If you had to guess, what would you say is the most valuable thing in the world by weight?
If you’re a cook, you might pick costly foods like beluga caviar or white truffles. Or perhaps the spice saffron, which can go for thousands of dollars per pound.
If you’re a jewellery lover, your mind might go to precious metals like silver, gold or platinum. You’d know that gold has been revered since ancient times, and sometimes goes for thousands of dollars per ounce.
You’d be getting warmer if you worked in industry and knew that some substances used in things like catalytic converters are very costly indeed. Rhodium and palladium are even more valuable than gold.
These would all be good guesses, but not even close.
What about diamonds as the most valuable thing on earth by weight? Very rare coloured diamonds such as the red can be valued at millions of dollars per gram.
If you’re a scientist, you might get closer by guessing plutonium, used to fuel nuclear reactors. Or you might figure you’ve hit the jackpot by picking antimatter, which might power spaceships one day.
This substance requires inconceivable amounts of energy to generate. It’s estimated that antimatter costs tens of billions or even trillions of dollars per gram.
But there’s one thing on earth more valuable than even that…
We all shudder at the sound of something breaking, don’t we? We can’t help but wince when we hear glass or crockery shattering into pieces on the floor.
Why do we have that involuntary reaction? Because we know that the object probably can’t be repaired: it’s likely to be damaged irreparably, and must be thrown away.
We’re wincing at the sound of loss.
But what if there were a way to not only put the pieces back together, but to make the object more beautiful than it was before, despite the breaks?
The Japanese long ago invented a way of doing just that, and have even made an art form of it. It’s called “Kintsugi,” which means “golden joinery.” The process involves mending the cracks in pottery with gold lacquer. Instead of trying to hide the damaged areas, they are instead highlighted with something precious. The end result is a restored piece of pottery that is beautiful at the broken places.
But what happens if it’s not a piece of pottery that is broken, but a life? How can a shattered heart be put back together?
Sometimes the sweetest things take the most effort to produce, don’t they?
Take, for instance, maple syrup, one of Canada’s iconic products. We often use it atop pancakes or waffles, or in desserts (see below). This delicious liquid starts out as sap collected from sugar maple trees.
Right now it’s maple syrup season in Eastern Canada: as the weather warms, the sap in the trees starts flowing freely. Holes are drilled into the trunks of the maples, and buckets or tubing collects the dripping sap, which is then transported to a central location.
And then it’s ready to be bottled, right? No! Actually, the process has only just begun.