Unthink Honey

rethink honey.jpgThis summer I hastily opened a packet of honey to put on a biscuit, took one bite and realized something was amiss. It wasn’t just the heavenly scent of honey or the mesmerizing drizzly texture. No, the problem was that I wasn’t even eating honey in the first place. I was eating something called “honey sauce.”

I’d requested honey to go with the biscuit in my chicken dinner, and all I could think was, “What would the Colonel do?” Any man who valued a secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices and savagely guarded it for years would surely not settle for high fructose corn syrup as a honey substitute. I mean, we southerners have nothing against syrup on our biscuits – heck, we invented the dish – but if syrup’s what we want on our biscuits, it’s going to be Golden Eagle or Alaga.

You would think a company with a marketing budget that includes nationwide giveaways through Oprah could do better than honey sauce. Then again, what’s new?

Mass market manufacturers long ago created ”maple-flavored syrup,” or “pancake syrup,” a cheaper alternative to real maple syrup. No one seems to care that what sells as chocolate syrup is mostly corn syrup anyway, especially since it is so easy to squeeze a dollop onto ice cream or into a glass of milk. Since corn syrup is already ubiquitous in many of the products we buy off the supermarket shelf, who would expect us to object to its use as a replacement for honey?

But It’s just not the same. Maybe if honey syrup had a spokesperson (Mrs. Bumbleworth?) we would start to forget the origins and characteristics of real honey. Already, most kids probably have no idea that a syrup label picturing a log cabin is reference to real log cabins near groves of sugar maple trees, and that yes, maple syrup comes from sugar maple trees.

An unsentimental comparison shows that maple-flavored syrup costs one-tenth the cost of real maple syrup. Maybe corn syrup is keeping Saturday pancake breakfasts affordable, but it seems profoundly sad to think of missing out on the variations and subtleties of flavor that are inherent in a genuine, as opposed to flavored, product. It’s only fair to point out that bee colonies were indeed collapsing a couple of years ago, and maybe biscuit sellers  had to prepare for the worst.  

As a counterpoint, the other packet pictured here is from Starbucks, which still serves real, grade A honey. Of course, a large specialty drink there can cost almost as much as a single chicken dinner. I’m guessing most people would vote for a $5 value meal for everyone rather than worrying about real honey for the persnickety few. Sigh.