How many kinds of honey do you know?
In the US, I was aware of just one — this one:
Yes, I thought that practically all honey came in either bear-shaped bottles or little plastic tubes (individual servings at a diner), but that it’s all basically the same. Then again, I generally could not stand honey in any incarnation except for honey-mustard dressing on fried chicken strips, so I never took any particular interest in its variety or provenance.
That all changed when I moved back to Russia and discovered that the rest of my family is downright obsessed with honey. And that they would never, EVER, touch “that stuff from the store.”
Instead, honey is stocked up on from late spring to mid-fall, during which time honey-makers from all over Russia bring their product to Moscow’s Honey Fairs.
And what an embarrassment of riches this is!
As it turns out, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different kinds of honey produced in Russia alone. The primary differentiating factor, of course, is the source flower. Here you’ve got everything from apricot blossoms to buckwheat to Alpine meadow blends to linden, a local classic. The final product can be as fluid as maple syrup or as solid as cream cheese, crystal-clear or completely opaque, and ranging in color from white to red to black, not to mention every shade of gold and amber you could ever imagine.
And forget mass-produced brands — same-flower varieties are highly differentiated by their region of origin. Cornflower honey from the East European Plain tastes nothing like cornflower honey from southern Siberia. Even ‘meadow blends’ or ‘forest blends’ from the same general area, such as the Russian Far East or the Northern Altai Mountains have completely different notes and textures, reflecting the amount of rain or sunshine, soil type or altitude a particular spot might enjoy.
All this variety is slightly overwhelming, but in a fun-to-explore sort of way. I sampled probably 20 different kinds of the goo this past weekend and most of it wasn’t half-bad. And, ok, I have become partial to the ‘get well’ cocktail of honey, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and vodka while battling The Plague [some sort of cold virus] last month. Give me a couple more winters, and who knows, one day I might be first in line at the fair.
So, which product — food or otherwise — that you’ve encountered abroad has altered your conception of that product in general?