Honor Thy Salt: Why I Own More Than 30 Varieties But Not Kosher Salt, And Why I No Longer Shop at Penzey's

salt pile3.jpg
Patrise Shuttlesworth
"Three things are good in little measure and evil in large: yeast, salt and hesitation." - The Talmud

Salt is the single most important ingredient in cooking and the single most powerful tool for improving the flavor of food.

For most of human existence, salt has been tricky to transport, scantily available and completely unpredictable in quality. Salt was a symbol of wealth, a prized commodity and in non-wealthy homes either non-existent or carefully rationed. Regional cuisines developed in concert with the availability and character of a particular area's salt source.

Salt is either from the sea or from the land. Those salts found on land used to be in a sea millions of years ago. Salts bear a mineral and crystalline imprint of the elemental and human forces that wrought it. Mark Bitterman in Salted: A Manifesto on the World's Most Essential Mineral says, "Salt is a natural, whole food, intimately tied to a place and way of life."

Salted photo.jpg
Patrise Shuttlesworth
Bitterman goes on to say, " An appreciation for salt - traditionally made - changes our world for the better, leading to better tasting food, more empowered consumers, healthier populations, more sustainable food production, preserved natural environments and a restored sense of belonging." Appreciating the perceptible, tangible, discernible, tasteful distinctions of salt can only enhance our cooking.

No two salts are alike any more than any two peppers are alike. There are grocery store aisles and produce sections devoted to just peppers. There are chefs who are pepper experts and wax on about harnessing the subtle taste differences in peppers, depending on their preparation, growth time, regionality, etc.

If you are lucky, you may find two or three types of salt in your local grocery store (and I am not talking about flavored salts) which range between iodized, kosher and sea. These are BORING and wholly lacking of the attention salt deserves. Consider Bolivian Rose, Cyprus Black Diamond, Bengal Blue, Bali Rama Pyramid, Himalayan Pink, Korean Amethyst Bamboo, Hawaiian Black Lava, Chinese Jade Sands, Italian Ittica d'Or, Australian Murray River Flake -- the list goes on and on. Each one of these has a separate and distinct flavor, shape, texture and color difference. There is as much taste difference, shape difference, texture difference and color difference in salt as there ever was in pepper.

There are hundreds if not thousands of types of salts. New ones are being discovered weekly. For you diehard locavores: Did you know we have our very own local salt? It is called Jurassic Galveston County Salt, and it comes from our very own salt dome that Galveston and the surrounding area sit upon. It is clear white, has squarish grains and a light, clean taste. Galveston County Salt is available at Revival Market in the Heights. It is not harsh, metallic or chalky like iodized, kosher and generic sea salt.

Our culture is moving toward more organic, less processed ways of eating. Why shouldn't our seasonings be held to the same standard? The biggest injustice done to the culinary world, sadly, mostly from itself, is the endorsement of kosher salt. It replaced iodized salt in most homes, and we believed we were using something more natural and better for us. Mark Bitterman has the best description of kosher salt, I believe, ever written:

Kosher salt is used in many professional kitchens because it is easy to grasp with the fingers, easy to scatter into food, quick to dissolve, convenient to purchase and very, very cheap. The modicum of texture it offers compared to free-flowing iodized salt leads some to believe that it is somehow more natural. The combination of professional endorsement and perceived naturalness has led to the widespread acceptance of kosher salt as "gourmet." But everyone saying it does not make it so. Kosher salt is a processed food with all the mineral and moisture qualities intrinsic to real salt stripped away and with crystal structure fabricated by automated processes. The flavor is antiseptic, like the bright fluorescence of a laboratory on a spaceship drifting aimlessly away from earth. The texture crackles and bounces on your tongue like an undead pet, a battery-operated puppy with no hair, trying to comfort you with its soulless antics. When we cook with kosher salt we sanctify the artificial, we embrace emptiness, we become unfit for our posts - a nakedness far worse than embarrassment.

Himalayan salt photo.jpg
Patrise Shuttlesworth
How could anyone use kosher salt after that description? Kosher salt does have its place, however. It is very useful for brining. Because it's cheap, it's easy to use large amounts with herbs and other flavorings for your brines. Just never eat it raw or season your cooked food with it. As you might suspect, not everyone agrees with Mark Bitterman. Bill Penzey, owner of Penzeys Spices, has a slightly different take on salt. The following explanation to his customers was published in their Winter 2011 catalogue and signed by Bill, himself.

We're cutting back on salt. A really good and healthy thing going on with food right now is that people are using less salt. We want to be a part of this. Going forward we will continue to sell reasonably priced generic salts of the earth and sea, but we will no longer be selling the higher-priced specialty salts. I feel things have gotten to a point where the specialty salts are glamorizing the use of salt and with that, encouraging people to use more of it. I have also found that along with the marketing of specialty salt has come a great deal of misinformation including claims that some salts don't affect your health like others do. This is just not true and not something we want to be a part of. Salt is salt, it really is, and it tastes no different no matter where it comes from.

I would be willing to listen to Bill argue the points of salt and health because everyone is entitled to their own opinions about their own health choices. Where he loses me as a willing listener and, more importantly, as a customer, is at the end. Speaking as the owner of a spice house and an expert in the field of seasonings, herbs and spices, Bill Penzey tells his customers that salt is salt and it all tastes the same. I no longer trust his expertise or the basis of his business. It takes only a tasting of a few different salts to readily see, feel and taste the differences.

salt jars photo.jpg
Patrise Shuttlesworth
There is so much fascinating information about salt that I can't begin to include it all here. I highly suggest reading Mark Bitterman's Salted: A Manifesto on the World's Most Essential Mineral. He won a James Beard Award for his manifesto, lectures about salt at the Le Cordon Bleu and owns a salt shop in Portland and New York called The Meadow. The man knows his salt.

As for Houston and our salt-purchasing options: Right now Central Market is the best one-stop place. They have many, many varieties at very reasonable prices. Beyond that, any grocery store, specialty foods boutique, etc. usually carries a small variety of salts. You can also order them online from The Meadow or give them a call and let Mark tell you about his newest salt. Keep your eyes open around town and in your travels. I, personally, have amassed more than 30 varieties and use them regularly. For those of you still using kosher salt who now want to use an unprocessed salt, I recommend gray salt, aka sel gris. It is very reasonably priced, and you can buy it in large quantities. I keep mine is the same jar I had my kosher salt in beside my stove. It is the perfect go-to salt.

And remember, salt may appear trivial, but because our conscious associates it with longevity and permanence, it is of boundless significance. Do your own research, eat unprocessed salt as often as possible and always season and eat in moderation. Happy salting!



Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords
My Voice Nation Help
57 comments
Angela
Angela

Love this as I am a sea salt lover in the biggest way. I didn't know this about kosher salt. I don't have any and I won't. I don't understand all this cutting out of salt. Just cut out processed foods. My blood pressure is 112/70 and I eat sea salt on everything every day. Hooray for salt. Hooray for this post. I can hardly believe the rude comments here. People are not on dialysis because of sea salt. My father had a kidney transplant and I've sat with him during dialysis so I'm not insensitive to kidney failure. There is something more going on here when a conversation about sea salt brings such hostility. Pay no mind to it.

Lindaz51
Lindaz51

Angela, what a good assessment of how good food is well.... good for you!  I discovered natural sea salts about 4 years ago and I've never looked back.  In fact there's a really cute Gourmet World Traveler that has 6 sea salts in it that you can take it with you everywhere! Great little invention!  No more table salt on really good food!

Mindy Walters
Mindy Walters

What a great article! I'm shocked by Mr. Penzey's comment that all salt tastes the same - as shocked as I was to find out, accidentally, that salt comes in so many different colors, textures and flavors. No two salts taste the same - except for table salt. And what is sold as "Kosher Salt" at the store is essentially table salt formed into a different shape. There is one thing that was left out, which might be considered important for the Jewish community - almost every natural (unprocessed) salt is available certified Kosher. Himalayan Pink, Fleur de Sel, Sel Gris - all Kosher, when processed correctly.

BeilFuss
BeilFuss

Great piece Patrise, and welcome to EOW. Hope you contribute more.

There will always be reactionaries: beef is beef, oil is oil, coffee is coffee, rice is rice. Calcium tastes the same in chicken, pork and sardines. It's an argument that needs tasting to define, but common sense would tell you there's a difference in salts.

The hazards of eating too much salt is a separate issue, but I get the thrust of the marketing objection when I see Wendy's advertising sea salt on its fries, and others on their chips. But just because corporations subsume a category doesn't invalidate it.

Sallster7
Sallster7

Salt is salt and tastes the same as salt - because it's a chemical. Spices are living plant material, thus the vast differences in flavors even amongst botanically similar plants such as the various cassias.The things that make salt taste different are the minerals and metals layered on in the drying process from the sea water or leached in through the ground.The fDA doesn't require those to be listed, but those pretty flavors can be pretty hard on the kidneys.I'll stick with kosher and a nice chunk sea salt from a relatively clean ocean - the pacific.To equate salt to spices to the extent you'd say the best spice shop around must not understand flavor shows quite a lack of understanding of what seasonings even are.

Sallster7
Sallster7

Whoops did nit mean that as a response to you BF - generally agree with you!

Anse
Anse

Sometimes I think it's a good idea to not overthink this stuff. I'm gonna prolly stick with buying cheap boring ol' kosher salt. Hope that's okay.

jay
jay

Several points, most with regard to Bill Penzey's comments:

1. The article you mentioned was close to a year ago.  In a later article he backed off on removing some salts from their catalog after hearing from proponents such as yourself.

2. Penzey's market is the home cook more so than the professional cook.  Salt in our diets in processed food is everywhere & by most accounts the generic "we" gets much more salt in their diet than is healthy.  A look at Penzey's offerings confirms they are offering many blends that don't have salt in their blend, likely a response to their customers' who have been told to remove much salt from their diet.

3. Not to use a product(s) someone finds worthwhile because they disagree with the opinion of the company's owner seems, at best, rather naive.  The variety & quality of Penzey's products outweighs any disagreements I might have with the owner's opinions.

Patrise Shuttlesworth
Patrise Shuttlesworth

Jay, the article I'm quoting is from the 2011 Winter catalog. That's not even 6 months ago. Secondly, I have no issue with your second statement. Lastly, I am not naive. If Bill Penzy was responding to what customers want or don't want then he could have just said that. Bill chose to go the extra step of stating based on his expertise, all salt is the same. That is a false statement. You would never hear him say all cinnamon or pepper is the same if his customers suddenly wanted to cutback on their intake of them. I find him irresponsible with his expertise or rather lack of it in the case of salt. And my choosing to not patronize Penzeys any longer is what keeps commerce going in this country.

GUEST
GUEST

You tell him, Patrise!

ypman
ypman

 I currently have in my pantry, Himalayan and Peruvian pink, five different smoked salts, regular table salt, Bolivian Rose and kosher salt.  With the exception of the smoky flavor imparted by the smoked salts I have to agree with Mr. Penzey, salt is salt.  Sure the smoked salts have some flavor from the smoking process, but without that even those would simply be salt.

When I received the catalog in which he  made his comments I remember thinking, finally someone is being honest about salt. 

Sarah C.
Sarah C.

Patrise:I really enjoyed the article and your thoughtful responses to the above comments. If our society spent more time in the kitchen cooking our own meals and using high-quality food products like artisan salts in moderation we would all be much healthier. I have long admired Mark Bitterman and frequently use his Chef Salt salt blends (a company in which he is a partner) (Note: I am not affiliated with the company in anyway, just a customer). I find Bill Penzey's comments stupifying. Clearly he has a serious lack of knowledge in this industry. I look forward to reading more of your writing.

mfsmit
mfsmit

Not to be pedantic, but kosher salt is actually not the best choice for making a brine.  Since it's intended for koshering meat, the flakes dissolve poorly.  You're better off using pickling salt (fast-dissolving, non-iodized salt), which dissolves much faster and at lower temperatures than kosher salt.

Sallster7
Sallster7

Well I guess you aren't Jewish and show no respect for the fact that kosher salt is, indeed, great for koshering.Most Americans eat too much salt. Period. I love the stuff but stay away from anything colored or flavored, knowing the heavy metal content of some sea salts - and I mean copper and other awful things. salt should be white, actually.

stevenjklein
stevenjklein

"Kosher salt does have its place, however."

Indeed. It's perfect for extracting blood from kosher-slaughtered meat. Indeed, that's how it got its name.

Matthew
Matthew

can someone post something substantive/evidence based that shows positives from avoiding "processed salt" or negatives from intake of same? my bullshit meter is going off big time.

LenaHoppens
LenaHoppens

Unrefined salt is in it's natural state, minerals intact.  Refined salt is sodium and chloride and that's it.  This is like saying white rice is better for you than brown rice.  Both are rice and still edible, but one's nutritional value has been altered and one hasn't.  They do this for things like shelf life and mass production.  Refined and unrefined salt could be compared to this.You can find more info on the salt institute website, I tried posting a link but it's not showing up.

Matthew
Matthew

i still don't see anything that would lead be to believe that there is something bad about plain kosher salt. so it doesn't have residual minerals and metals in it. the white rice/brown rice analogy seems wrong. sounds more like tap water versus distilled water. 

Lena
Lena

Unrefined salt is in its natural state, minerals intact.  Refined salt is sodium and chloride and that's it.  This is like saying white rice is better for you than brown rice.  Both are rice and still edible, but one's nutritional value has been altered and one hasn't.  They do this for things like shelf life and mass production.  Refined and unrefined salt could be compared to this.

http://www.saltinstitute.org/P... 

Mike Tremoulet
Mike Tremoulet

I may as well weigh in on this.

I'm a fan of salt. I don't use much table salt anymore (and while iodine was, I think, a very important additive, I understand we get enough elsewhere in a reasonably balanced diet now to not need the supplement). I keep two kinds of kosher salt at home. And I'm a big fan of artisan salt.

Does salt have flavor? Yes. Impurities and extra things in artisan salt bring not only flavor but texture to the finished dish. Maldon's snowy flakes are texturally VERY different from, say, a coarse Himalayan pink salt on top of a chocolate covered salted caramel square. When you taste and get to know these differences, you'll use them to finish dishes and improve the end result.

I said "finish". Used to season cooking, salt's nuanced flavor is COMPLETELY overwhelmed by the rest of the dish. I shudder to think about how much Kala Namak salt I'd have to add at the start of making butternut squash soup before I could taste the volcanic ash. I will happily use and continue to use kosher salt to season dishes while cooking them, to bring the salt level into balance and open up the flavor - and then finish them with specific artisan salt depending on the dish and what I want to bring out. Finishing a dish with a black salt is very different from dissolving the salt in at the start.

Before we decry kosher too far, note that The Meadow even refers to these artisan salts throughout their website as "finishing" salts.

LW
LW

I didn't read through all the other comments, but yours was the one I noticed who addressed the iodine issue. 

...And here I was, hoping for a pandemic of gigantic neck goiters in the US....not that that would be hilarious or anything. 

Patrise Shuttlesworth
Patrise Shuttlesworth

I agree.  I would add though, instead of using Kosher to season while cooking with, I use gray salt. It is inexpensive, comes in large quantities and has not been processed. It's your best choice for an everyday salt.

Mike Tremoulet
Mike Tremoulet

I almost edited the post to add that - gray salt is another good choice. I've had some challenges with it being hydrophilic and sucking water out of the air and becoming hard to work with, but I think that's a one-off. It is definitely a good salt choice.

Linda
Linda

There is a great new Kosher Sea Salt out there, too!  It has all the texture of flaky traditional Kosher but it is completely unrefined- so think of the flavor you can get! It's by Salts of the 7 Seas (www.saltsfothe7seas.com).  It would seem to solve this dilemma of highly processed yet easy to use Kosher salt... with a nice, all natural, Kosher Sea Salt with all the traditional features!

furioso ateo
furioso ateo

Christ, stop spamming the article with plugs for your salt company.

Lena
Lena

Not every salt is created equally and they do, indeed, tastedifferent or bring a different flair to a dish... wouldn't someone who isconcerned with salt intake find it interesting to know that they could be oversalting their food unnecessarily?  Varioussalts might be a bit pricey, but you’d be using less most likely and the tasteof your food could improve.  By using thewrong salt you could be taking in more than you need.  It’s always been a pet peeve of mine when peopleimmediately grab for the salt and pepper. I get that there are circumstances when adding salt to a dish might beneeded, but I think table salt has dumbed our taste buds down in a way.  I’ve always thought that someone who saltstheir food excessively is in some way wanting everything they eat to taste thesame.  To say salt, is salt, is salt is justbeing close minded.  You want plan andboring, fine, have your plain and boring. But I say thank you to Patrise, I have definitely learned something newtoday!

Linda
Linda

Lena, I agree with you- I've seen it a million times-people picking up the salt shaker before you even take a bite!    Good salt by the way, should be more expensive- its produced completely differently than table salt- mostly by hand from salt pools that allow the sea water in and the sun and wind to do their job in evaporating the water- leaving behind the salt.  There are many other processes to extract salt from the ocean- many have been around for centuries- used by the Italians, the French, Sicilians and even a very time-consuming process in Japan of letting the sea water drip down a bamboo pole poised over  warm coals as the water evaporates the salt is collected from the bamboo- its called Aguni Sea Salt from Salts of the 7 Seas... we well a lot of it and yes, its expensive, but it should be- its all done by hand!  One other thing to think about when people  take exception to the price of Artisan produced sea salts is how long they last, because you need to use so much less to get great flavor.

Think of a bottle of wine you buy for say, $22- and its gone in less than 3 hours!  That Artisan salt you might have paid $10.00 a jar for is going to be around for months!  Money well spent I think!  Cheers!

WineLush
WineLush

Good lord you people get your knickers in a twist about everything.  Just like salt you take her writing & twist them to the extreme.  Guess what there's a world outside the Texas state border.  Salt while frequently overused, is also very necessary for brain function, my guess is you lot have decreased your salt intake to the point of being snippy little motor neuron lacking flunkies who can't face change.  Processed salt isn't good for you, you lose the minerals that you replace everyday in your chemically processed supplement Geritol for men with prostate problems.  Chill out, maybe your butt will untwist & you'll find some relief in this lifetime.

Saltydawg
Saltydawg

All I can say to that is, thank god I live in Texas.  Maybe you should take a salt tab today.

WineLush
WineLush

If taking a salt tab removes me from any association with small minded people like you, gladly.

Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

With all due respect, this is a silly article.  

Unlike almost all other ingredients (the notable exception is water) salt is a simple, inorganic compound: NaCl.  It dissolves when it gets wet.  Some may have impurities.  Getting excited about impurities in salt seems like the pinnacle of foodie wanking.

Jeezuie
Jeezuie

Wank you very much.  Buy some regular Morton's table salt, and Morton's Sea Salt, and put a pinch of each on your hand, then lick them.  You will be stunned by the difference.  Hint: the anti-caking agent is nasty.

Dr. Ricky
Dr. Ricky

Basically, what he said. Save for one teeny detail: crystal shape makes a huge difference. Which is why "table salt" is really difficult to use. 

SHUT UP & EAT!!!
SHUT UP & EAT!!!

Of course, the following doesn't work with a steak, because you're really talking about the texture and mouthfeel of salt - however, here's a challenge for you: make a pot of soup without adding salt.

Ladle out 3 bowls.To the first, add plain iodized table salt.to the second, add kosher salt.to the third, add the most expensive salt you can find - collected from the dehydrated tears of hermitic Tibetan monks, tears they shed specifically while thinking of the innate sadness of whole of mankind.

Without knowing which bowl contains which salt, taste them, and see if you can tell even an iota of difference between the 3. Answer yourself honestly - not what foodie pretention would dictate.

Jeff
Jeff

I like salt and I found this to be a fascinating blog post, but this...

"The flavor is antiseptic, like the bright fluorescence of a laboratory on a spaceship drifting aimlessly away from earth. The texture crackles and bounces on your tongue like an undead pet, a battery-operated puppy with no hair, trying to comfort you with its soulless antics. When we cook with kosher salt we sanctify the artificial, we embrace emptiness, we become unfit for our posts - a nakedness far worse than embarrassment."Jesus, Mark Bitterman, it's salt. It's not an undead pet or a nakedness far worse than embarrassment. It's FUCKING SALT!

Bloom
Bloom

 I'm with Jeff. This reeks of a first-year creative writing student who is trying way too fucking hard.

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

Jeff, I would even venture to say that that passage is annoying as hell.

jim
jim

Great, useful and fun read, Patrise! My two favorite things about gardening are sliced cuke-and tomato salad in the summer, with a sprinkle of grey salt, and daikon in the winter, same "dressing." Probably will keep using kosher for brining, though, but it's nice to read about the Galveston connection. As far as the dialysis ( and blood pressure as well) thing goes... well, that's a factor in favor of artisinal salt... it takes a lot less to make food taste right.

Of course, a truly "well-read foodie" would have been unable to write this post without mentioning "Salt" by Mark Kurlansky, the guy who also wrote the book about cod.

Patrise Shuttlesworth
Patrise Shuttlesworth

Jim, I love Mark Kurlansky's book Salt: A world History. Its very informative. Just because I didn't mention it didn't mean I haven't read it or used it as reference. Kosher salt is great for brining - I still use it for that purpose.

Seriously!?!
Seriously!?!

Patrise, I'd like you to take a ride to any of the Houston-area dialysis clinics. There are more than 100, so I'm sure it will be easy access for you. The folks there will be more than happy to inform you of what the longterm impact of excessive sodium intake does.

The fact of the matter is we have gotten to a point that our foods are over-saturated with salt; whether is be as part of a preservative, added for flavor, or other applications. Your ignorance on the subject and obsession with tasting the salt and not the food, reeks of a child pouring salt over a heap of deep fried chips at your run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant; all before dipping it in a bowl of Sysco-brand "cheese" dip.

Linda
Linda

I think you misunderstand the difference between natural sea salts and what processed salt is that has been striped of its minerals, the minerals being then sold for more than the value of the salt itself, then it is chemically bleached and declumped!  Nasty stuff... and yes indeed, there is FAR too much of it in ALL of our highly processed foods- which I stay away from like the plague!

That does not change the FACT that we need good, natural salt in our diets to stay healthy and that the low-salt no salt diets being prescribed in over-reaction by "specialists" who evidently do not really understand the body's chemistry,  do has much, if not more harm to the body by depriving it of the critical sodium levels it needs to  maintain proper pH, for example, to stay healthy and fight opportunistic diseases, like cancer.   Everything in balance and in moderation- that is what I said.  Of course, companies look for the cheapest, easiest way to preserve their food products and unfortunately cheap, nasty processed salt was a good answer, for them.  Luckily, we've realized this bad practice is making us sick, but that does not mean that ALL salt is bad and certainly not if natural, unprocessed salt is consumed in moderation, as it should be on fresh foods.

The culprit is the highly processed, relatively tasteless, preserved foods...    and the nasty processed salt they use... stay away from them- do not buy them and they will eventually change or go away.  That's how our economy works... don't watch it, they cancel it, don't eat it, they quit making it.

Good, natural Salt is necessary for life- it is in our tears, our sweat, our blood and in amniotic fluid... and the minerals found in natural salt are also found in the same proportions in these fluids!  My husband is a diabetic with TYPE I  diabetes and he did have high blood pressure, but his blood pressure has returned to normal after we started using good salt 4 years ago as well as kicking highly processed foods out of our diet!!  The trick is we eat as fresh and unprocessed foods as I can make and we use good salt - just enough to make our foods taste great...our doctor, an MD who understands the body's chemistry better than most docs I think, actually recommends Brittany Gray Whole Mineral Sea Salt to his patients - instructs them to use it in moderation along with a diet of unprocessed, fresh foods whenever possible.  Great advice and common sense when you think about it. 

Patrise Shuttlesworth
Patrise Shuttlesworth

Exactly, "long-term impact of EXCESSIVE sodium intake.."  I never advocated excessive use. In fact I clearly stated, use it in moderation. If anything this article should help people use less salt if they will begin to taste salts and use them as a flavor enhancer, not blindly shake it on everything that is set before them.  I agree our foods are over saturated with salts, preservatives and who knows what else. I am obsessed with controlling what I eat - I choose how much salt, pepper, chemicals, etc by eating whole, natural foods and natural spices and seasonings. Thank you for your opinion though.

Bruce R
Bruce R

You have no idea whether Patrise oversalts her food.  And you call her ignorant but it is obvious you are the ignorant one.  Your post contains several unfounded assertions; maybe next time you should add some content to your post so you don't simply come off as a judgmental and bitter.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Yikes. All I got out of the article is that Patrise has a deep appreciation for and interest in salt. Which, most of human history considered, is a pretty vital spice. I didn't read anything that suggested Patrise add more salt into our diets; rather, she suggests that we educate ourselves about and understand the salt we're all currently eating.

Dr. Ricky
Dr. Ricky

Oh, I forgot to mention: Calling on Bittman as an authority is itself a red flag. The man has demonstrated a remarkable blindness to scientific rebuttal, and stuck to defending pseudoscientific drivel when it comes to food and cooking. 

Dr. Ricky
Dr. Ricky

Oops, I take that back - I misread that - it's not Mark Bittman, but Mark Bitterman. I don't know as much about Bitterman's background. But the rest of the argument with regards to chemistry still stands. 

Dr. Ricky
Dr. Ricky

I'm afraid Patrice does an argument from authority (Bittman) - itself a logical fallacy - and has a rather poor grasp of physical chemistry. And overlooks the importance of concentration of the trace elements (contaminants in a different context) in these gourmet salts. Her indictment of Penzey's is uncalled for - a merchant has a right to make economic decisions that make sense for that business. 

I'll keep using kosher salt, it's fine for the majority of applications. The cautionary tale of not eating kosher salt raw is puzzling as it has no practical basis in biochemistry. But if you have the money to follow her advice, go for it. 

Ed T.
Ed T.

This sounds a lot like the argument used by the Corn Council in their "Corn or cane - Sugar is Sugar" propaganda series. (If that were in fact true, there would be no difference between Mexican Coca-Cola and the swill put out by the bottling plants north of the Rio Grande.)

Dr. Ricky
Dr. Ricky

This whole worship of "natural" vs "man made" or artificial is not supported by any scientific evidence. In fact, the very definition of what is "natural" is open to interpretation. 

But besides the point - nothing Bill Penzey said is out of the ordinary. It is, in fact, supported by fact. That marketing of gourmet salts has gotten out of hand, and that the claims are unsupported by the basic chemistry of salt. Take for example, your practice of distinguishing between using a purer salt (kosher) vs a cruder one - that the former cannot be eaten without being used in a brine, but the latter is ok - makes no sense at all. This isn't about semantics - it's basic chemistry.

The "natural foods" movement may be a descendant of earlier shamanistic beliefs that our foods contain spirits that are somehow essential, that purification removes these spirits. But this is, of course, unsupported by modern science.

Patrise Shuttlesworth
Patrise Shuttlesworth

Dr. Ricky, first let's correct one of the authorities I trust. It is Mark Bitterman, not Chef Bittman. He is a fine chef but I don't believe him to be a salt expert. Secondly, If Bill Penzey's decision had been economy motivated I would have never said anything. He said something very different from the standpoint of a spice/seasoning expert. That I couldn't let go. I do not profess to be a chemist but I know trace elements have flavor and color and are natural. Man processes them out to make salt look the same for the masses. As for my description of "raw" - well that may be semantics. I meant don't sprinkle it on food or cook with it. It is fine to dilute in a brine. I will give you that semantic point.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...