CHAMPAIGN, lll. Honey is the original sweetener, manufactured by honey bees long before humans discovered and appropriated it. Early cave paintings depict honey gatherers, as do ancient Egyptian reliefs. From Mesopotamia to the American Midwest, honey has been important to nearly every human culture and cuisine.
"Honey is fascinating; everything about it its chemistry, its history, its unbelievable activity. It's just an amazing substance," said University of Illinois entomology professor and department head May Berenbaum, the editor of a new cookbook, "Honey, I'm Homemade: Sweet Treats From the Beehive Across the Centuries and Around the World."
In addition to being a sweetener, honey is a term of endearment, an antibiotic balm, an offering to the gods and a symbol of plenty. References to honey appear in every major religious tradition. Mead (honey wine) is the earliest known alcoholic beverage. Honey has even been used as an aid in embalming the dead.
Honey bees themselves are also venerated for their cooperative work ethic, said Gene Kritsky, an entomologist at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, an expert on the history of beekeeping and the author of "The Quest for the Perfect Hive: A History of Innovation in Bee Culture." (Kritsky is an alumnus of the University of Illinois.)
The skep, an upside-down basket used as a beehive for hundreds of years, also became a religious and economic symbol, Kritsky said.
Taylors and Lloyds, the founding partners of Lloyds Bank, used a bee skep as a symbol of productivity. The Mormon church appropriated it to si
|Contact: Diana Yates|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign