It’s a measure of the distance ‘we’ have travelled in the last 100 years or so, that the meaning of the word ‘exotic’, has drifted from the original ‘ coming from outside’ to mean anything new and exciting : it is perhaps a relic of the victorian rush to colonise the world through trade, and bring back fabulous commodities that had never been seen before, from the farthest flung places of the globe.
I have been engaged recently on a so far fruitless search for some local honey : my nephew had hayfever a few weeks ago (its the trees! there is no hay!) and wanted to try inoculating himself with local pollens. I know it’s a bit early, but I like a challenge, and, after all, how long does it take to produce 375g of something by sucking it out of flowers and condensing it with your wings?
I have so far found Essex and Hertfordshire Honey, which is quite local to North East London, as well as honey from Norfolk, Sussex, and Dorset. But by far the most prevalent is honey from ‘more than one country and outside the EU’, Portuguese, Brazilian, and I even found some from Malawi. I haven’t really bothered looking in supermarkets, as you can imagine, but even in my really local health food stores ( Whole Foods doesn’t count) it is really hard to find much home produce, of any kind, not just honey.
Last year I got a jar, harvested in Tottenham, from the beekeeper Ian Bailey : maybe I primed myself for this by my sheer excitement at possessing something so precious its not available in any shop, but it really was the nicest honey I have ever had.
The second law of capitalism is supply and demand (the first : find a natural resource and exploit it!) so I can’t understand why highly prized local honey that is not commonly available in shops, and has to be sought by much travel ( by bike!) and development of contacts, still only costs about a fiver, which is pretty much the same as the boring old ordinary honey shipped over from the Brazilian rainforest.