Habit is a second nature which prevents us from knowing the first, of which it has neither the cruelties nor the enchantments. So said Marcel Proust. I eat a green salad virtually every day, and it is not a habit I wish to break–regardless of its implications for the intimacy of my relationship with nature. Fortunately, I have salt: nature distilled, uncompromisingly authentic, and strangely unyielding to our efforts to describe it.
The following is a true story about eating Marlborough Flakey gourmet sea salt.
Last night I sat down with the family herd, squaring off against a nice heap of leafy greens, and commence to “get a graze on.” All went well, for about a 13th of a second, when, lo! what is this? The usual salad salt, Maldon, the flake gourmet salt par excellence . . . What? This is not that. This is something other. What we know about our salad–what we expect in our salad–is not what we are eating.
The herd grunts various expressions of bovine surprise, then distress, then acquiescence. Then, as one, the herd smiles, each according to the inner workings of the mind: some with surprised pleasure, some with pleasured surprise.
“What is this?” says an especially eloquent member of the herd. “It is frothy, tingly. It tingles. The spine tingles.”
To which another especially locquatious member of the herd retorted, “I think the word you are looking for is spangles. The salt has starry spangles. It’s the spangliness that you are talking about.”
“Mom! He said spangles when I said tingles,” countered the first.
“Because it’s spangles. Tingles doesn’t do it justice. Spangles. I can feel it.” The second vocal one was not to be dissuaded.
“Stop it!” shrieked one off the adults in the herd, who had been feeling disoriented since the first bite, the ocean’s roar filling her ears. “No arguing. Tingles. Spangles. Enough arguing! What is this salad? What is going on here? What–”
The fourth and final vocal member of the herd (it turns out all members of the family herd were highly vocal) interrupted. “It’s the salt! Someone pulled a swaparoo with our precious Maldon! Where is my precious? My precious?” Eyes bulging.
“But I like this. I like the tingles.”
“And I like its spangle.”
The herd recommenced to graze upon the salad. More appreciative grunting ensued. Attention turned to the deep cellar of salt at the center of the table. An especially tactile member of the herd ventured a few fingers inside, took a pinch, and let it fall on the tabletop. Where it glistened, its frothy crystals burning hyper white.
Another especially tactile member of the herd did the same, then pinched it, crumbled it, contemplated its special je ne sais quoi. Immutable stuff. It just sits there, like snow, only with promise of nourishment.
Marlborough Flakey, a superb, slightly pricey sea salt from New Zealand, had somehow found its way from the jar by the toaster, where it routinely offers service to the eternal glory of one of the undying passions of my wild Paris days, the “Tartine à l’avocat” at Dame Tartine in Paris’s 4e arrondissement. The simple open faced avocado sandwich done up as fare for art students: a cross-cultural conflagration of crunchy creamy salty sweet flavors produced from the casual combination of spelt toast, mushed avocado, ground Parameswaran’s Special Wynad peppercorns, and Marlborough Flakey New Zealand sea salt).
How New Zealand ever became “forever and anon the land known to one and all as the setting for Lord of the Rings,” I will never know. The forests of New Zealand are fine, I am sure, but the gourmet salt is something sublime, raging, making holographs of past and present and future in the twinkle of your salad eating eye, making words conflate and expand, making thoughts glop up and down and merge and separate like the glowing globs of a lava lamp. The legendary Lembas bread gifted to The Ringbearer the Elves of Lothlorein, were surely made with Marlborough Flakey.
But I digress. In short, the herd was impressed with the salt, and deeply thankful for the opportunity for new argument that it afforded. If you have not yet discovered the pleasures of flake salt on salad, definitely try making a nice macerated shallot vinaigrette, dressing, serving, and then strewing judiciously with the flat fine snappy flakes of Maldon salt. If Maldon is already a known thing, your knowledge of nature grows hackneyed and pale, grab some Marlborough Flakey sea salt. Re-invigorate the herd. Discover, as if for the first time, the jungle of flavors, textures, and aromas within your salad.