I’ve been called a salty girl on more than one occasion: My normal public conversations tend to make my well-mannered man blush, and I can be as indecent as a briny sailor or rough as the most seasoned ranch hand. I like to paddle in the profane, mostly because I get a big charge out of saying the thing that stops conversation. Whether it’s giving voice the idea or word every single person in the room is thinking (but afraid to say) or taking the piss out of some mountain guy who’s behaving badly by saying “Suck my dick,” it’s a practice that gratifies. There is pleasure in transgression, especially for me, a Catholic girl, whose catechism was a laundry list of behaviors that weren’t “ladylike.” I’ve spent a lifetime happily detonating each item on the list, which brings me to the other meanings of the word salty: daring, opinionated, coarse, cheeky, trenchant. Yes, please.
But it’s not just my mouth that makes me salty, it’s also my palate. Few things give me as much satisfaction as the sprinkling of salt. In my house there’s a tiny white bowl filled with Morton’s Kosher salt that gets carried from the stove to the table for guests to scatter as they please. Here, I don’t stand on ceremony—there is no tiny white spoon for delicate dipping; instead, everyone gets to take a pinch and have the pleasure of rubbing the grains between fingertips as the flakes fall onto the plate.
Of course I use salt to prepare meat for the grill or roasting, and in soup bases over onions and garlic to build flavor, but I also salt my pizza, my oatmeal, my garlic bread, and my salad (something I learned in Italy). Salt brings out flavor by intensifying aroma: We smell, therefore we taste.
|Karen’s salted mini-moon pie cookies|
Lately, I’ve been obsessed with the taste of salty-sweet. Curiously, some thesauruses list these two flavors as antonyms, so in the opposites attract theory, it’s fitting that they go well together. Greg and I have been doing a bit of this dance ourselves as we’ve sorted out a place to live over the last month. I was desperate to stay in the mountains where I’ve lived for almost 20 years and like the quiet and the cool summers, while life-long city dweller Greg wanted a place that didn’t seem so isolated and inbred or far from his college-aged son in Denver. In the end, we settled on the prairie as a perfect place of compromise where we’ll have birds and sky and access to pizza delivery. As we embark on a new era of togetherness, our new house will be a mixture of honey and tang; I’m sure we’ll have our share of scrappy moments as the two of us work out how to share space along with our lives, but there will also be plenty of salty, sweet delicate moments made satisfying by the improbable combination of two distinct elements.
One of the last breakfasts Greg and I had at the little cabin in the woods where we’ve wooed and woven the threads of our lives was an apple galette sprinkled with a combination of turbinato sugar and kosher salt. We sat outside on the deck, beneath just- turning aspens in the early morning watching the grey squirrel we named Maurice gather pine cones for winter. The morning air was cool, the coffee dark and hot, and the galette, the perfect combination of tender and crisp, salt and sweet—the textures and tastes that make life both challenging and very, very good.
|Last Dinner at the Little Cabin in the Woods.|
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