Monday, April 06, 2009

Sweetness and Light

“We have chosen to fill our hives with honey and wax; thus furnishing mankind with the two noblest of things, which are sweetness and light.” —Jonathan Swift

This quote is the point of departure for Sweetness and Light: The Mysterious History of the Honeybee. Hattie Ellis leads her readers on a wonderfully fluttering path through the history of bee keeping.

She describes the lengths ancient man went to to rob honey bees of their golden treasure (these honey hunters were immortalized on the walls of caves). It involved teetering ladders, lots of injuries and some very angry bees, but the sweet food of was the gods was worth it!

We visit the British countryside where an artisan still makes medieval straw bee keeping "skeps" and carts his bees from farm to farm throughout heather season to make a lightly scented honey that is totally unique and tastes of the place it comes from.

There is also the tale of Brother Adam, an adventurous monk and bee keeper who, at the age of 78, climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro to find a rare (and particularly aggressive) strain of bees to breed the ultimate honey bee.

I thoroughly enjoyed this detour filled peek inside the workings of a hive and the history of this little insect and it's evolution which is so twined with that of man. And I think honey tastes sweeter now that I know a bit more about how it's made.

1 comment:

Becky said...

Thanks for sharing, I think I'll try to find this in the library - sounds like a great read! I'd like to have a hive in my garden, but only if someone else owned it! :D

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