Where can my wife and I buy "white honey"? My son-in-law brought some home after his last deployment to Eastern Europe and it tasted much better than local honey.
-- S.T., of Belleville
A. I hope you two lovebirds are planning an overseas adventure for your second honeymoon, because that may the only way to find more of that sweet treat.
"We don't have a product called white honey in the United States," said Chuck Fugate, of Belleville and a former vice president of the St. Clair Beekeepers Association. "We don't have the climate nor do we have the foliage for white honey."
Bees are like farmers, Fugate explained. They take whatever plant is the easiest to work with and make their honey from that. That's why you can find more than 300 unique kinds of honey in the United States alone, originating from such diverse floral sources as clover, eucalyptus and orange blossoms, according to the National Honey Board in Firestone, Colo.
"Honey in Texas or California will taste different than honey in Illinois," Fugate said. "Even honeys produced in Michigan or Minnesota will be different because the growing season and the pollination season are so much shorter. When I was stationed in Alaska, the honey was a lot different because the survival rate of bees is very, very short."
The same is true for bees in Europe. Because they gather nectar from a different world of plants such as olives, etc., they produce varieties of honey that are foreign to us here across the pond. Fugate remembers the white honey well from his days in France.
"What it is is just a real clear honey," he said. "It's almost along the lines of an apple-blossom type of honey, but it's real light and very, very sweet with a different flavor than our honey here."
He cautions people going on the Internet to hunt for it. You may find something called (white) creamed honey, but it's not the same.
"Sometimes when you come from overseas, you'll think, 'Oh, gee whiz, white creamed honey, wow,'" Fugate said. "But you'll get it and you'll find that it's thicker and it's not white honey at all, but something that's mixed by the beekeeper or the company."
So, unfortunately, it appears there's only a couple of things you can do besides regular European visits.
"Just tell him if he wants to grow olives and mangoes and things along those lines and change the climatology, then he shouldn't have any problem," Fugate joked.
Otherwise, you might learn more about honey and explore different types of domestic honey at the honey board's website, www.honeylocator.com.
Q, After our church's recent Christmas musical, my sister-in-law was upset because the Roman soldiers wore red uniforms. She said they did not wear red but some other color. Would you be able to settle our dispute?
-- S.J., of O'Fallon
A. Good thing she didn't live in ancient times or else Caesar might have thrown her to the lions for such heresy. Now, admittedly, the proof is not overwhelming, but the best evidence seems to point to red as the color of choice, especially for battle.
"The debate in the world of Roman reconstructionists as to tunic color is considerable," according the Legion Six Historical Foundation, which spends its days re-enacting the Roman Empire (www.legionsix.org). "Historians studying the scanty available evidence have tended to favor either red or the off-white of undyed wool as the standard color."
They say the most extensive study was made by Graham Sumner for his book "Roman Military Clothing Part I" (Osprey, 2002). His research suggests that the average Roman legionary had at least two tunics -- a red one to wear under his armor and an off-white version for all other occasions.
From clothing fragments and paintings, other authors concur, including G.R. Watson in "The Roman Soldier" and Roy Davies in "Service in the Roman Army." Red cloth would not soil as quickly as white and it would help soldiers stand out on the battlefield so they wouldn't kill each other as they battled their foes. So your sister-in-law's face may be a little red from embarrassment the next time she sees you.
What supermodel earned a college scholarship to study chemical engineering?
Answer to Wednesday's question: Smokey Bear started out as a cartoon figure on Aug. 9, 1944, but in May 1950 a fire in New Mexico's Lincoln Forest left a 3-month-old black bear cub orphaned. After he was nursed back to health, the Forest Service saw a big opportunity: Name him Smokey and make him a living mascot in its fight against forest fires. So with great fanfare, he was flown to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., where he lived until Nov. 9, 1976. It was there he "married" Goldie Bear, but, alas, they failed to produce a Smokey Jr. Instead, in 1971, they "adopted" yet another Lincoln Forest orphan named Little Smokey.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org