Emory Report
September 21, 2009
Volume 62, Number 4


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September 21, 2009
Carlos talk waxes on role of honey and bees in ancient world

By Leslie King

A taste of honey, or three types of honey actually, culminated the Carlos Museum’s Talk and Taste on
Sept. 9.

One of series of “tongues-on” enlightenments, the session brought in Ted Dennard, president of the Savannah Bee Company, who guided the group through tastings of his signature Tupelo, acacia and sourwood honeys.

“In a honeybee’s life, it’s a feast of sweet gold and a whole poetic seeking of life’s best nectar,” said Dennard, explaining how he sees bees. “Honeybees are supposed to always be searching for the best source of nectar, always looking for that jewel in the world.

“But they live a real symbiotic existence, benefitting the whole world while they’re garnering all these riches.”

Dennard’s love of the liquid gold began when he was a 12-year-old on St. Simons Island. “What hooked me on honey was I held up a frame of honeycomb backlit by the sun with all the colors. I could see green and red and yellow, all these different colors of honey even on the same frame. You can put your finger in there and taste the different honeys. I was amazed at that.”

Starting his company in 2002, Dennard described it as a “wild ride …. I was a religion and philosophy major in college.”

“It’s the only food that never spoils. It kills all bacteria.”

Preceding Dennard, Jasper Gaunt, Carlos curator of Greek and Roman art, noted bees’ place in ancient Greece.

“Right through Greek and Latin literature, bees are seen and always described with great affection. They seem to be symbols for and pictures for ordered society and industry.

“The touchstone of this is the sweetness of honey. It was the only sweetener in the ancient world. That, in turn, becomes a metaphor for kindness, wisdom and poetry in particular. Lyric poetry was known as honey-sweet poetry.”

Gaunt noted the various uses of honey in the ancient world.

In addition to sweetener, “what I was completely unaware of, honey was also used very much in the dyeing industry. It helped make the dyestuffs themselves brighter and they would last better.

“And another big use of honey and beeswax is in the medical business. In the medical world, there are lots of recipes for cures of various kinds. If you were wounded in battle, you would be bandaged. The bandage would be soaked in beeswax or in honey against infection.”

Gaunt noted, “Honey was produced all over ancient Greece and continues to be. It’s in the spring that Greece is most beautiful. And in April, May, early June, Greece is the most marvelous place. The flowers are out of this world. All the trees are humming with bees.”

Carlos Director of Education Elizabeth Hornor said other Talk and Taste events are in the works, including the spices of India, and the olive in antiquity accompanied by an olive oil tasting. Check the Carlos Museum Web site for updates.