In upscale food shops and grocery purveyors around the country, you can find the shelves littered with pounds and pounds of grey sea salt. The label tells you the story – or at least all the story they want you to know. Because the less they tell you about each specific type of grey salt deemed worthy enough to grace the shelf, the more alike they seem.
It’s much like going to Costco, where they put Kirkland vodka and Grey Goose vodka in nearly identical bottles next to each other with one selling for nearly 50% more than the other. All of the marketing and branding is built to suggest that they are essentially the same vodka. (try telling your head that a couple of hours after drinking the less expensive of the two!)
The old adage, “You get what you pay for” rings true in virtually every aspect of life and that unassuming grey salt is no exception. Some are called simply “Celtic Salt” or “Grey Salt”. Others are called Sel Gris or even Sel Gris de Guerande, but come from no where near Guerande, but instead from remote parts of Korea and Brazil. Our french may be a little rusty, but the Google translator tells us that the phrase “de Guerande” literally means “of Guerande”. We are pretty sure there is no Guerande – North OR South Korea or even a Guerande, Brazil for that matter.
Sel Gris is much like champagne. If it doesn’t come from a very specific region of France, it’s not supposed to be called Sel Gris. That area is encompassed entirely in the Brittany region. The Brittany region was a Celtic duchy for more than 1,000 years before finally being annexed to France in 1532. So, of course Sel Gris is a celtic salt, but it’s so much more than that.
Calling salt “celtic salt” simply refers to the way that its crafted. It implies that the salts were crafted in hand sculpted solar evaporative ponds using wooden hand tools in the old world method handed down by fathers to sons, generation after generation. There is nothing mystical or mysterious in that, just the story of the craft – the artisan’s story.
Calling salt “grey salt” is a typically western world knock off. “Sel Gris” literally translates “salt grey”. So, give it a similar name and maybe no one will suspect it’s different. Celtic Salt and Grey Salt are likely not Sel Gris, because if they were, they would prefer the more dignified and pedigreed name Sel Gris! Interestingly the differences are even greater once you get past the name.
Procal Harum seems to have had it write when he sang (though only in concert and not in any official version), “If music be the food of life, then laughter is it’s queen; and likewise if behind is in front, then dirt in truth is clean.” It seems Mr. Harum may have been singing about our beloved sea salt and warning against our settling for a “Whiter Shade of Pale”. So, think twice before you buy that celtic salt in the future, and remember….friends don’t let friends use “grey” salt! We’ll discuss the reasons why in a week or so…
Stay tuned for Part 2 – What’s IN a name?