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Salt to Taste

I was extra pensive during our hike this morning. Bertrand waited for me to catch up, holding out his hand. “Do you worry when I get this quiet?” I smiled at him. “Yes,” he replied, then added, “Are you freaked out that you were just in Paris three weeks ago?”


A recent evening in the Marais, Paris

I’m not, probably because, despite my fears, my inherent belief is a naively invincible one. I would never have gone to a soccer game or an indie concert hall. But we all frequent restaurants when we go to Paris. And with the arbitrary nature of the attacks, it could have been any boite.


French butter: It doesn’t get butter. I mean, better.

I know I will return soon to support this beloved country. But, in truth, the main reason I love Paris will never change: the butter. French butter is just better. It’s creamier, richer and, well, saltier. It was the main topic of conversation during last month’s trip, which involved a small group of us visiting the labs at Chanel skin care. So, along with serious science conversations about hydration and anti-aging, it always returned to le beurre.  At every meal, this group of body-conscious ladies shunned our gluten-free beliefs and padded ourselves with every baguette we could get our hands on, digging our knives into the mounds as if it were a hair mask, then we spread it on thick. On our final night, we dined at a restaurant where generous balls of butter were scooped into chic little pottery bowls, then sprinkled with sea salt. (Isn’t it funny how the word “sea” has now prefaced the word “salt”? I have no idea whether it was sea salt that night, but it sounds more gourmand)  This simple touch is not a very original idea and yet we swooned! “Pass the butter, pass the butter!” was the most common request, easily trumping asks for more wine.


The salt mines of Maras, Peru. Step lightly.


Our current pantry lineup

Like our immersion blenders and cold brew coffee, our salt education has mostly come from our friends. I discovered Maldon salt ( my friend Jenny, who keeps a box at her desk, and now we have two–regular and smoked. We spotted Yakima Applewood & Smoked Sea Salt at Depot Six restaurant in West Stockbridge ( and are curiously dying to try their Espresso Sea Salt. A highlight of last Summer’s trip to Peru was the visit to the Maras salt mines. Meandering through the mosaic of hundreds of salt beds, I felt like I’d entered my own Willy Wonka factory. Packs and packs of it weighed our suitcases down.


Salt as tablecloth at the Meat Market, Great Barrington

I love the rituals that come with salt. Placing a tiny salt dish on the dinner table with its tiny spoon adds a nice chic element (though I use my fingers and that’s probably not too sanitary). A few months ago, our friends Jeremy and Emily coated an entire table with salt when they hosted a birthday dinner at their place, the Meat Market in Great Barrington ( Lit by a glimmering votive or two, the words “Happy Birthday, Dad” scripted through it like a first snowfall. I’m totally going to copy that. But maybe with the generic stuff.


Sea salts line our bathtub

We outgest salt, too (Outgest. Let’s make it a word). Along with pouring the obligatory epsom salt into the tub for those extra-strenuous hikes and rides, I’ve got a constant stash of salt scrubs lining our tub, favoring those floating within essential oils of eucalyptus and mint, like Hand in Hand Sea Salt Sugar Scrub. ( I use it as a body wash, and have taken to focusing it on my underarms in lieu of deoderant. But that’s for a future post…

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 2.28.29 PMA friend once told me that his father, who’d been a big wig in the advertising world back in the Seventies, had this test when he’d take prospective employees out to lunch. If a candidate salted his food before tasting it, he or she automatically got cut from the running. I have carried that anecdote with me to this day, because, while it does sound harsh, it is a good barometer for many things! Think about it: why salt before you taste? That’s like saying, “I hate sushi” before tasting it. Oh wait. That’s what I say. Well, whatever.

My friend Jodi salts her rolls after she butters them (no, she doesn’t taste the butter first). I used to tease her about it, thought it tacky. She didn’t give a shit what I thought. Maybe because she knew I’d come around. So, please pass the butter. And the salt.

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Jane was executive beauty director at W Magazine for 16 years. When she is not writing beauty articles, she's likely either hiking with her husband and dog, Remy, or in her kitchen, frauding (new verb) her way around a fancy recipe, a home decoration or a highbrow dinner party conversation of which she knows nothing about. In other words, she nods a lot and googles a lot later.