I was very relieved when I recently read that ingesting salt does not necessarily lead to high blood pressure. Considering I love salt and my blood pressure is almost borderline too low (a doctor once told me that I would probably live a long life, but wouldn’t have the energy to really enjoy it due to my blood pressure), I felt reconfirmed in my ways.
Usually, cookbooks find me either through recommendation, during a casual midnight Amazon.com browse or, by chance in a bookstore. My latest purchase, however, was a search from the heart. I was looking for a book about salt and the wonderful things you could do with it in the kitchen. I began my search in the English language section of various online bookstores. Primarily, I found cookbooks about how to cook salt-free or nearly salt free. I couldn’t find one English language book that extolled the use of salt in the kitchen. After so much virtual finger wagging in my direction, I almost gave up.
I then decided to turn my search to my second language and was overwhelmed with what I found. It seems that the German kitchen does not skimp on salt. I found quite a few titles dealing with the use of salt for health purposes and a couple dealing with salt in the kitchen. The one that caught my eye, however, was a cookbook simply entitled “Salz” by Ingo Holland, a German chef who specializes in herbs, spices and creating other wonderful things such as specialty vinegars, chutneys, jellies, etc. I was intrigued by the title and was not let down. The book only has 50 recipes, but preceding each recipe is a description of a different salt – be it one that Ingo has created himself, or one that can be found in nature, such as Himalayan salt, fleur de sel, Maldon salt or less known salts such as the Murray River salt – that is then used in the recipe. I read the cookbook from beginning to end. What a joy!
Several weeks after the purchase, my son and I were sauntering through the old city of Heidelberg. It was one of those days where I was pushing my luck with his patience and understanding for my desire to be downtown drinking over-priced chai and eating cinnamon rolls that stuck more to my hips than to my palate. At some point, right in front of a little “Gasse”, my darling child went on strike and decided that mommy needed to carry him back to the car. As I went to pick him up, I came face to face with a cute little courtyard with a couple of shops decorating it in the back. I don’t know what it was that caught my eye, but I carried my tired child into the courtyard and towards the shops. In a matter of seconds, we were standing in the middle of a quaint store called L’Epicerie.
The windows were decorated with bowls that had been formed out of olive wood and there were various sizes and forms of glass bottles to hold everything from marbles to flour. And then I saw it. In the middle of the room was a table that was dedicated to beautiful crystalline substances; the blue fragmented crystals that mixed with the pure white of the Persian salt, the smoky aroma of the Salish Alderwood salt, the pink hue of the Himalayan rock salt. It was a symphony of sights and smells.
There were salts that were black and red from volcanic clay. There were bitter salts, salty salts and sweet salts. I purchased four exotic salts and containers to display them in. When I returned home, I found my salts in my cookbook and tasted each one anew. They were all as Ingo Holland had described. I’ll be trying some of the recipes soon. I’ll let you know, how they turn out.