I pull into the usual Skagit gas station twenty minutes early, park, drop the tailgate, and sit down to wait. Ten minutes later another truck pulls in beside me. Seth gets out, lifting a five gallon bucket from the bed as he walks over and thumping it onto the tailgate just as I stand. We make small talk for a few minutes—business, the warm spring—before I nod to the bucket and ask, “Blackberry?” “Yes,” he says, “from last year. The blackberries are blooming but the honey won’t be ready for a few months yet, and I sent all the maple out with the splits.”
I always listen to his bee reports with interest, but this time I hear some of what he leaves unsaid, the assumed knowledge that experts can’t help but layer into their conversations when speaking on their favorite subjects. Hearing it makes me feel like an insider, self-satisfied and maybe a little smug, and I have to grab metaphorical hold of my tongue to stop myself from asking questions just to show off my understanding. I have all sorts of bee facts bumping around my head right now because I’m on my way home from the Honey Baking Summit: two days of lectures, tastings, and baking bench time at Johnson & Wales University in Providence.
I was surprised to be invited to the Summit, and thoroughly flattered, though I tried to sound casual when I told people where I was going. “Oh, yes, just another trade group offering to fly me out to a gathering of top bakers, no big deal, happens all the time.” But it’s never happened before, and I’ve never been to an event like this: fully industry funded but free of hustle. I knew a few of the bakers personally and others by reputation. Raven Breads was far and away the smallest business represented, but bakers are are, for the most part, friendly, and there was too much I wanted to learn from them and from the instructors to allow myself shyness. So instead of listening quietly from the edges, as I’m always tempted to do in crowds of new people, I put on my extrovert mask, ill-fitting though it is, and stepped in to learn about honey.
See you soon.
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