Salt is the essence of life and can be found in the cells of every living organism. It is an essential component in plants, animals, and humans. Salt is required to regulate water and minerals and help absorb and transport nutrients. Salt is also the driver that conducts nerve impulses and powers muscle movement for these species.
Salt has seen its days of popularity varying through time. Once, even recently, thought to be evil, now we are coming around to understanding its significance, which boils down to “good salts and bad salts.” The bad salts are found in packaged, preservative-laden foods, and are not considered healthy, such as cold cuts, pizza, snack foods, and the like. Good salts are less processed and contain more beneficial minerals which are better for you. Minerals such as calcium and potassium can be found in many of these better salts, which help the body assimilate water, thereby maintaining hydration and bringing the body back into balance. Pink Himalayan salt, black or gray salt, potassium salt, and sea salt are examples of good salts, and can be found in the Bex Kitchen. Himalayan salt is pink – due to minerals retained in the salt-process – and is the closest to our bodies’ natural composition, making it a favorite for many. Black salt is made from volcanic lava and adds a strong sulfuric flavor to food, similar to egg dishes. Besides this unique flavor, black salt contains important minerals essential to overall health. Chef Becky uses the properties of black salt to bring a natural “egg” flavor to her vegan egg dishes.
Salt has been around for thousands of years and used in a variety of different ways to preserve meats when there was no refrigeration, as bacteria can’t thrive in high levels of salt. Salt is precious and was traded in ancient times like a form of currency. A famous documentary follows a family through the arduous task of harvesting salt in the film called “My Name is Salt”. Salt is also important in other life-enhancing applications such as in the beauty industry (found in bath salts and other cosmetics), the medical world (used as a base in injections, fluid replacement liquids) and gardening (used to prevent weeds, prevent snow and ice) to name a few.
A lost print of a mainstream film was once found, completely preserved, in an eastern European salt cave, as the salt helped protect the film from “vinegar syndrome” decay.
Salt is a necessary ingredient in many other food preparations such as brining, pickling, and preserving. Brining is the process of tenderizing and moistening meat prior to cooking. Pickling requires the use of salt too which preserves or extends the shelf life of certain foods by fermenting in a brine base. Salt preserving inhibits microbial growth allowing goods to be stored for longer periods of time. From the Egyptians to the Pioneers and still today, we use salt to preserve foods as part of our culinary world, think prosciutto or salted cod.
Excessive salt derived from processed foods and unhealthy sources are linked to health problems and therefore a fear surrounding use of salt has developed. According to Chef Becky, we have a salt issue in the country and we should be looking at where the salt is derived from rather than the use of salt. Salt derived from natural sources and real foods are assimilated and useful to the body for hydration and mineral balancing. This important element can be naturally found in several whole food sources including, seaweed, shellfish, fruits, vegetables and meat. These foods contain healthy salts that can be readily used by the body whereas; other sources of salt such as those found in fast food, processed foods and pre-packaged foods are the ones to avoid as they can cause bloating, increased blood pressure and imbalance to the body.
Chef Becky’s mentor, Diana Kennedy, a British food author used to say “Don’t be afraid of the salt, be afraid of the sugar” which truly resonated with Chef and her style of cooking. You can see this healthy attitude influencing Chef’s cooking style where she uses high quality natural salts to add flavor, balance and to pull out fabulous tastes in her meals. Chef knows the confusion surrounding salt, urging review of lifestyle and dietary choices and understanding one’s body rather than admonishing salt altogether. Chef uses good salts to bring out and complement flavors in foods, having the same importance as any herb or spice. These healthy salts are obtained from various sources including Saltopia in Long Valley, which naturally harvests salts with no additives, preservatives or chemicals. Saltopia is a women-owned business embracing the same “food as medicine” mindset approach to health as Chef Becky.
Knowing that salt has been caught in the health food shift, coming in-and- out of favor over time, we are glad that good salts are back on top of a healthy food paradigm. You can find good salts infused in all of the dishes created in the Bex Kitchen ruminating in each flavorful bite. As you gather round the table, we hope you get back to enjoying “passing the salt, the good salt that is”.