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The crowds at Moscow’s 21st annual All-Russian Honey Fair have been incredible. Thousands of people have swarmed the doors to Manezh, a grand exhibition square just outside the Kremlin’s walls, every day for the past two weeks to sample every sort of honey you could imagine. Thick and white, smooth and golden, in goopy liquid form or in huge bricks that look more like butter.
You’d think it’s the taste that brings them here. Russians have a notorious sweet tooth and eating their cakes and candies, or drinking their tea and even wine, you can feel the cavities coming.
But their devotion to honey is driven first and foremost by health. Each stand at the fair, stacked high with honey jars, is outfitted with dozens of leaflets detailing the health each sort of honey brings. There’s sweet honey to make your skin glow, a more bitter kind that guarantees healthy kidneys, and a rather stocky kind that proudly proclaims to battle against hemorrhoids. Name your illness and there’s a honey for you.
Russians’ holistic approach to health never ceases to amaze. It’s not germs and viruses that give you colds, but the draft from a window or going hatless in the winter. If an old lady ever catches you sitting on a stone bench or doorstep, forget it — she’ll yell for hours about how you will never have children because all your, ahem, parts have been frozen.
Still, when one woman at the fair told me that all the models in Paris and Milan swear by her honey — just a spoonful a day to stay young and beautiful — I couldn’t resist. Whatever its effects, it tastes pretty damn good.