I like to think of myself as a mostly logical person, who makes decisions based more on math/science than emotion. That I am not easily suckered by things that are clearly trying to play on my feelings to trick me into paying way more than I need to for something that isn’t actually All That Special.
Then something comes along that laughs at that notion and points out that I am not as scientific as I want to believe I am.
Like, say, salt.
We’re not fancy people with highly-refined palates around here, so for most of the things that come out of our kitchen it honestly makes zero difference if you use Plain Old Mass-Produced or Super Fancy Hand-Harvested salt – nobody will turn their nose up at the plain-stuff, or even notice if you switch to the fancy-stuff.
So scientifically speaking, it’s a better deal for me to pick up my salt in 5 or 10 pound bags from Costco than to buy anything “fancy” for us.
Then this happened: A while ago, our weekly veggie delivery folks offered to add a little bag of smoked salt to our basket for an extra $7.
At first I was (predictably) all, “Pfffft, seriously? Smoked. Salt. For seven dollars. Just, wow. You know what? I have a smoker – I could totally make my own damned ‘smoked salt.’ Pffffffft. Whatever, guys.”
But at the same time, I was…intrigued. Just how much flavor would they actually be able to get into salt? What would it be like? Plus of course the smoker is really the husband’s domain, and neither of having any idea what ‘smoked salt’ is supposed to taste like, we’d probably do it all wrong and think we hated it…
So eventually my curiosity got the best of me, and I paid the extra seven bucks to add it to the weekly basket.
It was…amazing. I was smitten with this stuff. At first I just sprinkled it on steaks and such, but then in a moment of wild abandon – and knowing full well that it is meant to be used as a ‘finishing’ salt on things rather than as an ingredient – I used it in some mashed potatoes I was making. #Rebel
Oh. MY. Gahd.
So good. So good. The flavor was not so intense that it made the smashed spuds “weird” on their own, but intense enough that suddenly I had a side dish that didn’t end up as a bland, tasteless side dish for my BBQ roast.
Man, it was on after that. I started using it for all kinds of things. Rubs for meats. Broths for soups. Sprinkled on green beans. Mixed into a ‘basic’ vinaigrette salad dressing.
Pretty soon the little bag was empty, and I was all, “Oh well. It was fun while it lasted…” – but somehow, I found myself circling around the Jacobsen website looking for more of the stuff. Because it is like CRACK, y’all.
Man oh man. They have an awful lot of tempty things. Habanero infused salt. Truffle infused salt. And yes, the cherrywood-smoked salt.
But the tempty nature of their goods wasn’t what got me to take out my credit card and place an order.
What did was watching a couple of their videos about how they go about making their salts.
Dear Scientific Reasoning: You lose.
Dear Jacobsen: SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.
I am a class A-1 sucker for things like this. You show me a guy using a hand tool to scrape the newly-formed salt out of the evaporation bed into a bin to finish drying, and I am hooked. Same thing with candies, if I’m watching somebody laboriously hand-fold the taffy, I’m immediately shoving money at them.
And also making myself sick by shoveling the taffy into my face as fast as I can.
Scientifically speaking, I know that “table salt” is just NaCl – sodium-chloride. Whether it comes from the sea or a mine, whether it is generated by the ounce or the ton, it’s still the same basic chemical compound – what makes one salt taste different from another is actually “impurities,” trace minerals that are hitching a ride with the basic NaCl combination.
So by and large, whether you harvest it by hand from the Pacific Ocean or use an enormous machinated set of pumps and pipes to mine it up from underground deposits, if what you’re making is “plain white salt,” it’s going to be scientifically the same.
And I also know that I could totally make my own “infused” salts. C’mon. Have you MET me? Have you SEEN my pantry, with row after row of Mason jars full of homemade flavored vinegars, vanillas and so forth?!
But emotionally, I am completely enthralled by someplace like Jacobsen, a tiny little company only five years old that goes about getting salt from the Pacific Ocean basically exactly like I did back when I lived a lot closer to it…and had a lot more free time on my hands.
It gets me because I really enjoy that kind of work. Few things are more pleasurable than the feeling of doing something like that for yourself – sure, it’s hard work that nobody seems willing to do anymore, but to me it’s one of the best feelings in the world.
It’s physical. It’s primal. It makes you feel grounded somehow, and super competent at this whole living thing. It makes me feel as though the modern age doesn’t really own me – that I am a part of the same earth my ancestors walked.
And in these days when you look at something in the grocery store and have no idea where it came from, or what’s really in it, being able to say I am 100% certain there is NOTHING SCARY in that, because I made it with these hands is a surprisingly deep comfort.
Everything else may be going to hell, but at least I know that THIS MARINADE was made with 100% Real Things…therefore obviously, EVERYTHING is going to be ooooookayyyy…
Somehow, the idea of my salt being made that slow, labor-intensive way makes me…happy.
Not quite as happy as it would make me to do it my damned self, but, close.
Which makes the higher price tag worth it, even though scientifically speaking, that’s absolute nonsense.
Oh well – I guess it just proves that I’m still, you know, human. That there are things I value more than math, or money…that I’m not in too much danger of becoming a heartless, soulless machine who always does the best-for-my-bottom-line thing even if it isn’t the best thing for the emotional well-being of myself and others.
So I guess I’m OK with my occasional outbursts of irrational, unscientific decision making.
Soooooooooooo…if Jacobsen could just get that comparatively-insanely-expensive jar of cherrywood-smoked salt here, like, now-ish, that’d be greaaaaaaaaaat…
(Seriously. It is like crack. But, you know, in a good way.)