Monday, September 26, 2005

On Bees, Honey, and Miels d'Anicet

miel d'automne
Originally uploaded by michelle1975.

A couple of weeks ago, Anicet of Miels d'Anicet stopped by Les Chèvres to drop off some of his wares for a Equiterre benefit dinner. Michelle and I both really like our honey, and we're always on the lookout for something interesting or something particularly excellent in the world of honey, but neither of us had ever heard of Les Miels d'Anicet before that day. Michelle came back raving. They'd held a little dégustation of one of Anicet’s honeys right there in the restaurant and Michelle raced back after work to tell me about it. She decided that we needed at least a couple of types of Miels d'Anicet immediately, if not sooner. She knew that there was a health food store next to Jean-Talon Market that stocked their honey, but she wasn't sure if she'd get a chance to go there for a few days. The next day she found them even closer to home, at Kilo, on St.-Viateur.

Anicet is a young man in his early twenties who took over the family beekeeping operation in 1998 and plunged headlong into the art and the trade of beekeeping. Les Miels d'Anicet are 100% organic—their bees travel “pesticide-free, chemical fertilizer-free and GMO-free land”—and they're made with obvious care, but what really sets Anicet's honey apart is the way he approaches the art of apiculture. His philosophy is simple yet radical in this day and age. In short, “bees first.” There’s a deep appreciation of the monumental amount of work done by the bees in order to produce even the smallest amounts of honey at Miels d’Anicet, and the prevailing attitude there is “less is more”: that the best honey will result from respect for the bees, from a lack of human intervention. For this reason, the entire line of Miels d’Anicet is non-pasteurized, and the star of their line is their non-filtered raw honey. Like most other apiaries, Miels d’Anicet offers a number of varietals, but you won’t find clover honey among them. Like everything else about their line, their varietals are thoughtful and intriguing: buckwheat, wild berry, wild mint, their grand cru “select honey,” which is harvested from wild cranberry bushes, and, perhaps most unusual, their entirely non-flower based evergreen honey. What struck us both as being a particularly brilliant innovation, however, was Miels d’Anicet’s selection of seasonal honey: spring, summer, and fall. Michelle came home with a jar of the rich, warm, and full-bodied fall honey and we've been savoring it ever since.

Michelle dreams of keeping bees—after all, The Life of the Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck is one of her all-time favorite books and one of her most highly prized editions—and although the fullest form of this fantasy involves a country home, she’s also very keen on urban beekeeping. She was ecstatic when we came across the bee hives kept inside Le Jardin du Luxemburg in Paris, bee hives that have been maintained by beekeeping aficionados there for two centuries now so that they can raise bees, produce honey and beeswax, and teach apiculture to others, and she’s talked of setting up some hives on the roof of our apartment building ever since. While my enthusiasm for beekeeping isn’t nearly as strong as Michelle’s (for the moment, at least), I have to admit to being fascinated by the life of the beekeeper, by the rewards of cultivating honey oneself and by the legendary longevity associated with beekeeping in some parts of the world. This fascination grew exponentially last year when I came across the following passage in Alan Davidson’s A Kipper With My Tea: “Scholars who have studied the matter, and who can produce lists of scores of beekeepers who have lived to over a hundred years, believe that a combination of factors is at work—eating honey, consuming with it a certain amount of pollen, and the generally beneficial effects of a calm and productive way of life in a health-promoting environment. Noting that many of the famous centenarians of the Caucasus worked in apiaries, Naum Ioyrish observed that 138-year-old Safar Husein attributed his long life to eating honey and to working in an apiary; while 150-year-old Mahmud Eivazov considered that working in the open air, in his own bee-garden, was the best elixir for longevity.”

I think were still a ways off from setting up our bee hives on our roof, but in the meantime we’re very happy to have found Miels d’Anicet’s lovely line of honey. We’ve taken to have a spoonful of the raw honey everyday as a tribute to the great centenarians of the Caucasus and in order to ward off anything that might seek to ail us. We both feel better already.

Les Miels d’Anicet are produced by Api Culture Hautes Laurentides Inc., 111, Rang 2 Gravel, Ferme-Neuve, Quebec, (819) 587-4825, You can find their range of honey at some of your better local health food stores.

PS—If you've already read The Life of the Bee and you’re looking for another classic of apiarian literature, Michelle strongly recommends Edwin Way Teale’s The Golden Throng, not to be confused with Paris Hilton’s sordid, far-from-classic, and decidedly non-apiarian The Golden Thong.



Emily said...

Check out this story of someone who keeps bees in the back yard:

Another good book is The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.

I made my first trip to Montreal (and to Canada, for that matter) in May for my birthday. I picked up some sunflower honey that is wonderful. I'm savoring it by the spoonful!

anthony said...

Hi Emily,
Thanks so much for the link, the tip, and the comments. That's a nice article and (readers, take note) it also contains some good-looking recipes.

Now we just have to figure out how "Grandma and Grandpa" (our landlords) are going to react to our rooftop beehives. Hmm...

gth said...

There is a stand at JTM that sells Unpasturized Golden Rod Honey. Very nice, wild taste and unpasturized makes all the differnece. It's only open until second week of October.

Also, have been trying to get hold of Heather Honey in QC. Ever heard of it?? My Grand Father had bees and he use to get it. You can still get it in Sweden. I would imagine it could be produced up north like in the Gaspe peninsula.

aj kinik said...

hi gth,
I think I'm going to make a trip to Jean Talon Market this week to pick up some of that golden rod honey. As for heather honey--I've never heard of it, but it sounds like it could be amazing. I'll have to do some sniffing around for it. Worst comes to worst, I've got a friend from Sweden, so maybe I can place an order with him next time he goes back. Some of the wildest honey either of us have ever had came from Finland. A good friend of mine brought some back from there once.