BEESTINGS ARE GOOD FOR YOU!
Here's a tricky trivia question for a quick quiz: What are beestings? If you're one of the world's half-million wordlovers who receive Anu Garg's A Word A Day newsletter, you'll know the answer.*
"In Australia the cake shops sell a cake called a Beesting," Susan Perry, from Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, told Anu, in an email message he posted with other feedback a few days later. "It's a yeast bun with custard filling and a sugar and almond topping. I've heard it is supposed to be a German style cake. It's quite delicious."
That rang a bell with us, too. We remembered that we had seen beestings in the window of our favourite pie shop, Ronald Bruns' Bremen Patisserie in Umina, a small coastal town only a mile from our home, 50 miles north of Sydney.
Ron was born in Bremen, Germany, where he became an apprentice chef when he was 15, working in some of the best houses and a department store until 1968, when he migrated to Australia. Today, helped by his wife Helga and son Daniel, he runs a flourishing bakery and cake shop. Eager customers travel from afar to sample his prize-winning pies. He won two gold, five silver and three bronze medals in last year's Great Aussie Meat Pie Competition.
We've often glimpsed Ron working in his tiny kitchen at the rear of his shop, or helping out behind the counter. A big man, more than 6ft. (1.83m.) in height and of solid build, wearing a tall white chef's hat, he's an impressive figure.
Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard presented Ron Bruns with one of his golden awards. Here's a bewildering description of that event, from the website of the German internet magazine Tachauch, as translated by Google's automated computer:
Searching the internet for more information about these beestings, we discovered this announcement on the website of GermanDeli.com, a Texas online retailer, offering more than 1,800 (mostly German) products, but only to consumers in the United States.
Tekrum Bienenstich Petits
New!! Germany's popular Bee Sting
Pastry converted into a delicious cream-filled sandwich cookie by the master
bakers at Tekrum-Werk in Ravensburg. Each bite is smothered in Almond slices - a
heavenly taste experience. Keep cool and dry.
Now we pose a second culinary quick quiz question (and if you get this one right, we'll be amazed): What dishes are made from beestings? This time, we're not referring to cookies.
Answer: Fruit Beestings, Beestings Cheese, Beestings Curd, Beestings Puddings, Beestings Tarts, and Beestings "New Cheese."
Recipes for those dishes were published in Wise Traditions, the quarterly journal of The Weston A. Price Foundation, of Washington DC, whose website says that beestings, also called colostrum, is the first milk of mammals. Like human colostrum, colostrum from cows is rich in immune factors, antimicrobial fatty acids, vitamins and mineral - all necessary to protect the calf from infection and ensure adequate growth during infancy.
The article says "Colostrum has a long history of use in the practice of medicine, especially in Ayurvedic medicine, and has been successfully used to treat a host of chronic diseases... [and] is said to be the perfect anti-aging food and has been used in expensive spas for years.
"A friend of mine from Turkey recounts that her mother always obtained colostrum in the spring, often at great trouble and expense, from a farmer in the countryside She then lined up all the children and gave them a cupful of this tonic to drink. The immediate result, says my friend, was that they all fell asleep. The colostrum was said to help keep them healthy throughout the year...
"In the English countryside, colostrum is called 'beestings' and is used in a variety of custard and pudding dishes. It can be substituted for eggs because when used, it will cause the puddings to 'set.'"
Wise Traditions says that its recipes came from an old book called Farmhouse Fare. Mrs. H. M. Watkins of Wrexham (North Wales) had offered this tip: "We do not use the very first as it is so deep in colour. I always test it by putting a little on a saucer in the oven. If it sets too thick, I put a pint of milk to 3 pints of beestings (or in proportion, according to the way it sets), sprinkle a little pudding-spice on top and add a little sugar. Let it simmer in the oven, but not boil, just as if you were making an egg custard."
* Anu Garg listed beestings as a misleading word. It can mean: (a) Colostrum, the first milk a cow gives after calving. Very high in protein, beestings is used in Spain for the production of Armada, a strong, semi-firm cheese. Or (b) a cake/cookie covered with sliced almonds.
Eric Shackle is copy editor of Anu Garg's A Word A Day free newsletter, which is emailed to more than half a million subscribers in 210 countries. If you would like to add your name to the mailing list, click on SUBSCRIBE