Friday, November 12, 2010

The Plight of the Honey Bee

Last night I made Pecan Salmon Fillets.  It turned out probably better than I deserve given how little experience I have cooking fish.  My husband picked up our salmon (and trout, which worked with this recipe too).  It looked somewhat different from what I usually buy.  The fish I purchase and cook most often comes from the freezer section of the grocery.  In large bags, I find chunks of meat about the size of my hand and rather solid.  I have heard people say that these fish have some relation to the animal of the same name that swims around in lakes and rivers, but I have always assumed this to be fanciful stuff, along the lines of Santa Claus and fairies.  I am pretty sure the water animals have bones in them and not crab stuffing, so they couldn’t be the same.  Case closed.

I’m actually not writing about fish today, but a different animal entirely; a flying one rather than swimming.  Today I’m writing about bees.  I chose the two recipes below because they both utilize honey.  My plan was to try out some honey given to me by my beekeeper friend, Bryan.  We recently traded, honey for cheddar cheese (which will be the subject of my next blog post), and so I decided to use it on some of the recipes in my current cookbook (thank you, Diane, for helping me find them).  Since then, I have learned quite a bit about bees.  They are pretty amazing.

An extremely large percentage of the food we consume is provided for us by bees, and not just in the form of honey.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about one third of the food we consume relies on bees for pollination.  Bees pollinate more than 90 of our flowering crops including apples, nuts, avocados, soybeans, asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash and cucumbers, citrus fruit, peaches, kiwi, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, cantaloupe and other melons.  Without it, some experts say that our diet would be limited nearly to bread and water, as corn and grains are among the few food plants that rely on wind rather than living creatures for pollination.

In recent years, our pollinated food source has become threatened.  Since 2006, a problem known as Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has been killing off bees in dangerously large numbers.  Nearly 32% of honeybees in America died that first winter, and those numbers have been increasing.  Until recently, scientists were unable to find a cause for this problem.  They studied various illnesses and bacteria, even pesticides and chemicals trying to pinpoint a cause.  Only recently, have they narrowed the field to a combination of fungus and virus.  More studies are being done and no word yet (that I could find) on a cure.

All of this came as news to me.  I had no idea of the role that bees played in our existence – a secret life, indeed.  But then this is not so unusual.  In our culture, we tend to live far removed from the natural world, insulated by grocery stores, electric blankets and HVAC.  The activity of bees is probably just one of the many natural systems in creation that keep us alive and running while we are completely unaware.

We live in a world that looks to chemicals and technology for the solutions to most problems, though they are also known to come with hazards.  While it seems that chemicals were not the culprit in Colony Collapse Disorder, I can understand why it would have been seen as a plausible explanation.  I worry about the number of chemicals in our world.  As a mother of children – especially children with autism, a disorder for which theories abound – I worry about the number of artificial things in our environment and the fact that we surely can’t begin to know the full effects of all of them.

This is not to disclaim all modern knowledge and invention.  I am not suggesting that we dispense with, say, all of medical science and return to herbal potions and remedies grown straight from the ground.  I simply suggest we pause and realize how man-made much our world has become, and how far removed we are from God’s creation of which we are a part.  Our technology allows us to overlook the fact that we are made up of the same messy stuff we try to close outside our doors.  We can forget that much of this messiness is the stuff of life.

I don’t have a proposed solution except maybe to just to stop and think, to be a little more aware.  We could try a little harder to acknowledge that we are a part of this beautiful and grimy world, to be grateful for it and maybe to work a little harder at sustaining it.  For whatever strange reason, God did not plunk us down in a neat and sanitary room, but in an enormous garden full of color and song and life, as well as virus and bacteria – all lovely and dangerous. This is the life we are given.  May it be blessed.

I’d like to say a word of congratulations to my friends, Lynn and Chuck Pugh.  The product of their hard work, Cane Creek Farm, was recognized as the Conservation Farm Family of the Year for the Upper Chattahoochee Soil and Water Conservation District supported by USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service.  Well done!

Blessed eating!

Pecan Salmon Fillets
1 ½ lbs Atlantic Salmon fillets, cut into serving size pieces
Nonstick foil or spray oil & regular foil
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. coarse grained Dijon mustard (or any kind of Dijon)
1/3 c. butter, melted
Pour in a Ziploc and place the fillets inside.  Marinate a day or two in the fridge until ready to cook.  Discard marinade.  Spread 1 T. honey over each fillet.  Follow with 1 T. mustard, and finally one T. melted butter.  Place 1/3 c. bread crumbs on top of each and pat down. Follow with 2 T. chopped parsley and end with 1/3 c. finely chopped pecans.  Bake in preheated 350 oven for about 20 minutes or until the fish flakes in the thickest portions and is done through.  Serve hot! – Jerry Taylor

Fruit Salsa
2 kiwi, peeled & diced
2 c. fresh strawberries, diced
11 oz. mandarin oranges, drained & diced
Blend well and serve with cream cheese dip and tortilla chips

Cream Cheese Dip
8 oz. cream cheese, softened    ½ c. orange juice
3 T. honey
Combine ingredients in a sauce pan and cook over low heat stirring until smooth, about 3 minutes. – Eunice Henderson

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