Now that we know salt isn't bad for us, we can fully celebrate it in all its cultural and culinary diversity. What better time to take a salt tasting trip around the world, if not in person than through Mimi Sheraton's recent piece for Smithsonian Magazine. She samples 13 different salts, from Himalayan mineral salt to charcoal-black and brick-red salts from Hawaii, and shares her favorite salt and food pairings: How does one do a salt tasting? Tasting salt with food, as Sheraton writes, "proved less revealing" than trying it alone. But in order to keep her palate from numbing over, between each tasting she rinsed her mouth with body-temperature water and then waited for a few minutes. She did the tastings multiple times over the course of a few weeks, and always came to the same conclusions. Here are a few of her findings:
Her favorite salt: Himalayan mineral salt harvested from mountain mines, which she loved "partly for its silvery pink glow, which suggested crushed rose quartz, combined with its mild, fresh salinity." A close second-place finisher was the fleur de sel from Brittany and the Camargue with "its virtually identical, beautifully sparkling, diamond white grains and quintessential sea breeze flavor, with only the least tang of bitterness."
Best for seasoning meat: Sel gris, from Brittany, which was "almost as delicate as the fleur de sel, but a bit softer in texture." She called it just mineral-ey enough to make it effective for seasoning meat.
Best for seasoning raw vegetables: Trapani salt, which was "snowy and fine-grained."