*The literal translation of honeymoon to Italian is still “moon of honey”*
Once, honey was a cheaper sweetener than sugar. The cost difference between sugar and honey changed during the Industrial Revolution. Furthermore, it was not until the 19th century that the chemical processes that converted nectar to honey could be explained. Today, honey is seen as a healthy more “natural” alternative sweetener, and artisanally can be matched to different foods, such as cheese.
Honey holds a very special place in my heart–and my stomach. My family is a large fan of honey, and we eat it quite often. We use it to sweeten our tea–instead of sugar. We’ll slice avocados and drizzle honey on top as a dessert. When I get a cough, my grandmother will boil water and mix sliced lemon and honey–and occasionally ginger slices–in a cup to soothe my throat. So I was extremely excited to learn more about honey and discovered the differences between Italian honey and what I have bought from local farmer’s markets in Kansas City. We tried a total of 8 different types of honey made from different plants and were told to try and pair 4 different types of cheeses with these honeys. The first honey was made from acacia plant (miele di acacia) and appeared to be very similar to American honey. Acacia honey was barely tinted, and tasted extremely light. It was also very viscous. The second honey was made from various spring flowers (miellefiori de primavera) and was slightly darker than the first honey. It was thicker and sweeter with large grains of sugar in the liquid. Our third honey was made from sunflower (miele di girasole) and it was a thick, sweet honey with large grains. I really loved the fourth honey (miele di lupinella). It was lighter in color but had a very different taste from honey I had before. It had very small grains. Miele di edera (ivy) was creamy and slightly more savory than sweet. It had a thick consistancy like creamed honey with a pleasing aftertaste. Melata di quercia (oak honeydew) was the second darkest in color and was sweet with tiny grains of sugar. Miele di erica (heather) was dark and rich in both color and taste. Our last honey was made from strawberry tree (not actual strawberries) and was bitter with no notes of sweetness. We were told it was the most expensive honey, but it was the only honey I did not like at all.
To pair with the honeys we were give 4 different cheeses: from lightest/youngest to oldest: blue cheese (whiteish with green mold and clumpy), pecorino di fresco (soft and squishy with a very light white-yellow color and a fresh taste), pecorino semistagionato (slightly tougher/harder with a bitter taste), and pecorino vecchio (very hard that cracked when bent and tasted very old and bitter. I found that the older cheese paired well with the sweeter, lighter cheeses and vice versa. The contrast brought out different tastes in both honey and cheese and balanced each other well. As a special surprise, we were also able to try some fresh salumeria, more specifically salame. We tried 3 different types of salame, freshly cut by the man who runs the farm and raises the pigs for the meat. The first was a salame gentile, made up of only tender shoulder meat and were more finely minced. The second was salame tuscano, which is made up of a varieties of different parts, and was minced more thickly, creating a tougher texture, and larger pieces of fat. The third was made from a different breed of pigs of the first two. This ruffiana was not as tough as the second one and included black pepper. I did not like the last two, and I absolutely loved the first.
Everytime I start to feel comfortable with and acclimated to all the food here, I remember the differences in what food is available in Italy in comparison to the United States. I am already dreading my first meal coming back from being abroad because I know it won’t compare to watching Claudio, the man who raises pigs for salame, cut his product right there in front of me before eating it. I already know that I will be back in Italy as soon as possible upon returning. So prayer to my bank account and my mom!