Honeycomb: Now What?

When I was in New York City a few weeks ago, my flight landed in early afternoon on a Saturday. By the time the cab dropped me off on the sidewalk of my hotel it was mid-afternoon, and clean sheets and a plump pillow were a tempting proposition, but I resisted. The only anti-jetlag strategy that has ever worked for me is to fight sleepiness and stay active until the local clocks give me permission to pass out.

When I tasted a small spoonful of the wax structure, it shattered on my tongue in a most pleasing way.

In this case I had quite a few hours to fill, as I had a late dinner date with a friend. So I kept myself busy, ate a bagel sandwich (is there a way to eat those things without having all of their innards spill out onto your lap?), tried to survive hypothermia long enough to decide which apples looked best at the Union Square greenmarket, met a friend for coffee (make that a double!), bought a pair of jeans, and spent the rest of the time browsing the aisles of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.

I found the chocolate I’d been meaning to sample, and from the depths of the sweetener section, a box of honeycomb from Georgia.

“Entirely edible!” it said, “Smooth texture!” It could have said anything, really. I had never seen a honeycomb for sale anywhere — not that I’d been looking, and I didn’t even know the pretty French word for it until I looked it up: rayon de miel, similar to the expression for a ray of sunshine — and it was instantly evident to me that I needed to get one.

The hexagonal wax structure comes in a plastic tray filled with liquid honey (which leaked out and through the carton as soon as it had a chance, as such things will). It is a thing of beauty, fragile and sturdy at the same time, and one could spend hours wonderstruck at how the bees can instinctively build cells of such geometric perfection, but one has more pressing business to attend to: what does one do with a honeycomb?

The honey is mild but brightly flavored — it is a multiflower honey — and when I tasted a small spoonful of the wax structure, it shattered on my tongue in a most pleasing way. But then I chewed and chewed, and once the different layers of flavors had come and gone, I was left with an inert bit of wax, unsure of what the proper etiquette was — to spit or not to spit?

The box suggests eating the honeycomb on fresh bread, with apples slices, or with a salty, nutty, or sharp cheese. This sounds good, though I am wary of excessive sweetness with my cheese, but I want to ask you if you had any experience eating or using honeycomb, and what you would do if one was forced into your shopping basket by your incurable curiosity. All thoughts and suggestions welcome.

Edit: Since writing this post, I have had the opportunity to taste fresh honeycomb, freshly lifted from the hive — most recently at a dinner event where it was plopped on toasts of sobressada, a brilliant pairing — and the difference was immense: the wax had the same wonderfully shattering consistency, but it quickly dissolved along with the honey, leaving no chewy residue in my mouth. So if you want to give it a try, remember that fresh is best!



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