Do you ever have one of those fits where you have to have something sweet, and there’s nothing in the house? I try to keep temptation at bay by not buying cookies, candy, ice cream or other treats. But every once in a while I get desperate, and that means a frantic search through the kitchen for something to satisfy the urge.
A couple of months ago I was rummaging in the cabinet and found a jar of honey which I had forgotten about. The label read, “Abbazia Monte Oliveto Maggiore, Monaci Benedettini Olivetani, Miele, Fioritura Prevalente.” All of a sudden it came back to me. I bought this jar of honey during a trip to Italy in the summer of 2001. It had never been opened. So I opened it and spread some on a piece of bread. It had darkened a bit, but was not crystallized at all. I took a bite.
I tasted flowers, and I saw the landscape–rugged, dry, ridges topped with cypress trees. We were in the “badlands” south of Siena, and I remember feeling we were at a high elevation, even though it wasn’t that high above sea level. The abbey was completed in the early 16th century, and it is still a monastery to this day. There were beautiful, richly-colored frescoes which looked as if they had recently been restored. Despite a few busloads of tourists, the cloisters were peaceful and calm.
A good-natured monk in a white habit was on duty in the gift shop. They sold a a few things which they produced, like the honey, and I think I remember a few tacky religious souvenirs. I bought the honey and carried it safely home in my carry-on bag, in those innocent days before 9/11. When I tasted it 14 years later, I saw wildflowers blowing on those dry ridges and felt the peace of the place again.
Now if I can just stop eating the honey! Nearly half the jar is gone. And when it’s gone, the memory may go, too.