Yesterday I began to read Mark L. Winston’s new book, Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive. Winston is a gifted writer who could make mucking a horse stall sound romantic. But not far into the book, he pulled me up short with his description of honey judging. His words disturbed me so much, I put my Kindle on the charger and walked off.
I don’t know anything about honey judging, but because this is the Mark Winston, I’m sure it’s accurate. He says that honey judging is based on “subtle deviations from perfect.” The judges look for moisture levels, debris, bubbles, wax flakes, and foam. They taste the honey looking for odd flavors picked up during processing, and they look at the jars for dirt and fingerprints. All departures from perfect are deducts.
Now, I understand this, and I see why it might be fun to enter your honey in a contest and learn how you stack up, as long as you don’t take it personally. But being the judge? No, no, no, no.
Once upon a time I was an artistic roller skating judge. If you are unfamiliar with this sport, it is very much like ice skating. The skaters do figures, set dances, and freestyle, only they do it on eight wheels instead of two blades.
I used to adore watching both ice skating and roller skating, and never missed a televised or live performance. I became a judge because I loved the sport and because I was a competitor myself.
After my training I judged many events, but after a while I couldn’t see the beauty. Everything I saw was a “deviation from perfect.” Things that the casual observer would never see, glared at me. Deduct. Deduct. I actually gave up skating not long after I became a judge—it was just too depressing—and I never watch it nowadays.
The same thing happened later when my husband and I belonged to the Oregon Daffodil Society. We often made the trek down to the Willamette Valley for the daffodil shows. We never became judges, but we went through the training, learning about the various classes of daffodils, and learning to “spot the defects.”
Before the training, I was a nut case over daffodils. I had them planted everywhere, and in spring my house was full of dozens of vases containing all shapes and sizes and colors. My husband took them to work, too, and passed them around the office. Daffodils were so cheerful they made me infinitely happy.
But what was stunning before, now fails some man-made and arbitrary definition of perfect. Where I used to see beauty, I now see flaws. Deduct. Deduct. Many of those daffodils still reappear every spring, but I hardly pay attention. Once again, judging ruined a passion.
So when I began reading about honey judging, I stiffened up like a dirty sock. I adore honey, the sublime flavors, the subtle colors, the heavenly aromas. It is magical, mystical, and mysterious. No way, no how, will I ever become a honey judge and have that all taken away. Never. Some things are better left alone.
Read the book: *Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive
*This post contains an affiliate link.