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Re: Real Salt and Radiation
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Date: 1/21/2012 11:34:48 PM ( 17 mon ago )
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As controversies about wine and tea terroir play out among scientists and food critics, it’s interesting to imagine a situation in which there could be no doubt that we were tasting a place itself. For example, what if we literally ate the rocks of a particular place?
No need to imagine, because we actually do taste a place itself when we eat its geologic materiality in the form of salt. And culinary discourses about salt have taken a big geologic turn in recent years. Hundreds of varieties of “artisan salts” exist, enough to justify the establishment of stores selling nothing but gourmet salts–each claiming unique properties due to the nature of trace minerals, “impurities,” and geologic context (some of those claims require a geology degree to interpret). Newly opened stores sell rock salt plates and bowls for imparting special flavors to foods. Some restaurants boast about their “rock salt grilles.“
It appears that salt is the only rock humans eat. The fact that we eat any rocks at all is pretty astounding. According to the USDA most Americans consume just over a pound and a half of salt each year.
Entrance to the Redmond Salt Mine, image courtesy Real Salt
Eating salt not only offers a taste of a place–it also offers a taste of a moment in time. Deep time. Real Salt Corporation’s mine near Redmond, Utah, taps into the edible Jurassic for its product. Real Salt explains the differences between Redmond salt and other salts in geologic terms. Its deposit is the remnant of an ancient inland sea, probably part of what the company calls the Sundance Sea. That would place its deposit within the Jurassic Period. Over time, the salt that settled at the bottom of the sea was trapped within the earth and eventually was pushed up near the surface close to the town of Redmond, Utah. The Real Salt deposit begins about 30 feet below ground, covered by a layer of Bentonite clay, which has protected it from erosion and from the possibility of modern contamination.
the Real Salt mine in UT and Real Salt at the Park Slope Food Co-op in Brooklyn
Redmond salt is mined like any other rock. It is “harvested,” using carbide-tipped equipment that scrapes the salt off the walls of the mine. Harvester/miners follow food-grade veins 300 feet below the surface. The salt is screened and crushed to size before being shipped to a food-grade facility in Northern Utah. Over 60+ natural trace minerals occur within the Redmond deposit, giving the reddish colored salt its unique color, flavor, and claims to numerous health benefits.
The company’s website credits the purity of its salt to the fact that its deposit comes from an ancient sea bed created “long before the earth experienced any pollution or contaminants that are troubling our oceans today.”
However, even Redmond salt hasn’t escaped geologic-scale effects unleashed by human activity in the Anthropocene: Real Salt devotes an entire post on their blog to explaining how the effects of nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site during the 1960s has turned their salt slightly (but harmlessly) radioactive.
It’s hard not to wonder if tiny amounts of radioactivity add to the terroir of salt not only from Redmond, but from many other places around the world.
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