sweet it is
is the flower transmuted, its scent and beauty transformed
into aroma and tasteStephanie Rosenbaum, Honey:
From Flower to Table.
saut, something saut, something saut to
put in meh mout, sings the calypsonian. But
on a day like today, after the harsh drinking of Christmas,
and with the Carnival season upon us, some sweetness in
your life is obligatory. What better drink than meadwater
sweetened with honey and allowed to ferment.
If you can find it, that is.
It used to be thought that beer, from hops, was the worlds
oldest alcoholic beverage but meads claim to be first
seems credible, since cultivated grains, such as wheat or
barley, first appeared about 10,000 years ago, by which
time honey hunting was well established.
Man has a well developed craving for sweets. Being able
to identify sweet things probably played a crucial role
in our evolution. It enabled our ancestors to distinguish
between bitter food sources, such as deadly plants, and
sugary food, which is rich in energy.
Plundering bee nests seems to have been an important human
activity for many millennia. Graphic descriptions of honey
hunting can be found at numerous sites throughout Africa
and the ones at the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa
were probably done about 10,000 years ago.
Paintings depicting honey hunts are also found in caves
in India. The ones at Bhimbetka, just south of Bhopal, the
site of the worlds worst industrial disaster, date
back 9,000 years.
Beekeeping in India can be traced back to the Vedic period,
4,000 years before the birth of Christ and remained widespread
until sugar cane, the honey from a tree, began
to be cultivated about 200 AD.
Honey was so important to ancient Egypt that the hieroglyph
for the honey bee was chosen to be the symbol for the entire
region. Egyptian beekeeping practices influenced the Mediterranean
Greeks and Romans were avid beekeepers and consumed honey
in enormous quantities. The Romans, especially, elevated
beekeeping to a fine art and it is in the words of their
great poet, Virgil, that we first hear of the values of
bee society, something we might do well to ponder this Boxing
Day: They alone hold children in common: own the roofs
of their city as one and pass their life under the weight
of the law.
Among the pre-Columbian Maya, the husbandry of stingless
bees dates back at least a thousand years and honey was
considered as prized food and effective treatment for cataracts
and conjunctivitis. In exchange for honey and beeswax, the
Mayans received cacao and precious stones for their religious
ceremonies, from northern Mexico.
As the Catholic Church became more and more predominant
in Europe, the need for beekeepers increased because, whenever
mass was sung, only candles made of pure beeswax, produced
by virgin bees, could be used.
It was an article of faith among the church fathers until
the 15th century that, like Christ, bees came into being
as the result of virgin births. Bees, pure and sinless,
were believed to have fled the Garden of Eden before Adam
With the coming of the Reformation and the appearance of
sugar or Indian salt from India, honeybees apparently
fell from grace, still however to be found up the Mount
in St Augustine until some years ago.
There are more than 20,000 kinds of bees on our planet.
They make up to 64 different kinds of honey. There can be
up to 60,000 bees living in a hive: one queen to lay eggs,
a few hundred drones to fertilise the queen and then die,
and thousands of sterile daughters to do the work of producing
honey and wax.
Bees fly between one and three miles from home, at a top
speed of 15 mph, to collect nectar from flowers. A hive
can take in from three to five pounds of nectar a day. Honey
is simply concentrated nectar. To produce one 16-oz jar
of honey, it takes tens of thousands of bees flying a total
of 100,000 miles to forage nectar from 4.5 million flowers.
Unlike Trinis, bees could work!
They are also hygienic creatures and will not foul their
nests with their own excrement. They fly out of the hive
to take care of business.
The drinking of mead gradually declined over the centuries.
Several factors contributed. Competition with wine started
around the 14th century, when the quality of wine making
improved and wine quickly became the drink of an increasingly
The Reformation in the 16th century did its bit. During
the 17th century, supplies of honey began to shrink as flowers
disappeared beneath growing cities and the farms needed
to supply food for them. The price of honey soared.
The coup de grace for honey and mead, however, came from
down here, the Caribbean, where the colonisation of the
islands led to the establishment of those vast sugar cane
plantations fuelled by cheap slave labour, producing King
Sugar at prices everybody could manage. Honey, increasingly
hard to find and increasingly expensive, just could not
If you cant find mead to drink today, its because