ll ask the beekeepers which honeys go best with which cheeses.
I am also using melata honey in conjunction with the butter I made this morning and a gift of fresh figs from Beatrice to make cookies. We’re taking them to her tomorrow because she is so kind to us. Every day when we go to pick up our milk she has something extra to give us. The other day when I went in the middle of an argument with Tony (we had a lot of extra feelings floating around after being apart for so long) she said, with uncanny perception of my unspoken feelings, “I will give you a thornless rose. I call these the my husband’s roses, because I planted them after he died. They last 15 days after cutting.”
She has a new little calf that Axa has been dying to see. Now that she’s over her chicken pox, we’ll all go tomorrow, take some pictures with the calf (and Beatrice), and give her the cookies. La vita e bella!
Oh, P.S., that wasn’t the Tour de France. The real thing came by the next day, with two hours of fanfare, consisting in dozens of cars outfitted like permanent floats in a parade. It’s the advertising opportunity of the year in Europe, evidently. Tony got more pictures than even he wanted. We sat up in our window and watched the parade go by. The only catch was that we were too high up to catch the candy thrown from the cars.