Friday, April 8, 2011

A honey of a grocery store

It's likely that no amount of waxing poetic will allow me to fully describe my love for our local grocery store, the Willy St. Co-op, but let me begin with this small story (and I'm sure I will continue the love-fest at another time).

On a recent trip (on a night when there was still snow, by the likes of the photo below!) to pick up a few items, I went over to the bulk honey dispenser with my little glass jar for a refill. After carefully weighing the jar and labeling it with its tare weight (so I wouldn't end up paying for the weight of the jar), I turned to the honey dispenser only to find it empty. With sadness, I thought of all that baklava, all that sweetened tea, all that mead that would get unmade, as my honey jar sat unfilled [that's what she said?].

But then!  A kind co-op employee, apparently seeing my distress, turned to me and said I think the honey truck just pulled up, let me go and check. The honey truck?! Could there really bee [sic] such a delightful thing? And indeed, moments later, the employee returned with a big jug of rich golden honey, ready for the pouring.  I clapped my hands with joy and filled right on up.

As we were heading out of the store (our hands, shopping bags, and faces sticky with honey), we spied this in the parking lot:


The honey truck!

And it didn't have to come far, just the twenty or so miles from Mt. Horeb to Madison (one of our favorite bike rides, in fact!), filled with sugary goodness.  This honey came from Gentle Breeze Honey, whose sweet business story goes like this:

"As with many other beekeeping operations, our family business grew out of something that started as a personal hobby.  Following high school graduation, I attended the Farm Short Course at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.  After taking a beekeeping class through the UW's Entomology Department, I became fascinated with the wonders of the beekeeping world.  I was soon offered a job doing research on honeybees at the UW through the US Department of Agriculture.  In 1965 my wife Donna and I started Gentle Breeze Honey on a modest, part-time basis with the purchase of seven hives from a retiring beekeeper.  The business was nurtured and sustained for many years with help from our three children, became a full-time endeavor in 1991, and has now grown to approximately 600 hives. Enjoy our delicious honey!"

And so this highlights some of the reasons I love the co-op: it provides food that is so close you can taste its origins, food with a story, food that connects you to your larger community, food that comes as raw and unprocessed as possible (not in a pre-packaged plastic container that is then nested into a cardboard box on a Sysco truck that drives from some Midwestern storehouse).

The honey truck swooped in at the exact right moment to give me a dose of co-op magic.

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