Reader Alta Hall of Helper unknowingly sent me on a journey to the past.

Hall's submissions to the October Recipe Exchange included Wheat, White and Potato Bread, a recipe almost identical to my Grandma Mary's Brown Bread, a recipe with honey and mashed potatoes.I've known for years that no one could make bread like Grandma Mary, even with a recipe.

Well, sort of a recipe. You see, Grandma Mary was a Southern girl, thekind that cooks out of hand: a pinch of this, a nubbin of that and a portion the size of a pinkie. To get a recipe from hand to paper was unthinkable. Even watching the mixing process was guess work.

"You make the bread by the feel of the dough," Grandma explained.

Getting the right feel to the dough was incidental to the feelings of love Grandma generated with her baking.

On bread baking day she'd call to inform us the mixture was rising. Then she'd call to say it was in the oven. We lived only a block away, but it seemed an endless walk when we were waiting for the bread to bake.

The hike's reward: a steaming hunk of bread, a slathering of home-churned butter and a sticky honey topping.

Honey stuck to the cells of the slice, and Grandma's love offering stuck in my memory collection and in my heart.

And Alta Hall untied the memories with her recipe.

Hot whole wheat bread smothered in honey.

Honey smothers biscuits and breads, but also blends with a variety of ingredients in accompaniment sauces, salad dressings and desserts.

And honey is the "with-it" buzz word replacing sugar in cereal and cracker labels. In 1989, a total of 126 new honey products were identified, a dramatic increase attributed to consumer demand for using more natural and wholesome ingredients.

Honey is a natural ingredient, one produced by the most efficient of nature's factories.

A colony of bees produces 60 to 100 pounds of honey a year, while a single bee produces only a twelfth of a teaspoon in a lifetime.

To make a pound of honey, bees fly over 55,000 miles and visit two million flowers, according to the National Honey Board. A bee visits 50-100 flowers during one collection trip.

While the bees do all the work, we enjoy the benefits.

Honey adds beautiful golden color and delightful flavor to many foods. In minutes you can add the magic of honey to meals. Whip up a sparkling honey vinaigrette dressing for a salad or a poultry sauce with a tangy blend.

For best results, use recipes that specify honey, although the National Honey Board offers suggestions for substituting honey for sugar in recipes:

- Substitute honey for up to half the sugar. Honey is one and a half times sweeter than sugar.

- With experimentation, honey can be substituted for all of the sugar in some recipes.

- Reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by one-fourth cup for each cup of honey used in baked goods.

- Add one-fourth to three-fourths teaspoon baking soda for each cup of honey used.

- To prevent over-browning of baked goods, reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees.

- Honey absorbs and retains moisture readily so baked goods will stay fresh longer.

With more than 300 types of honey available, selecting the right honey is confusing.

The color and flavor of honey differs, depending on the type of blossoms visited by the honey bee. Generally, honey that is lighter in color will have a milder flavor; darker honey will have a stronger flavor.

Use mildly flavored honeys, such as clover, for use in cooking where delicate flavors predominate. Use strongly flavored honeys in spreads or other recipes where a distinct honey flavor is desired.

Honey should be stored at room temperature. If honey crystallizes, remove lid and place jar in warm water until crystals dissolve. Or microcook 1 cup of honey in microwave-safe container at HIGH, two to three minutes, or until crystals dissolve; stirring every 30 seconds.

Thanks to our readers for submitting a honey of a recipe collection:

Nancy Zitting, Darleen Masters, Marilyn Lotz, Diane M. Dansie, Fay Sargent, Ellen Koucos, Shauna Helie, Sidney Wallace, Suzanne Liechty. Colleen Marshall, Alta Hall, Thelma O. Thelin, Thelma Keller, Donna Carper, Pat Daniels, Teri Taggart, Fay Sargent, Laurel Iverson, Elizabeth Dewegeli and Colleen Marshall.


Recipes listed:

Honey Nut Loaf

Baked Chicken Oriental

Wheat, White and Potato Bread

Honey Boy Taffy

Honey Squares

Double Fudge Chocolate Cake

Banana Cake

Honey Peanut Butter Cookies

Missionary Candy

Honey Spice Acorn Squash