All you’re doing is making your salt smaller than it was before
April 6, 2017 7:33 AM   Subscribe

Salt grinders are bullshit, and other lessons from growing up in the spice trade: A brief AV Club piece from Caitlin PenzeyMoog on her childhood memories of mixing spices and learning philosophy in the back store-room of Milwaukee's Spice House.
posted by Johnny Assay (124 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
Somebody bought me a salt grinder as a gift and it does seem real dumb. That said, I like the speed at which it dispenses salt vs a shaker, so whatever.

Also, this was an interesting read, but they don't explain why I can buy twice as much Badia cumin for a tiny fraction of the price McCormick wants to charge me. Spice pricing has always seemed weird and opaque to me.
posted by selfnoise at 7:46 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


While no one needs a salt grinder, I have one of these and it is marvelous. Turn it one way, out comes ground pepper; turn the other, out comes ground salt. You can adjust the grain on each to get thicker or finer salt/pepper. I fill it with sea salt just to give it something to grind.
posted by chavenet at 7:49 AM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


It makes a very satisfyingly crunchy sound don't take that away from me.
posted by 7segment at 7:55 AM on April 6, 2017 [58 favorites]


The only exception I've heard of for salt is that slightly larger crystals than what you get from table salt tend to absorb better into the meat it's sprinkled on before you cook it. Something about it penetrating deeper into the meat.

So if I'm making steak, I use the salt grinder to put salt on the steaks and then let them hang out for a few hours before I cook them. Even then it's only because I got the salt grinder as a gift.

For everything else, NaCl is NaCl.
posted by VTX at 7:55 AM on April 6, 2017


Interesting article.

I guess I like a salt grinder because I like my salt on the chunky side and it seems a bit less messy and more sanitary than having each guest take a pinch from the salt cellar.

I know if I link to this article from Facebook I'll get half a dozen people insist that they're allergic to MSG and it gives them migraines or something. I'm not gonna be the guy who tells them they're wrong.
posted by bondcliff at 7:56 AM on April 6, 2017 [9 favorites]


This may be the time to admit a friend gave me a solid chunk of pink himalayan salt with a little salt grater some years back, and at the time, I said, "oh my gosh! this is wonderful! Thank you!" while thinking "what a stupid fucking gift, i'm supposed to grate my own goddamned salt now?"

In the intervening years, the salt has continued to sit on my spice shelves, unused. This article validates my saltiness about that salty gift, even though it was nice of my friend to try to get me something nice, even though he really didn't have to get me anything, I wouldve been happy to look after his cat for the weekend even without a gift, I quite like cats
posted by Greg Nog at 7:57 AM on April 6, 2017 [14 favorites]


Anyone know what's in the North Face spice blend? Either I missed it, or she didn't list the ingredients. Googling just gives me a million fleece jacket ads....
posted by valkane at 7:58 AM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


"all salt is sea salt"

Apart from all the rock salt. Unless he means that rock salt deposits were laid down by the sea at some point, which is true but pretty uninformative given that "rock salt" and "sea salt" are used to describe something a bit more immediate that geological history.

Also how the fuck am I meant to get salt the size I want it without grinding it? Saying that size doesn't matter in this context is like saying that bioavailability doesn't matter in the context of medications.

For someone whose qualifications amount to "having spent some time with people who sell spices" he sure thinks a lot of his opinions.
posted by howfar at 7:58 AM on April 6, 2017 [15 favorites]


Also what's with the weird organic farming rant rammed in the middle?
posted by howfar at 7:59 AM on April 6, 2017 [8 favorites]


I always sneeze when I grind pepper in a pepper mill. Always. Also, despite being roughly the same size, grinding Sichuan pepper in a pepper mill is really hard work for the amount of powder you get out of it. I don't use it much anymore, but when I did, I thought about getting an automated grinder just for it.
posted by Hactar at 8:00 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


I’m not done with salt yet: Don’t put your salt in a grinder. All you’re doing is making your salt smaller than it was before. Unlike pepper, which is actually processed in the grinder, salt does not need to be ground and is not fresher after coming out of a grinder. It’s just smaller. Use a shaker.

Um...duh? Don't we all already know this? That all grinding does is make it smaller and doesn't make the salt "fresher"? I have yummy coarse salt, which I love and use for various things in the size it comes in, like cooking or as a finishing salt or on soft pretzels (zomg). But when I want the coarse salt to be smaller for any reason, I need to make it smaller. "Use a shaker" doesn't make my salt smaller. Grinding it does.
posted by the webmistress at 8:03 AM on April 6, 2017 [33 favorites]


Oh man, I love herbs and spices so much. We have a whole shelf in our cupboard bending under the weight of spices, and I've run out of jars to keep them in. We use every single thing on that shelf.

I've known for a while that McCormick is basically selling flavorless dust, and we're lucky to have several spice shops nearby. One of them was this wonderful ramshackle kind of place, with old wooden boxes full of plastic baggies and hand-written labels. A year or so ago they moved to a swankier storefront and basically stopped selling their own packaged products, so we've been frequenting Penzey's more and more.

Sometimes you just don't have the time to go out of the way to the spice shop, though, and Whole Foods sells some spices in bulk, so we get those. I kind of figured they weren't super awesome but had to be better than McCormick. However, the last time we ran out of bay leaves I actually picked them up at the spice shop. The difference was astounding - my (now empty) jar of bay leaves from WF basically smelled of nothing, but the second I opened the bag from Penzey's the whole kitchen filled with the aroma of fennel and anise. That's right, bay leaves smell like something! They have flavor and aren't in the soup just to look pretty!

I'll still buy pepper at WF because I swear we go through about a pound of it a week, but buying stuff from people that know what they're sourcing really does get you better product.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:03 AM on April 6, 2017 [5 favorites]


This was pretty great - I have an abiding love of spice shops although I will admit that Penzey's is a bit sanitized for my tastes (seriously, if I wont the lottery id probably price out how much it would cost to move into the back rooms at Kalustyan's).

I also really appreciate that Penzey's the company has been loudly and unabashedly anti-Trump, staring down those stupid fucking "boycotters" of the same ilk who wont be going to Hawaii or ever getting their hair and makeup done well.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 8:03 AM on April 6, 2017 [6 favorites]


he sure thinks a lot of his opinions.

Someone should tell this Caitlin dude to stop mansplaining
posted by Greg Nog at 8:04 AM on April 6, 2017 [57 favorites]


For someone whose qualifications amount to "having spent some time with people who sell spices" he sure thinks a lot of his opinions.

She grew up in the business, and her qualifications appear to be "grew up in the family business, and would be fully qualified to work in the business, but decided to work elsewhere."

I'd say her qualifications are quite likely much better than anyone here on MeFi.
posted by explosion at 8:05 AM on April 6, 2017 [29 favorites]


Table salt (Morton's et al) is NOT 'just salt'.
Read the ingredients, and you'll see there are anti-caking agents, iodine, sugars (too keep the iodine from oxidizing), and vitamins.
Freshly-ground salt, or just salt crystals have a flavor that makes the stuff in a box taste awful (IMO).
posted by dbmcd at 8:07 AM on April 6, 2017 [5 favorites]


I know if I link to this article from Facebook I'll get half a dozen people insist that they're allergic to MSG and it gives them migraines or something. I'm not gonna be the guy who tells them they're wrong.

buddy all you had to do was ask
posted by griphus at 8:07 AM on April 6, 2017 [7 favorites]


Look, if I want to make my salt smaller, I'll make my salt smaller.
posted by limeonaire at 8:08 AM on April 6, 2017 [21 favorites]


I guess I like a salt grinder because I like my salt on the chunky side and it seems a bit less messy and more sanitary than having each guest take a pinch from the salt cellar.

I like chunky salt too, and that's a legit reason to want to use a salt grinder.

But, c'mon, salt kills almost everything. Salt was the only real preservative for bajillions of years and kept food incredibly safe. Unless you're a 5-year old who just got done petting strange dogs at the park, playing in a sketchy sandbox and scratching your butt, I think you're going to be okay in terms of sanitation sprinkling salt on your food with bare hands.

Also, if this worries you, don't eat out ever. Anywhere. Ever.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:12 AM on April 6, 2017 [6 favorites]


Chocolate is far more vanilla than vanilla.

Hell no.
posted by Splunge at 8:13 AM on April 6, 2017


1. Black salt is very very different, because it is not just salt.

2. My problem with MSG is that, all too often, it's overdone. It's an enhancer, not something you want to taste on its own, and if you don't believe me, go eat some plain MSG. You will instantly recognize the bizarre and to me nauseating aftertaste you sometimes get from cheap prepackaged pasta dishes and stuff. I try not to mention that, though, because people always seem to interpret is as me thinking it's poison or something.

3. I have a salt grinder I put kosher salt in because kosher salt is too big and chunky to use at the table.

4. Bill Penzey Jr. is responsible for Penzey's political bent, and The Spice House distanced themselves from that by having some kind of "no politics" sale or something. So if you want to support the anti-Trump spice guy, buy from Penzey's, not Spice House.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:15 AM on April 6, 2017 [6 favorites]


I dislike all the weird offense being laid out in this thread.

The article is written as memory and subjective opinion and the lady writing the article is in a position to be better informed than... all of us here. No reason to bite her head off.

Awesome article though. I've been to the spice house before and it made me happy to see it being brought up here.
posted by pan at 8:20 AM on April 6, 2017 [11 favorites]


Ranty article is ranty in a good way. She's right about salt; the only important thing about salt is the shape. I'm a big fan of finishing salts like fleur du sel because the texture really does make a difference in the effect. But it's still just NaCl.

I just finished reading The Taste of Conquest, a history of the European spice trade from Venice through Lisbon to Amsterdam. I didn't love the book but it's pretty good and you're unlikely to find a better detailed treatment of the history of spices in the West. I was particularly fascinated to read about the history of spicing in European cooking. It's hard to know for sure because old recipes don't have measurements, but it seems likely that in, say, the 15th century they were using a lot of spices. The old flavor palate survives in a few odd dishes, like black pepper cookies or meat stews that feature vinegar and nutmeg.

I'm still trying to find a reliable supply of really good, strong black pepper. I've tried pretty hard; I have excellent grinders, I've bought special Tellicherry imports that promise to be reasonably fresh. I still can't reproduce that really strong complex flavor that comes from excellent pepper. I'm not quite desperate enough to try $6/oz pepper though.
posted by Nelson at 8:22 AM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


Also, if this worries you, don't eat out ever. Anywhere. Ever.

One of my favorite things about Metafilter is how someone can take an off-hand comment and suggest the best way to deal with it is via a complete and drastic lifestyle change.

Perhaps I mean the illusion of sanitation. Not every dinner guest wants to use their hands to get condiments, and not everyone wants to use a condiment after someone touches it with their hands, and I'm not gonna be the insufferable host that explains to them that they're wrong, and how salt has been a preservative for a bajillion years and kept food incredibly safe. Although I guess having all future dinner guests decline my invitations forever after is a much more sanitary solution.

Also, it's entirely possible one of my guests is going to be a 5 or 55 year- old who just got done petting strange dogs at the park, playing in a sketchy sandbox and scratching their butt.

Hence the grinder or shaker. Or a spoon, whatever. Much easier than a science lecture.
posted by bondcliff at 8:22 AM on April 6, 2017 [16 favorites]


One of my favorite places in the world is a small spice store I visited 18 years ago in Akko Old Town, in Acre, Israel, that had been in business for I don't know how many hundreds of years and you could just smell it, the history, the spice caravans, the sailors.
I'm not sure, I didn't have a camera on me, but this might be it.
Every few months, I'll smell something, usually with cumin, that makes me remember that little store, the way smells bring up more vivid memories than sight or sound can.
posted by signal at 8:24 AM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


Chocolate is far more vanilla than vanilla.

I won't argue with the author on spices, but I don't think they work in the chocolate business. Vanilla has an absurdly complex flavour profile. Chocolate has an absurdly complex flavour profile.

The "salt is salt" thing is interesting. It seems inarguable, chemically, but I'd like to hear more. I use Maldron sea salt flakes, and when we run out there's a plastic tub of the cheapest table salt at the back of the larder. The Maldron stuff seems emphatically better, even when entirely dissolved in soups, etc. It lacks a certain sour sharpness. Am I imagining it? Is it just the shape? Maybe it's purely a question of quantities used?
posted by distorte at 8:25 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Article is a mix of truth and bullshit, mostly the latter.

1. Grinding salt only makes it smaller: true
2. Organic farming sucks for foreign countries: complex issue, but mostly false
3. You can compensate for stale spices by just using more: false false false (especially when you're talking ground spices); does this person cook at all?

qualifications amount to "having spent some time with people who sell spices": Yep. Per these credentials, I could write a treatise on child care.
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:28 AM on April 6, 2017 [10 favorites]


One of my favorite things about Metafilter is how someone can take an off-hand comment and suggest the best way to deal with it is via a complete and drastic lifestyle change.

I'm joking, but it is early, coffee consumption is low, and there is a possibility i've missed the mark. But the image of a dirty 5-year old knuck-deep in some salt cellar throwing it all over food still humors me.

I think you're great, and I don't want you to change anything about your salt consumption. Don't ever change that bondcliff.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:31 AM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


I love how folks are either deliberately ignoring that she grew up in the biz or dismissing her altogether despite her growing up in one of the best known spice businesses.

She has more firsthand knowledge than us beanplaters here on the Blue, so you can disagree with her, fine, but this was her childhood and the family business. That makes her more qualified.
posted by Kitteh at 8:33 AM on April 6, 2017 [8 favorites]


Vanilla has an absurdly complex flavour profile.

In a sense. Vanillin is actually a single compound, but there is other stuff in vanilla. Tests show that people can't tell vanilla from pure (synthetic) vanillin in baked foods at all.
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:34 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


i am yuppie
and wen i cook
from memory
or read from a book
though grinders hav
no major fault
y make more truble?
i lik the salt
posted by Mayor West at 8:36 AM on April 6, 2017 [33 favorites]


But the image of a dirty 5-year old knuck-deep in some salt cellar throwing it all over food still humors me.

BTW, all sandboxes are sketchy. That's why I only ever let my child play in big boxes of salt.
posted by bondcliff at 8:38 AM on April 6, 2017 [15 favorites]


That's why I only ever let my child play in big boxes of salt.

"Samantha?"
"Here. You can call me Sam."
"Edison?"
"Here! You can call me Ned."
"Bondcliff Jr?"
"Present. I go by Country Ham"
"..."
posted by furnace.heart at 8:43 AM on April 6, 2017 [9 favorites]


In a sense. Vanillin is actually a single compound, but there is other stuff in vanilla.

Vanilla seeds have an absurdly complex flavour profile. We have a collection of pods from various countries/continents and they are fascinatingly different.
posted by distorte at 8:43 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm still trying to find a reliable supply of really good, strong black pepper. I've tried pretty hard; I have excellent grinders, I've bought special Tellicherry imports that promise to be reasonably fresh

In case you haven't already: Zingerman's?
posted by praemunire at 8:44 AM on April 6, 2017


I use a salt grinder to make my bigger salt into smaller salt. Who the fuck thinks it does anything beyond that?
posted by odinsdream at 8:46 AM on April 6, 2017 [8 favorites]


Grind ye essential saltes with exceeding care, and beware dont bring up what you cant pute downe....
posted by valkane at 8:51 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


I use a salt grinder to make my bigger salt into smaller salt. Who the fuck thinks it does anything beyond that?

A quick search tells me: most of the marketing for salt grinders.
posted by pan at 8:52 AM on April 6, 2017 [5 favorites]


Grinding salt does matter because the square cube law is still a thing. Pieces of salt with smaller volume have a comparatively larger ratio of surface area to volume than the larger pieces do, and surface area is where the chemistry happens, most importantly, the chemistry that lets your tastebuds detect salt. And that's not even getting into issues like how the texture of the food contributes to its mouth feel.

Sugar is just a crystalline molecule too, chemically the same in large and small chunks, but a donut coated in granulated sugar is not going to be the same eating experience as one coated in powdered sugar. And one with pieces of rock candy on it is right out.
posted by radwolf76 at 8:55 AM on April 6, 2017 [7 favorites]


Nothing knocks you out of old-timey remembrances like the mention of a George Foreman grill.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 9:01 AM on April 6, 2017 [12 favorites]


She had an awesome grandpa.
posted by clawsoon at 9:01 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'll put on my chef hat for a moment.

Salt grinders are not Bullshit. It isn't a question of flavor degradation that a chef is concerned with it is the quantity, dispersal, and cleanliness of the distribution method. I keep impurities out of my salt. I know my wife takes 2 twists on her eggs for perfection. I know a steak takes 8 twists and 6 for pepper. I don't have to worry about a single salty area. I don't have to wait for heat and time to break down the salt - or that if moisture does get a little into my salt that I just have one big rock...

On that last bit, from experience. A drop of water in ground salt is a harder experience to fit through a salt shaker and use than a drop of water landing on a salt rock and clumping a few - which I'll be obliterating shortly anyway.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:04 AM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


What about finishing salts?
posted by oceanjesse at 9:07 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


I've never needed to try it but my grandmother says a bit of rice in the salt shaker keeps the salt from collecting moisture and the rice itself won't fit through the shaker.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 9:09 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


The best pepper I ever had was Brazilian Black Pepper from a little spice store in Hamburg, Germany (they don't carry it anymore). Despite looking far and wide, I haven't been able to find anything like it. Any leads?
posted by The Toad at 9:09 AM on April 6, 2017


Someone should tell this Caitlin dude to stop mansplaining

Fair point.

Still a not very good article.
posted by howfar at 9:10 AM on April 6, 2017


I've never needed to try it but my grandmother says a bit of rice in the salt shaker keeps the salt from collecting moisture and the rice itself won't fit through the shaker.

My mother always did this, which is why when I first heard about the rice trick to dry out your iPhone I thought "huh, makes sense." Of course it could be bullshit. My mom did a lot of things like that that turned out to be bullshit.
posted by bondcliff at 9:11 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm sure it works to some degree. Someone upthread mentioned anti-caking agents in Morton's salt. It may be totally unnecessary now but those probably weren't in there when they learned the trick.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 9:16 AM on April 6, 2017


The rice thing is great if you go through salt quickly, but our rice when I was a kid would have absorbed all of the moisture in the first week and then stop helping with the shaker problem. So now my folks ALSO keep their salt shaker in a jam jar. It only works so well in the damp Great Lakes region.

I'd rather use a grinder.
posted by ldthomps at 9:17 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


Apart from all the rock salt. Unless he means that rock salt deposits were laid down by the sea at some point, which is true but pretty uninformative given that "rock salt" and "sea salt" are used to describe something a bit more immediate that geological history.

That is what she means, yeah. It's not uninformative to people who don't know that there is no meaningful difference in what's in the can (unless you're going for the lightly-processed stuff that hasn't been fully refined, which can have distinct flavors, kinda) and are falling prey to marketing. Morton's sea salt and Morton's kosher salt are pretty much identical end products. "All salt is sea salt" is a shorthand for saying "don't pay more for something that is literally indistinguishable unless mayyyyyyybe you're paying for the fancy finishing stuff, and probably not even then".
posted by middleclasstool at 9:22 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


I've never needed to try it but my grandmother says a bit of rice in the salt shaker keeps the salt from collecting moisture and the rice itself won't fit through the shaker.

I don't think this actually works well enough to make a difference in most cases, although I've seen it in lots of places, so many people don't agree with me. Leaving even a really big box of rice in your bathroom isn't going to have much effect on the ambient moisture, because more water just keeps coming in. The rice in salt situation seems to me pretty much analogous (and probably worse, because moisture isn't evenly distributed through salt in a cellar). Unless the salt cellar is sealed from the room there's always going to be enough moisture to replenish that absorbed by the rice. In any case, the vast majority of table salt has reasonably effective anti-caking agents, as noted above.
posted by howfar at 9:25 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Grandma isn't that old: The company's logo (from 1914) and its motto, "When it rains it pours" (from 1911), were developed to illustrate the point that Morton Salt was free flowing even in rainy weather after the company began adding magnesium carbonate as an absorbing agent to its table salt in 1911 to ensure that it poured freely; calcium silicate is now used instead for the same purpose.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 9:29 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yes, MSG makes even pizza better.

Given that most pizza comes with a packet of ground up glutamate, I don't see why this is a surprise.
posted by zabuni at 9:30 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


a bit of rice in the salt shaker

Ugh, I do remember some greasy diners having rice in their discolored salt shakers back in the day and me thinking for an inordinate period of time that there were little worms or maggots in it and, therefore, never touching it no matter how plain my fries were.
posted by knownassociate at 9:31 AM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


Because I sometimes find salt difficult to see, the crunch of the salt grinder is a handy way for me to limit how much salt I'm adding to my food.
posted by MrJM at 9:33 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


That pink salt seems to be especially brittle and so grinds up into basically a powder instead of crystals. It sticks to popcorn and hot dry stuff like that a lot better than Kosher or Table.

My mother's been doing essentially the same thing by running a cup or so of table salt through the blender (and storing, humid East Texas style, in a shaker with some grains of rice for moisture control - it's preferable to the half Saltine I often saw as a kid) for popcorn salt all my life.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:38 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


All you’re doing is making your salt smaller than it was before

That is why I would grind it?
posted by Artw at 9:44 AM on April 6, 2017 [7 favorites]


Ugh, I do remember some greasy diners having rice in their discolored salt shakers back in the day and me thinking for an inordinate period of time that there were little worms or maggots in it

Me too! Now that I think about it, this early trauma might be the reason that I never apply table salt to prepared food and think it's weird when people do. (I will, however, add pepper to just about anything.)
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:44 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


First she says all salt is the same. Then she says you might prefer the flavoring of grey salt.

Yes, I do. And I don't like Morton's. Which as noted above is more than salt.

And sure, spice may not go bad/dangerous, but tasting like sawdust is still gone bad.

As to grinders - it's the process as much as the product. Like pulling corks from a wine bottle rather than going for the more practical screw top or refrigerator friendly box'o'wine. Logical, arguably not. But satisfying.

At least, if you have a crankyboots at the table.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:46 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


I thought that rice in the salt shaker absorbed moisture, but the rice grains also helped to break up any clumps of salt that did occur, by being jostled around when you shake the salt. And yes, I've used that trick whenever I lived in a humid climate, and it's worked reasonably well.
posted by peppermind at 9:48 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


I am not questioning her expertise in the realm of seasonings, but I take issue with her casual assumptions about people's motivations for doing things. The salt thing in particular. Tons of people right here know that grinding salt just makes it smaller, and that is why we do it. Why does she assume different? Because of marketing talk? Yeah, marketing talk says that sody pop is a lifestyle too, but I wouldn't assume that anyone drinking sody pop is doing so in order to identify with a specific demographic.

My understanding of the colored salts things is that the same things that make it different colors also subtly affect the flavor and the texture. I can't personally tell the difference between the pink salt I tried vs. regular (ground!) kosher salt, but you can't miss the difference between regular and black salt.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:55 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm way too cheap to be very fussy about salt, when I could be fussy about where my cinnamon or cardamom come from, and whether the vanilla is real. The idea of paying a premium for salt in a little plastic grinder is pretty odd to me. But, since I have several pepper grinders, can I re-purpose one of them for salt? Because sometimes chunky salt is pleasant.

Chocolate has been fetishized to a severe level. Pretty sure you can buy artisanal small batch fair trade dark chocolate that was harvested during the new moon by zen monks. Or you can buy chocolate-flavored everything and anything, much of it really just exceeding sweet and vaguely chocolate-ish. I like chocolate, but it's nice to have other flavors, too.

That article was quite fun to read and I am envious of her growing up the way she did, and it's nice that she values it.
posted by theora55 at 10:00 AM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


I went through a phase where I tried different kinds of salt - my local grocery store sold half a dozen types in little 1 or 1.5 oz containers, which made it easy to try without committing to buying more (and more expensive) salt than I'd use in years. I ended up defaulting back to Diamond Crystal kosher salt (Ingredients: salt!) for 98% of my cooking and salting needs.

Also, I just recently discovered what grated-on-demand whole nutmeg tastes like, so I'm going a little nuts (ha!) trying it on various things...with varying degrees of success.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:12 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


THere's a lot to disagree with in this piece, and that's a good reminder that growing up surrounded by some industry or specialization doesn't make one an expert. It can give you the jargon that helps you feel like an expert, but that's like saying the Trump children really know their commercial real estate by virtue of their upbringing.

... the disgusting pre-ground pepper turning to dust on shelves ... The whole sneezing from pepper thing only happens with nasty, old pepper. Freshly ground pepper will never make you sneeze ... Seriously, pre-ground pepper is fucking gross.

Somoeone should remind her that Penzeys makes/sells a lot of pre-ground pepper, and that line about fresh pepper not making you sneeze is salesman bullshit.


She grew up in the business, and her qualifications appear to be "grew up in the family business, and would be fully qualified to work in the business, but decided to work elsewhere."

I'd say her qualifications are quite likely much better than anyone here on MeFi.


Huh?
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:28 AM on April 6, 2017


The idea of paying a premium for salt in a little plastic grinder is pretty odd to me. But, since I have several pepper grinders, can I re-purpose one of them for salt? Because sometimes chunky salt is pleasant.
Sadly, no - salt is super-corrosive (pepper isn't), especially to metal, so most salt grinders use nylon or ceramic for the grinding mechanism. The cheap ones use metal, and they get gunked up and corrode really fast.
posted by dbmcd at 10:33 AM on April 6, 2017


....She recommends using kosher salt and then says you don't need a grinder. Buh?

I have the great good fortune of living near Sahadis, and for foofier stuff there's also Brooklyn Kitchen. Although it's rare that BK will have something that Sahadi's doesn't. For most things, though, I try to find a happy medium between "whatever's a small, cheap and cheerful bottle" and "that looks cheap to the point of low quality" at the supermarket. Sahadi's has bulk spices, though, and in the past I've used them for making up seasoning blends in bulk, then giving away as gifts (and keeping one bottle for myself) - one cookbook I have recommends a four-spice blend of ground cinnamon, ginger, clove, and nutmeg in equal quantities as a sort of all-purpose "spice" blend. I still make a habit of making the honey-spice cake that blend came with every fall, but I've also used that blend in lattes and cookies and other baked goods countless times. I also made an emergency run when I got an unfamiliar-to-me spice and needed some sesame seeds to round that out.

That's spices, mind you. Herbs I try to use fresh where possible, to the point that the only house plants I have are a variety of herbs - I have really deep windowsills in the living room, and right now they're occupied by a two-foot-tall rosemary, and a smaller oregano with stems overruning the pot and trailing onto the windowsill on all sides so it looks a little like Cousin It. In the bedroom is a lemon verbena - which I got in a romantic notion to try growing it after browsing in a French cookbook, and then too late discovered that verbena grows MAD fast - and five little seedling pots, which came via a gift from my cousin this year, with parsley, sage, thyme, cilantro, and basil; the seedlings are too small to be harvested just yet, but I've made tea and custard with the verbena.

Actually, that's a recommendation I'm surprised she didn't make - if you have the means and the wherewithal, use fresh herbs. For some herbs, depending on what you're making you don't even have to chop them - for thyme in soups, I often will just throw the whole sprig into the pot, and after the leaves fall off during cooking, I just pull the stem out. Often this means you'll have to buy way more of a certain herb than you need; I've found that lots of herbs freeze well, though. Just chop them up in a food processor, stuff them into an ice cube tray, and freeze. Then pop the cubes out of the tray and keep them in a freezer baggie. Conveniently, a cube is about one to two tablespoons; so when you're cooking, if you're making a soup or stew, it's just a matter of pulling a cube out and dropping it in the pot.

The staff at Brooklyn Kitchen told me you can freeze homemade pesto as well; I'd gotten conflicting information about that online, with some sources saying you can't freeze cheese. But the BK staff pointed out that that applied more to whole pieces of cheese; with pesto, though, youv'e already grated the shit out of the cheese, so it's moot. And you can make pesto of other herbs aside from basil - I think I have some pesto I made out of carrot greens lurking in my freezer.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:40 AM on April 6, 2017 [5 favorites]


The staff at Brooklyn Kitchen told me you can freeze homemade pesto as well

Of course you can. You're really freezing the medium in which the cheese is suspended. How else are you going to have good pesto in basil's off-season?
posted by praemunire at 10:57 AM on April 6, 2017


She recommends using kosher salt and then says you don't need a grinder. Buh?

Why is this confusing? You don't grind kosher salt.

one cookbook I have recommends a four-spice blend of ground cinnamon, ginger, clove, and nutmeg

Known commonly as quatre epices!
posted by backseatpilot at 10:58 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite things about Metafilter is how someone can take an off-hand comment and suggest the best way to deal with it is via a complete and drastic lifestyle change.
This is what the math textbooks call a "proof by contradiction". When you make an assumption, and you can derive from that assumption an insane conclusion, the purpose of working through that derivation is not actually to convince you to scream "all is madness" and leap off a bridge; the intent is to disprove the assumption.

I believe the humanities folks call the same process a "modest proposal".
posted by roystgnr at 10:59 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


My ex was the green thumb, I have no such skills. I do miss her fresh herb garden. I could eat my own weight in her homemade basil pesto...
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:01 AM on April 6, 2017


The rice in the salt shaker thing is mechanical, not chemical. It helps break up clumps of salt. Rice does not absorb water by sitting around. Or if it does, it's an incredibly insignificant amount. Otherwise it'd be half cooked when you pulled it out of the incredibly porous container it was in.
posted by Hactar at 11:01 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


Also, I just recently discovered what grated-on-demand whole nutmeg tastes like, so I'm going a little nuts (ha!) trying it on various things...with varying degrees of success.

One thing I learned that time I spent way too much time researching the history of pockets is that women used to regularly carry little portable nutmeg graters everywhere they went.

It's really important everyone knows this.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:09 AM on April 6, 2017 [23 favorites]


I really liked the article, even though I disagree with her on all the same points as most others her do.

About the salt grinder. I was brought up to find fine table salt and salt shakers as disgusting as pre-ground pepper. I still have to be desperate to use the salt and pepper shakers in a diner. But the last couple of years I've cared for a couple of small kids who are used to using (far too much) salt from the shaker, and they find my course grains baffling. The salt grinder makes the salt fine enough for them, and also controls the amount they can use. Win-win, from my point of view. Several of my other guests seem to be very happy with this new option, too.
posted by mumimor at 11:09 AM on April 6, 2017


So still wondering if there's a difference between black, white and red pepper.

And wondering still if it's worth having a mortar and pestle to grind spices from seed, while a ground spice does not "go bad" but stale, in seed form will they stay more fresh longer than ground?

Do recommend a somewhat large garish ugly pepper grinder, ground pepper is better, and a big ugly grinder is not often "borrowed" (lost) and more easily found when needed, large is good for torque.
posted by sammyo at 11:13 AM on April 6, 2017


Grated-on-demand nutmeg is amazing. And those nutmegs nuts last forever. I don't even mind cleaning the microplane.
posted by crush at 11:34 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


I could eat my own weight in her homemade basil pesto...

Oh, I've had shit luck with growing basil prior to this. I would get bunches at the farmers' market and use that instead. One time they had a huge deal on bundles as big as a bouquet of longstem roses and that thing lasted for a WHOLE MONTH in a vase on my table.

But even more glorious was the one time my CSA had a "canners' share" deal where once a month they gave you a bulk quantity of some random thing, and you would freeze, can, or otherwise preserve it all at once. One month the thing they gave out was basil - twelve bunches of it. I giddily stuffed it all into a bag and head home. I was on my bike, and at one point passed by a man out with his son, on their own bikes; they caught up to me at the stoplight. "You have basil in that bag, right? We could smell it as you rode past us!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:45 AM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


I thought that rice in the salt shaker absorbed moisture, but the rice grains also helped to break up any clumps of salt that did occur, by being jostled around when you shake the salt.

I did not know about the moisture thing, and thought people just put rice in salt to break up clumps while shaking. In my house we would put in unpopped corn.
posted by chainsofreedom at 11:56 AM on April 6, 2017


Everyone one all up in arms about SALT. Man, I don't need more reminders of how this year is like the Nixon administration.
posted by maryr at 12:05 PM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


Sammyo: Red pepper is some form of ground chili. Pink pepper is the berries of the Peruvian peppertree, schinus molle, which is not and is not related to the actual pepper plant, piper nigrum. Black peppercorns are piper nigrum berries, harvested unripe and toasted. White peppercorns are the ripe, untoasted berries. Green peppercorns are unripe but not cooked.

Long pepper, or piper longum, is so-named because the peppercorns grow on a really freaky-looking long pod. It molds very easily, but until the 1500s it was the only thing Western Europe used everywhere we now use black pepper, and it's still a very popular spice in India. Grains of paradise, aframomum meligueta, look just like black pepper but is actually in the ginger family, and also became unpopular in Europe in the 1500s, which is when black pepper really came in.

This has been your brief time-traveller-friendly guide to everything that could be on your table that looks like a peppercorn.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 12:06 PM on April 6, 2017 [29 favorites]


Actually, that's a recommendation I'm surprised she didn't make - if you have the means and the wherewithal, use fresh herbs.

I thought the same thing after reading "If your oregano isn’t looking as vibrantly green as it was a year ago". Big Spice talking. I hear Bourdain's voice kvetching about "dust in cans." I hella use dust in cans.

SEND ME YOUR SALT, GREG, IT WILL CLEAR YOUR CABINETS AND YOUR CONSCIENCE.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:13 PM on April 6, 2017


I hate to disappoint you, but you may have misread my comment. I intended to explain that I was able to buy small amounts of the different kinds of salt, which let me avoid loading up my cabinets with vast amounts of expensive salt. What little I did buy, I used up before reverting to my simple unsophisticated ways. Je regrette.

On preview, oops, you meant the OTHER Greg. Just ignore me, I'll be over here with my plain salt.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:26 PM on April 6, 2017


a bit of rice in the salt shaker

My parents once owned a boat large enough that it was permanently docked on the St. Croix river. If we didn't keep rice in the salt shaker, the salt would turn into a single block of salt.

My mom used to keep a slice of stale bread in with the brown sugar for the same reason and it was a decent use of the heel from a package of wonder bread.

RE: Grinding salt. No one has a problem with grinding salt to make it smaller. I think everyone here understands that it doesn't actually change the taste, it's just about size and shape of the granules.

My in-laws, on the other hand, insist on using salt from a grinder because it "tastes better". And I mean like adding salt to a sauce or some other thing where it will dissolve.
posted by VTX at 12:28 PM on April 6, 2017


He might be full of shit, but reading Bitterman's book "Salted" led me to believe that the differences in the different kinds of salt have as much to do with moisture and non-NaCL mineral content as anything. She dismisses the coloring as just "minerals", but since when can we not taste trace minerals? There's a reason very pure water tastes weird and bottled water has minerals added...
posted by flaterik at 12:48 PM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


There are definitely other minerals in 'natural' salts. Highly processed table salt is mostly NaCl, but I can definitely find KCl salt (or different ratios of NaCl and KCl) at my local grocery store.

Still tastes salty, but slightly less so and less 'metalic' than straight up NaCl.

... and you get some potassium and less sodium (although there is speculation that its the chloride is what's less healthful for you, not the sodium).

Fancy fleur de sel definitely is not pure NaCl and its shape affects the way dissolves/tastes.
posted by porpoise at 1:00 PM on April 6, 2017


> She recommends using kosher salt and then says you don't need a grinder. Buh?

Why is this confusing? You don't grind kosher salt.


Kosher salt is too coarse for most salt shakers. So how do you get kosher salt to shake out of the shaker unless it is smaller?

And there is no way that I'm gonna get one thing of salt just for the table and another thing of salt for cooking, that's straight-up stupid. Salt is salt.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:02 PM on April 6, 2017


I just figured tableware makers had been doing matched salt and pepper shaker sets for years, so when pepper grinders became popular they felt they needed to do the same with salt.
posted by ckape at 1:03 PM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


And/or they saw the margins on unground pepper vs. ground and figured they could do the same with salt. And since everyone already knows that freshly ground pepper tastes better than ground pepper, they already had a way to sell it. Never let facts get in the way of a good marketing idea.
posted by VTX at 1:16 PM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


Fucking Big Pepper, man. Is there anything they won't do?
posted by bondcliff at 1:19 PM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


shakers and grinders are both not very good dispersal mechanisms (for kitchen use anyway - maybe fine on the table).

salt is salt

that's juts like, your opinion, man. [dude voice]. Its valid as an opinion just as much as any other, but not one I'm willing to get down with. all wine is wine, right? im not going to get one kind to go with my steak and another to go with my fish, after all they are all just crushed fermenting grapes, yeah?

I do not own a salt grinder, but I have ground salt when I had specific salt (smoked, for example) that was a size (too course) that was not ideal for the dish I was trying to put it in.

There are a ton of dishes where minute flavor differences between salts of various origins/styles are irrelevant. Even the vast majority. But that doesn't mean all salt is the same and that any salt can be used in any dish. I think I have 5 kinds of salt in my house at the moment (three in the nifty nested salt pig I keep by my stove). I am not saying anyone else should have my set up, but salt is not always just salt.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 1:21 PM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


"... Don’t put your salt in a grinder. All you’re doing is making your salt smaller than it was before. Unlike pepper, which is actually processed in the grinder, salt does not need to be ground and is not fresher after coming out of a grinder. It’s just smaller. Use a shaker."

Bullshit is bullshit. Salt does not have the same characteristics as most spices.

Salt is not that soluble in water, and increasing the surface area greatly increases the salt taste. Take a single one gram crystal of halite, and put it on your tongue: strangely, you can suck that thing like a candy. Take the same mass of granulated salt, and it's unbearable.

I use popcorn salt (which is much finer than granulated, iodized salt) when I am electively salting particular foods for taste (popcorn, peanut-butter crackers, roast beef, french fries) because the "just smaller" granule size increases the salt taste per gram of salt. On average, I consume about 0.78 grams of salt a day like this (during one three month test period).

Some salt grinders are great. We've got a small plunger operated one that we keep filled with Kosher salt, and what you have is a digital salt applicator. It provides a single salt shot, the same size every time, of finely powdered salt each time you push the plunger. This can be quantified (and has, in my household), and can provide an awareness of salt intake for people who need to know that parameter.
posted by the Real Dan at 1:27 PM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


So how do you get kosher salt to shake out of the shaker unless it is smaller?

I know this will mark me as an uncultured Philistine, but I just take the box, open the spout, and pour some in my hand. If I pour out too much, I'll take a pinch out of my palm and toss it in the sink.

What I took from the article is that quality spices matter -- to a point. Beyond that, you're just being pedantic. So your oregano is a year old -- throw a little extra in and you'll be fine.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 1:34 PM on April 6, 2017 [5 favorites]


If you just pick up one of these for the kitchen table, everybody can lick it as much or as little as they like. It's freedom of choice, expressed as a mineral cube.
posted by Wolfdog at 1:34 PM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


I know this will mark me as an uncultured Philistine, but I just take the box, open the spout, and pour some in my hand. If I pour out too much, I'll take a pinch out of my palm and toss it in the sink.

I posed the wrong problem, my apologies.

The salt you use for the table, in a shaker, is often finer-ground so it can cover the food with a bit of a lighter layer. I find that the kosher salt is a little too course for "I just want to sprinkle a teeny bit on my food". Yeah, I mean it will work if you use kosher salt at the table, but you end up with the same problem that happens if you don't sift your flour when you're baking - the flour doesn't blend into the other stuff as easily, so you have these, like pockets of flour if you're not careful.

And then there's popcorn salt, that's even finer - it sticks to popped corn a little easier. that's super-fine. Again, you can use kosher salt too, but the finer salt allows for a more even distribution.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:04 PM on April 6, 2017


You don't need a salt grinder if you have the proper tool from the family business.
posted by MtDewd at 2:17 PM on April 6, 2017


This can be quantified (and has, in my household), and can provide an awareness of salt intake for people who need to know that parameter.

A completely reasonable use, but, for most people not tracking their consumption closely like this, there's still no need to buy a salt grinder, because they're not seeking to vary the coarseness of the grind--otherwise, they'd need to buy both salt in a grinder and a finer form in a shaker, when in fact they only have the former. They genuinely think that ground salt is "fresher" somehow.
posted by praemunire at 2:18 PM on April 6, 2017


Freshly Ground Salt by Patricia Highsmith.
posted by valkane at 3:10 PM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Is ground salt the opposite of sea salt?
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:28 PM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


They genuinely think that ground salt is "fresher" somehow.

I'm not sure why it this matters. It tastes different, because it's smaller, and some people prefer that. So what's the point of trying to make them feel sheepish?
posted by snickerdoodle at 3:37 PM on April 6, 2017


Salt is my primary food source. The size of the grain matters greatly to me. Not too big (doesn't flavor uniformly), and not too small (ugh, just wrong...). Just right needs an adjustable grinder or the right size initially purchased.
posted by Vaike at 3:59 PM on April 6, 2017


I went to a conference where someone gave a talk on contamination of table salt with halophilic microorganisms. You'll be happy to know that it isn't very common, whether it's Himalayan, fleur de sel, or Morton's.
posted by acrasis at 4:16 PM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


This thread has convinced me that I should buy a salt grinder.
posted by treepour at 4:50 PM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


Do you care what kind of salt is on your soft pretzel?

Yeah. I thought so.

Texture and mouthfeel matter.
posted by butterstick at 5:06 PM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


Ima just say one thing, I know salt and will take a blind taste-test any ole time.
posted by dawson at 5:37 PM on April 6, 2017


I grew up with a fist-sized chunk of rock salt on everyone's side plate that you just dabbed on food as needed because fuuuuuuuuuck small salt
posted by scruss at 7:15 PM on April 6, 2017


(also, most of your cinnamon isn't cinnamon any more)
posted by scruss at 7:15 PM on April 6, 2017


A salt grinder distributes the salt more evenly than most shakers, which have a tendency to pour if you aren't careful, or if someone bumps your arm. I've never dumped an extra half-teaspoon of salt on my eggs with a grinder.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:19 PM on April 6, 2017


EmpressCallypigos - I think i understand where you're coming from. I use kosher salt for sprinkling on food (especially meat before cooking), or putting in a dressing/vinaigrette, where I'm doing little-to-no further prep before eating. I like that it is crunchier and makes little salt bombs when you bite vs. using table salt, which just gives everything a salty coating. I will use regular table salt for food that I'm cooking (soup, stews, or baking). And popcorn salt for my popcorn.

As a result, while I do have a shaker of table salt on hand, I rarely use it. Especially since I think a well-prepared dish shouldn't need any additional salt when it is served. YMMV.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 8:22 PM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


I highly recommend making egg noodles by grinding fresh pepper onto the noodles and eggs while still cooking in the pan and then sprinkling kosher salt over them after I've served them into a dish. So. Good.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 8:24 PM on April 6, 2017


Here's the salt I use. Very flavorful, mellow, slightly sweet. Costco by me carries it occasionally. Chock full of trace minerals.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 12:29 AM on April 7, 2017


Yeah I have important questions about all you people with salt shakers on your tables. Did ... did you ask your cooking parent for salt on your food growing up and NOT get in trouble for rudeness? What crazy world is this?

I'm glad other people like salt grinders just for the sound, because oh my lord that is the most satisfying sound on earth. I don't buy the little mills any more because one of my first grown-up purchases was a pepper mill so I can grind peppercorns, and I just buy a pound of Morton for my salt cellar next to the stove. But ooooooh I miss that glorious sound.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:11 AM on April 7, 2017


I'm trying to think when I ever put my salt shaker out even. For guests, of course, in case they're uncouth. For bruschetta made at the table family style, to sprinkle on the tomato. And for scratch-made soup which I tend to undersalt because I don't eat much salt so I'm not great at telling when the broth is adequately salted. It's just easier to bring out the salt shaker and let people salt to taste since a always undershoot the mark.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:17 AM on April 7, 2017


Do you care what kind of salt is on your soft pretzel?

Back when I was in the pretzel business, I learned that Kosher salt and Pretzel salt were 2 different SKUs
posted by mikelieman at 2:50 AM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


Table salt is iodized. I remember reading somewhere that this is done to prevent people from getting goiters or gout or something. Anyway, iodine makes salt taste astringent and unpleasant so I use ground sea salt in a shaker at the table and a bowl of kosher salt by the stove. I'll risk the goiter.
posted by wabbittwax at 5:09 AM on April 7, 2017


You say that now, but wait until you need two neckties to get into a fancy restaurant.
posted by davelog at 5:36 AM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


This fills my heart with joy. When I was younger, I wandered into the Spice House in Evanston, and was thrilled. All the smells and disorganization was like wandering into a different time, a place more like an alchemists workshop than anywhere else in my suburban childhood. Even though I live nowhere near a Spice House anymore, I still order all my spices from them.
posted by clockbound at 6:25 AM on April 7, 2017 [5 favorites]


Yeah I have important questions about all you people with salt shakers on your tables. Did ... did you ask your cooking parent for salt on your food growing up and NOT get in trouble for rudeness? What crazy world is this?

In my universe, there's nothing rude about the fact that different people have different tastes. Having a salt shaker and other condiments available is polite.
posted by Shmuel510 at 9:34 AM on April 7, 2017 [3 favorites]


Yes, but if you start sprinkling it all over your food before tasting the food to see if it needs salt, this cook will glare at you reproachfully.
posted by Daily Alice at 10:10 AM on April 7, 2017


That would truly be a salty scowl.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:48 AM on April 7, 2017


I use kosher salt for sprinkling on food (especially meat before cooking), or putting in a dressing/vinaigrette, where I'm doing little-to-no further prep before eating. I like that it is crunchier and makes little salt bombs when you bite vs. using table salt, which just gives everything a salty coating. I will use regular table salt for food that I'm cooking (soup, stews, or baking). And popcorn salt for my popcorn.

So you know, I've already chalked this up to a YMMV thing and am now just making "how interesting, here's my own take" chat.

The crunchy salt bombs are exactly what I don't like about kosher salt when baking or making viniaigrette. Bigger crystals take longer to dissolve. With things like soup or stew, or pasta water, that isn't an issue because I add the salt early and then it gets stirred a few times over the course of cooking; but with, like, cake batters or salad dressing it is. I still stick to kosher salt because I just sort of instinctively use less salt than recipes call for when baking; my mother was a little overly-conscious of salt intake and always halved the salt any recipe called for, and I frequently do the same out of habit. And as for salad dressings, I rarely dress my salad anyway (I've always been that way, I'm just weird). If anything I will drizzle oil and vinegar on separately and toss and that's it.

And for popcorn, I actually have a carton of the evil seasoned salt they use in movie theaters after a thread here on the blue when I was reminiscing about a summer job in the local multiplex and someone told me "you can get that stuff on Amazon you know". There may indeed be some salt in it, but I'm sure it's actually mostly meth and MSG, so it may not count.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:07 AM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


I know this is an overdone joke but I love the alliteration, so...

Metafilter: mostly meth and MSG.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:48 AM on April 7, 2017 [3 favorites]


It's just easier to bring out the salt shaker and let people salt to taste since a always undershoot the mark.

I stopped putting salt on food during cooking because I got it in my head that salt was bad for babies starting solids. My husband bought a salt shaker the next day.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:14 PM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


The crunchy salt bombs are exactly what I don't like about kosher salt when baking or making viniaigrette. Bigger crystals take longer to dissolve.

I'm with you -- different size salts for different applications. I don't use kosher salt when baking because the inconsistent crystal size could mess with the chemistry. As a rule, baking requires fine grained table salt whereas cooking is where kosher salt is better suited. When cooking, I think of the salt not just as an overall flavor enhancer but really as it's own ingredient, and I'm conscious of how it feels on the palate.

For soups or stews, where it will be totally dissolved, whatever is closest to hand will work equally well.

While I agree with the author that, by and large, NaCl is NaCl, crystal size and shape can really change the final dish. I will occasionally make salt-crusted salmon on the grill and you can only use kosher or other large crystal salt for that. Even though you scrape off the salt before eating, it has an intense effect on the flavor profile. My wife made it once with table salt and it was inedible.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 12:18 PM on April 7, 2017


Did ... did you ask your cooking parent for salt on your food growing up and NOT get in trouble for rudeness?

Yeah sometimes I would add salt to my dinner, and my parents were just glad I was eating.
posted by brainwane at 6:45 AM on April 8, 2017


Did ... did you ask your cooking parent for salt on your food growing up and NOT get in trouble for rudeness?


I'm the cooking parent and hardly use or like salt. My wife and kid use salt at the table, no biggy.
posted by signal at 6:46 AM on April 10, 2017


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