Bees got it right, man.
Did you know that a hive is usually 96% female? That the male bees, which appropriately enough are called drones, exist solely to mate? That they lay around like worthless sacks while the lady bees do all the foraging and feeding and protecting and tending? That after mating these deadbeats just up and die? UP AND DIE.
Don’t get me wrong. Bees are highly evolved, operating under an intricately balanced hierarchical system. There are nurse bees that raise the babies and attendants that care for the queen. There are guards that protect the hive and undertakers that whisk dying bees away from the crowd, lest their perishing from the earth get in the way of the daily grind. There are navigator bees and worker bees and builder bees. But they’re all girls.
The boys are worthless, I tell you (save for that whole repopulating the species thing).
Much like human women, the lady bees put up with the male bees’ bullshit up until around football season when they realize these good-for-nothing piles are taking up valuable space and food in the hive. When the hive gets ready to shut down for the winter, the male bees are run out into the cold to die. This is brilliant, bees. Just brilliant.
But here’s the catch… How can the hive carry on without male bees to procreate?
Turns out the queen bee can control whether or not she lays male or female baby bees. So when spring rolls around and it’s time to start repopulating, she just lays some boy eggs to balance things out again. Bada boom. (It’s ok if your head just exploded.)
How much would you like to get rid of your boyfriend during football season and then bring him back when it’s time to do yard work in the spring? I mean seriously. (I really wouldn’t know. I tend to only date musicians and they tend to not know what football is. It’s great.)
If you base you knowledge of bees off the movie Bees, I bet your honeybee hive demographics were all off in your head since all the characters are male. Damn patriarchal society. Anyway, now you know.
So at this point I hope it’s apparent that last week I went to a honey extraction at Cloister Honey, which is where I learned all these delightful facts about bees. My friends wish I would shut up about it.
Did you know that when a bee stings you it releases a pheromone that signals to other bees to come attack you? And that that pheromone smells like a banana? It’s true.
Cloister is a family-run operation but their product is solid and brand so recognizable that I honestly expected to walk into a big factory. Instead, I walked into the family’s garage where each jar of exquisite raw, whipped or infused honey is delicately prepared by hand. Right down to the label, which the family admits is sometimes crooked.
But it’s that tilted label, that small-batch production, that backyard operation that gives Cloister its charm.
Don’t let me make them sound small-town, though. They’ve been featured in countless local and regional magazines. Their honey is sold all over the city. Hell, they have hives on top of the Ritz Carlton.
They took a backyard hobby and turned it into the booming business without sacrificing the integrity of their product or the bees that produce it.
Regardless of where you stand on the ethics of honey harvesting, most people agree that the product is, by definition, un-vegan. To clear up any confusion, I am not vegan but I do flirt with the lifestyle and understand the arguments for and against it. When it comes to honey, I’ve never felt strongly one way or the other.
I can say that unlike some operations that use chemicals to disorient the bees, Cloister uses only burning pine straw to smoke out their hives. If a hive is cared for properly (or can adequately maintain itself in the wild), it can live on indefinitely. Cloister has never lost a hive, meaning they’ve never had to repopulate it in the spring with a new batch of bees because the original ones died over the winter. This is rare.
So while I don’t classify honey as vegan, I don’t classify myself as vegan either, which is how I ended up with these vegan-ish honey cookies. See also: oxymorons.
The recipe is from Epicurious and is easily “veganized” by swapping Earth Balance for butter and a flax egg (1 Tbsp ground flax + 3 Tbsp water) for the egg. If you want to go full on legit vegan, you can sub maple syrup or agave nectar for the honey. But then they’re not honey cookies now, are they?
- 1½ whole-wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- sprinkle of nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ cup Earth Balance, softened
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 flax egg (1 Tbsp ground flax seed + 3 Tbsp water)
- ¼ cup honey
- Whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and salt
- In a stand mixer, beat together Earth Balance and sugar
- Mix in flax egg and honey
- Spoon batter onto a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees
These cookies are nuts, y’all. NUTS I SAY. Soft and chewy and spicy and sweet. I want some vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two of them now, please. Make it vegan ice cream. Or not. I don’t care. Just eat.