Last year was a very busy one for me. Between the show, ramping up Prager University, the Prager/Carolla tour, my teaching commitments and family, I had very little time for much else -- even honey.
But I hate making excuses. And honey is too important. And too much fun. So, the Honey Journal is back.
I begin with a story from Ecuador where I was with Dennis and our wonderful listener group just a few weeks ago. Dennis, his wife, Sue, my incomparable sister, Amy (the world’s most wonderful human), and I were driving out of Guayaquil (more on Guayaquil in a moment) on our way to a cocoa plantation.
We were talking about agricultural specialities of the region with our superb guide, Rocio, and somehow got on the subject of honey. My sister told Rocio that she happened to be sitting with Mr. Honey, himself. That piqued Rocio’s interest and much honey talk ensued. Then, as if by magic, there appeared a honey stand up ahead on the side of the road. Of course, we had to stop.
When I say “stand at the side of the road,” you have to think third world, not first world. There was a sign, a table and some honey. It was presented in large bottles. Nothing was sealed. Nothing was marked. There was one honey mixed with ginger and propolis (for colds and sore throats), one honey mixed with some bee pollen and who-knows-what (for energy), and one straight.
It just so happened that I was fighting a cold, so I had to have the ginger honey. I’m always in pursuit of more energy, so I had to have the energy mix. And, of course, I wanted the straight honey. It wasn’t practical to buy the large bottles, so I asked the proprietor if she had smaller bottles. She went into her house, returned with three maple-syrup style bottles and poured the honey from the big bottles into the smaller ones without spilling a drop.
Here’s what happened: the ginger honey cleared up my cold and sore throat, the energy honey gave me a boost and the straight honey was divine. My only regret is that I didn’t buy out the stand. They would have stopped me at customs probably, and I’d still be in Ecuador, but I’m going to miss this honey when it’s gone and it will be gone soon.
The straight honey is my new all-time favorite. What does that mean? It means brown sugar mixed with butter. It means stepping into a warm shaft of sun light. It means to taste it is to put yourself in a good mood. I have no idea where the honey comes from, except the foothills around Guayaquil, no idea what flowers the bees pollinated, and no chance that I will ever find out. The whole thing feels a little bit like “Brigadoon” to me, if you can follow that reference.
I would call it the honey adventure of my life and, obviously, a major highlight of the trip.
A few words about Ecuador and Guayaquil. There was a piece in the NY Times a few days ago about how Colombia and Peru have exciting growth prospects. Ecuador, wedged between these two countries, wasn’t mentioned. It has impressive natural resources from oil to gold and lots of arable land and sea food galore. So, why isn’t it growing like its neighbors? Because the President, Rafael Correa, is a “man of the people” like his mentor, Hugo Chavez. And, like this mentor, he is in the process of trashing the economy of his country just as Chavez has done to Venezuela. It’s sad. What’s worse; he’s about to be re-elected. Redistributing wealth wins elections, but destroys economies. How many times does that lesson have to be learned?
I had never heard of Guayaquil. Quito, the country’s capital, yes. Guayaquil has a lot of charm and even more potential. In the center of the city, they have a park full of iguanas -- dozens of them. Dennis couldn’t get over it. None of us could.
Final note: I called this the coffee cruise: Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are great coffee destinations. The coffee in South America is just fantastic -- rich, but smooth, none of the harshness of African coffees, or the sharpness of Asian. Do you remember Juan Valdez of the famed Folger’s coffee ads? The Starbucks of Colombia is Juan Valdez Cafes. As Folgers promised, he makes a very good cup.
From top left -- Still Life of Ecuador Honey, Iguana Park, Sister Amy at Iguana Park,
Honey Stand, Juan Valdez Cafe, Colombia, Our guide, Rocio, and driver.