Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tasting the Honey of Fez
I don't know about you but I could use a little break from serious matters and discussions. Here is an article,from the New York Times from a while back about good Raw Moroccan honey to be found in Fez.
Fez, Morocco: Wild Honey
By ALICE FEIRING
Published: February 4, 2007
The car-free, donkey-full ancient medina in the Moroccan city of Fez is confusing, stark and exotic. It’s the kind of place where you find men squatting on stone streets tending bunches of mint, peeling wild artichokes, peddling bottles of fresh rose water and buckets of preserved lemons. They may even be balancing bouquets of goats’ legs — hair and all — bundled up for sale as if they were daffodils. Like street signs, price tags are optional.
But honey? Unlike most items for sale in Fez, honey has both a price tag and signage. This isn’t just any honey, mind you. This is mythic, rare honey from feral bees, the really wild stuff.
To find this wild honey paradise, enter the medina through Ain Zliten Square. Hang a left onto the Tala Kebira (the main drag leading into the market). Walk about four brisk minutes. Make another left just before Coin Berbère, an antiques store. There, through the arch, will be the sun-bleached courtyard of Fondouk Kaat Smen with three purveyors of honey.
To my taste, the best merchant is baby-faced Nafis Hicham, who sells oil, butter and honey as his family has for three generations. In his blue-and-white Fezian-tiled stall, Mr. Hicham measures out his wares with ancient brass weights. If you don’t speak Arabic, he can accommodate you in French, and will happily escort you to the back of the store, which is packed with blue plastic urns of 17 varieties of honey. On a recent visit, I tried to persuade him to dole out tastes of his three wild varieties. He showed photos of his wild honey sources in the Atlas Mountains. Forget prissy little domesticated bee boxes. One of the photos depicted a hive that looked like a Cotswold thatched cottage and seemed almost as large.
Mr. Hicham explained that very few people wear protective gear, as many hunters have developed immunity and can withstand 20 or 30 stings while harvesting. He added that wild honey is a miracle cure for just about anything. Carob honey helps digestion. Caper honey is good for colds and flu. He knows about the tamer honeys as well: Lavender? Good for stress. Thyme? Good for low blood pressure. Who knew?
When he finally let me taste, I was crazy about the carob, which was gritty and intensely caramel-like. The cedar was earthy, the caper delicate and floral. Healthful or not, drizzled on plump figs, they were all delicious and at $10 a kilo a real global bargain.
You can find Nafis Hicham at Tala Kebira, Fondouk Kaat Smen 81; (212) 535634-269.