Honey Journal #29 — Honey From Ethiopia
Name: Sekota Sunrise (This honey really doesn’t have a name. I just made that up. Read on…)
You can buy it: You can’t buy it unless you’re planning a trip to Ethiopia and even then it’s doubtful.
Color: Lemon Curd
Flavor: Sweet and smoky with a zest of citrus.
Fragrance: Barbecued chicken
A couple of months ago I received this email.
I think you are the guy who collects honey. I just got back from Northern Ethiopia. A town called Sekota. I brought back some honey. If you don’t have any from that area, would you like some? I have already ran it through a stainer to remove all the major chunks but there is still some of the wax. Not sure how to remove that. I think it has a good flavor. A little smoky, but I still like it. Reply back if you are interested.
Of course I was interested. Fascinated would be more accurate. And David was true to his word and sent the honey. It came in a plain, unmarked Ball canning jar. I have to admit I hesitated for a moment. Unprocessed, untreated honey from Ethiopia. Hmmm. Is that really safe? Then, again honey has been used since ancient times to treat wounds. It’s a natural antibiotic. Anyway, if there was risk, I couldn’t resist. I reached for my spoon.
David was accurate in his description of the honey on both counts — it’s smoky and has good flavor. Why is it smoky? I’m sure the reason is that the people who harvested it smoked the bees out of the hive. This is commonly done in Africa where beekeeper equipment and safety gear are not readily available. Bees hate the smoke and beat a hasty retreat when exposed to it. I first encountered this smoky hue when I reviewed some honey from Zambia early in the Honey Journal. But there’s smoky and there’s smoky and this is smoky. It crowds out all the other flavors except the natural sweetness of the honey and a pleasant zest of citrus. So, you’ve got sweet and smoky — smoked honey. And, yeah, it’s really good. Probably would be great as a chicken marinade. You get barbecue chicken without having to barbecue.
David was in Africa to bring Ethiopians a new way to cook using the sun and not firewood. Ethiopians spend a lot of time gathering fuel for their fires. This is especially true for children. If they’re looking for fuel, they’re not going to school. Solar cooking, using reflective panels, is a way to heat food without fuel, thus saving time for Ethiopians to pursue more productive tasks. It’s a simple, inexpensive way to improve lives. (Click here for a sweet YouTube video of the project.)
Dennis and I deeply admire those who dedicate themselves to private charities. We’ve developed great affection for the people who work at CURE International, a charity that sets up orthopedic hospitals in the Third World. Dennis is also involved with Rock of Africa, a group that provides mosquito nets and other essential items in sub-Saharan Africa. You watch these people in action — doctors who could be working for top dollar in the finest hospitals in the USA — and stand in awe. When they talk about their work they do so with such passion that they just about glow.
What is it about the human brain that derives so much satisfaction from doing this sort of selfless work? Volunteers don’t profit in any monetary way — just the opposite. Ethiopia is hardly a preferred vacation spot. So, how do you explain it — altruism. I don’t have a great answer, but I will say this: there’s a spark of the divine in the equation somewhere. Of that I am sure.
So, thanks for the smoky honey, David, and thanks for the good work.
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