Saturday, March 31, 2012

Glorious salt marshes of France

The product known in French as fleur de sel is a prestigious gastronomical salt composed of white crystals formed by the evaporating effects of wind upon the surface of salt marshes. I didn't even know that such a product existed until I arrived in France.

The expression fleur de sel might be translated into English as "flower of salt", but those words don't mean much. Besides, I don't believe that anybody talks of "flower of salt" in English. So, I'll stick to the French expression. Here's a packet I bought a few days ago:

Think of it as super salt. The fleur de sel crystals are expensive, of course, because they're collected manually. When you sprinkle these extraordinary gastronomical gems on meat, for example, they add a wonderful salty crunchiness to the eating experience. Chefs add fleur de sel to their preparations at the last minute, so that the crystalline structure is not destroyed by the cooking.

The most celebrated French salt marshes are those of Guérande in Brittany. For countless ordinary shoppers in France, salt and Guérande are synonyms.

But the most ancient salt marshes are those of the Roman city of Aigues-Mortes, on the edge of the Camargue delta of the Rhône.

Most often, the salt marshes are a dull blue.

Their geometrical splendor stretches to the horizon.

Periodically, harmless algae add a glorious pink hue to the salt marshes.

Who would have said so: Salt is beautiful! And tasty, too.

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