The Bee’s Knees If You Please

As I was pulling into the parking lot of my workplace one bright, shiny morning, I noticed a sign that read, “Bee Meeting.” This immediately flooded my imagination with cartoon bees fully dressed—the males decked out in brown and tan suits (pants optional) and the ladies in powdered blue dresses with flower hats. I have a rather long commute to work so this sort of imaginative thinking is not out of the ordinary for me. I began to notice that the parking lot was unusually full, being the summertime, which made me further considered the vehicles bees may drive. Maybe bees have gotten lazy over the years, much like us human folk, and they no longer just buzz off to their points of destination but find the automobile to be much more logical and an “energy-saving” alternative. This was all dually noted as I made my way up several flights of stairs in the overheated stairwell with the gazillion bags and other appendages I tote to work every day.

My creative curiosity was in overdrive as I laid my stuff down in my office and strolled to the restroom. Are bees larger now than in previous eras? Do they have an obesity crisis too? Inside, I took care of the business caused by drinking a cup of orange juice, a cup of coffee, and an obscure amount of water, and then as I walked out of the stall, Liz, my friendly office neighbor, bounced in holding a big glass jar of some amber concoction.

“Look what I got from my bee friends,” she merrily noted.

“Is that what’s going on here? I did notice the parking lot was full. Who knew bees drove cars.”

She laughed, and I headed out of the restroom wondering why she was laughing. I was dead serious. Okay, not really. In the lobby of the building, I saw dozens of middle-aged men and woman, all wearing name tags, congregating around tables that offered a wide variety of honey-savoring devices. I sighed. No Jerry Seinfeld-voiced bees after all. They weren’t even wearing retro Mad Men attire. Luckily, I was able to brush off the feeling of being slighted by being keenly reminded of how much I adore honey.

When people hear the word “honey,” the usually think one of two things: an endearing name to call a loved one or the sweet liquid that oozes out of a cute, plastic bear. The latter honey is a strong sweetener made from the scrupulous work of honey bees in the world’s most efficient factory, the beehive. Bees create this thick, golden sweetener by gathering nectar from flowers, and they travel as far as 55,000 miles and visit over a million flowers just to gather enough nectar to make one mere pound of honey. Doesn’t that make us all feel lazy and inadequate?

Contrary to popular belief, the various colors and flavors of honey are not associated with the bee but the type of flower blossom. While there are over 300 varieties of honey in the United States, the three most popular are clover, orange blossom, and sage. Honey’s color can range from almost colorless to dark amber, and its flavor varies from satisfyingly mild to boldly rich. In general, a darker color signifies a stronger flavor. Honey also comes in three basic forms: comb honey with liquid still in the edible comb (not to be mistaken with the cereal variety Honeycombs); chunk-style or cut comb with pieces of the honeycomb included in the liquid; and liquid that has been extracted from the comb and pasteurized to prevent crystallization.

This recipe was passed down from my grandmother to my mother and then to me. Well, it wasn’t so much passed down as it was decided as a standby recipe among three separate generations. When in doubt of dinner, I usually turn to these Honey Mustard Chicken Tenders. It is beyond simple as well as tasty. All you need is honey, mustard, and chicken. You also need butter. I love butter, not as much as Paula Deen, but that’s for another day and another blob (not a spelling error). As far as mustard is concerned, use whatever type or style you prefer on your sandwiches. If you are a plain-jane, yellow mustard gal or a grainy Dijon boy, then go with it for this recipe. You can even mix and match mustards—a little spicy with a little plain. This recipe is great with chicken tenders or chicken breasts, but you may have to vary the cooking time depending on the thickness of the chicken you use.

SIDENOTE: There are plenty-o-phrases that I’ve heard and even said only to not really understand the origin. For instance, I’ve heard people refer to someone or something as “the bee’s knees,” which is to say that said person or thing is of excellent quality. Why? Well, bees just so happen to carry pollen back to the hive in sacs on their legs, around the knee area if they had knees. During the search of this phrase’s origin, I also stumbled upon some other useless knowledge. For instance, the phrase “the bee’s knees,” became popular in the U.S. in the 1920s, along with “the cat’s whiskers,” “the cat’s pajamas,” and similar phrases which made less sense and didn’t endure: “the eel’s ankle,” “the elephant’s instep,” and “the snake’s hip.” I don’t know about you, but next time I want to refer to someone as being unequivocally awesome, I’m totally using “the elephant’s instep.” It just roles of the tongue rather nicely just like, say, honey.

This blog is brought to you by—an overactive imagination, a good cry from The Secret Life of Bees and a good laugh from those new Old Spice commercials:

Honey Mustard Chicken Tenders

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken tenderloins

salt and pepper, to taste

½ cup honey

½ cup melted butter

¼ cup mustard

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚.
  2. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and place in a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. In a small bowl combine honey, butter and mustard. Mix well. Pour honey mixture over chicken, tossing to coat.
  3. Bake at 350˚ for 45 minutes, basting every 15 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and golden brown. Yield: 4 servings

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