Salt is salt. I have never bought into the pompous crap that is spewed by some famous food writers and even many chefs that special ingredients are, well, special. If Chef Arrogant’s chicken recipe doesn’t taste damned good with supermarket chicken, there is no way on God’s green earth that I am going to try it with artisanally raised, organic, new-age, beer-fed, massaged, free-range chicken (at $5.95/pound!). So when my local upscale supermarket realized that it had to compete with Whole Foods or risk failing, it brought in lots of silly ingredients like 17 different cuts of ostrich meat and stupid-sounding special salts . . . like Hiwa kai Black Hawaiian Sea Salt. I bought some (and its relative, Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt) because it was on sale and I thought that it might look interesting on scrambled eggs. I then promptly forgot that this stuff was in the kitchen.
A few nights ago, at a loss for anything remotely interesting to cook, I punted and grabbed a couple of nice-looking steaks. Because it was snowing, and I am becoming weak and cowardly when it comes to the weather and grilling, I decided to drag out my trusty 8-pound cast iron pan. I had a goofy thought that the black salt might look good on the steak, so I tossed a pinch onto the meat. Actually, I tried to grind it up in the palm of my hand, because the grains are quite large and I thought that it might not spread evenly enough to salt the steak correctly. All that did was stain my hand black. Hot cast iron pan, nice steak, three minutes on each side. What could be better? Well, add Hiwa kai Black Hawaiian Sea Salt and it becomes much, much better! And, at the risk of irritating my wife, who has silly notions that profanity does not belong in any writing, it pissed me off! How dare a silly, pompous, pretentious — I am running out of deprecating adjectives — ingredient actually make a difference! And the wost part is that the Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt, which is sort of a weird, dark-pink color, made Hanukkah’s roast chicken extra special. I am embarrassed. I can no longer feel superior to the worshippers at the altar of “fresh, seasonal and expensive.” What’s next? Free-range broccoli?
4 Replies to “The Salt Of The Earth (And The Sea, And The Volcanoes?)”
I had absolute faith that you would be the last person to succumb to the salt phenomena. Trendy as it may be, I was forced fed “fleur de sel” (flower of salt…give me a break) by my parents. It was extraordinary, except I always consume too much alcohol chez parents, that my judgment can’t be trusted. Please tell me what you think of “fleur de sel.”
I think that the name destroys whatever culinary value it may have. And “extraordinary?” You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
I am guilty of using superlatives too often. I was given a gift of Greek salt by the manager of Thalassa, my favorite Greek restaurant in New York City. Do you have any suggestions?
Yes, I agree you use them too often. But you are not alone. I despair of ever reading a restaurant review that doesn’t gush about something, using words like “unique,” “extraordinary,” and “fantastic.” I would suggest that you use the salt to season food. It is probably too expensive to use on your driveway.