Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Don't postpone joy

Laurey Masterton died yesterday. You've probably never heard of her. I'd like to correct that.

She was an Asheville institution--a chef, restaurant owner, author, activist, beekeeper, teacher, cyclist, and more.

I first heard of her last year, a few months after moving to Asheville, when her last book was published: The Fresh Honey Cookbook: 84 Recipes from a Beekeeper's Kitchen. I read this article/interview about it in a local paper and was intrigued, so I ordered a copy and read it. It's a cookbook of sorts, with all of the recipes using either honey or ingredients that depend on bees for pollination. But it's more than that. It's a primer on bees and beekeeping, plus an introduction to the wide variety of honeys, how they differ, and how to use each kind to its best advantage.

Of course I've long known that some people get deeply into wine, beer, coffee, or any of a number of other foodstuffs for which there are endless varieties and a wealth of accumulated intricate knowledge to master. But I had no idea that honey was among the items for which one could develop a refined palate. This idea fascinated me. I have always liked honey (who doesn't?), but I had never paid the subject any attention, and always just grabbed the cheapest stuff on the grocery store shelf, figuring that it was all pretty much the same.

Boy, was I wrong.

Masterton's book caused me to become slightly obsessed with finding some locally produced honey to sample. After failing to find any in the grocery stores, I started going to farmer's markets, and finally ran into a beekeeper from a nearby town who was selling jars of the honey he had collected from his own hives. It was $12 a jar, which was three or four times what you'd pay for the same amount of Sue Bee. But I bought it anyway.

It was a revelation. I was bowled over by how good this stuff was. It was light but rich, complex, aromatic, intensely floral. Literally with one taste it permanently ruined ordinary honey for me; I can never again be satisfied with the mass-market swill.

I found the same beekeeper at the next farmer's market, and bought three more jars to get me through the winter, plus three to send to family members as Christmas gifts--and I included copies of Masterton's book to help explain why I was suddenly excited about honey.

I kept meaning to stop in at Laurey's Cafe in downtown Asheville for a meal, and hope that she was there so that I could thank her for opening my eyes to an interesting (and delicious) subject I barely knew existed. But I never followed through. The one time I was about to go, I checked the web site just before I left the house, and found that they were closed that day.

Now she has died, succombing finally to the ovarian cancer that she had been dealing with for many years, and my procrastination caused me to miss the chance to thank her. This post is my small attempt to make up for that fault. It's ironic--or perhaps fitting--because her life's motto was "Don't postpone joy." She might have added, "Don't postpone giving thanks where it's due." Without even knowing I existed, she made my life a little bit richer just by sharing what she was passionate about.

You can read more about Masterton here and here and here. And so that you can hear her voice and see her face, here's a talk she gave in 2010 at TEDx Asheville about what she learned from the bees she kept:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Beautiful quads

Or at least they WOULD be beautiful...

If this hadn't been *&$%^@# RAZZ!