Friday, September 14, 2012

The Perfect Grind

I don't drink coffee. I'll have a latte once or twice a year, and like a spot of English Breakfast Tea every now and again. I love the aroma of coffee, but it tastes "thinner" than it smells, so I've never gotten into it. The "perfect grind" then, for me, does not refer to coffee.

My foodie-friend-from-cooking class-in-Italy, Laura, was visiting from Boston for my birthday and as I twisted some sea salt and pepper onto morning eggs, she said, "That's the perfect grind."  She so gets it!

Laura definitely wasn't referring the coffee that I loaded into the French press...because she asked later if that coffee had been hanging around for awhile. A year? Note to self, replace coffee for upcoming weekend guests! The pepper grinder made a slow, crunching sound and the pepper came out in good sized, aromatic flecks. The salt was just the right size for looks and taste. It was a deliberate seasoning, and I thought it was interesting that Laura mentioned it! I thought I was the only one who listened for it. The sound is a trigger for me, much like the slow, creaky-spring sound of an old screen door.

My 25+ year old salt and pepper grinders from Williams-Sonoma. Sea salt and peppercorn refills.
I like the ritual of refilling, and then turning the knob on top to get the right sized grind.

As with coffee beans, there is a world of choices for S&P. There are sea and gourmet salts. Celtic, Hawaiian, Italian, French, Coarse, Finishing, Flake, Fleur de Sel, Kosher, Smoked, Pink, Grey, Black, Kala Namak (Indian), to name just a few...then there is lowly idodized Table Salt.

There are black peppercorns, green ones and red ones, depending upon the stage of the dried fruit of a flowering vine. And there's white pepper, too.

Salt and pepper are a pair, as inseparable as Fred & Ginger or Currier & Ives. People are named Pepper, Piper, Pippa, and there's a band called Salt 'n Pepa, and a soda called Dr. Pepper. An "old salt" is a navy man who tells tales of the sea. Images conjured are of a crusty old guy with a white beard and a worn-in sailor hat.

I don't go nuts on S&P. I go to the grocery store to get basic Sel de Mer sea salt for grinding and finishing. I have a canister of old-standby Morton's table salt for baking. That's probably a habit I need to break. Iodized...hmmm. I get a big jar of black Malabar  peppercorns, for everything.

I received a pink salt slab for my birthday, from my foodie friend Elaine. It's about 12" long and 8" wide. I've used it for presentation, but it can also be used to bake and serve fish and veggies. Haven't tried that yet. I'm a little afraid it might be too salty. or that the block will crack. I just spoke with a cook who puts the slab right on gas burners, or on a cookie cooling rack in the oven. The slab turns white after use. His advice was to DRY food before placing it on the salt, and it won't pick up the salt. Ok?! I'll try it!

In 2010, I brought back sea salt from Cancale, a small Breton town in northwestern France that is well known for local oysters and sea salt.

 The salt was damp when I dug it out and put it into small paper bags. This photo sends me right back ;-)

After I bought the salt, I chose some oysters at this little shed, and ate them, sprinkled with lemon,  on the sea wall. They traveled about 10 feet---can't get much more fresh!

I have just a bit of Cancale sea salt left! I use it sparingly.

The "salt of the earth" describes those of great worth and reliability...and more popularly, as good, down to earth folks.

According to, "It seems that the excellent meaning in 'the salt of the earth' was coined in reference to the value of salt. The aristocratic and powerful of the earth were referred to as 'above the salt' and valued workers were 'worth their salt'. 'The salt of the earth' was first published in English in Chaucer's Summoner's Tale circa 1386, although Chaucer undoubtedly took his lead from Latin versions of the Bible verse: Ye been the salt of the erthe and the savour.

I like that.

 Try to step out of your "daily grind" to see and to hear. Tell a salty joke every now and again and keep down to earth people around you.

Life is good. Level and Plumb.

No comments:

Post a Comment