SUZAN ZELOUF takes everything with a GRAIN OF SALT …
In the run-up to the referendum, journalist John Waters, lost for words, assaulted the airwaves prior to storming off Eamon Dunphy’s podcast, calling him a “f***ing b****cks!” While the country responded with an elegant three-letter retort, “Yes!”, there are times when only a four-letter word will do, a safety valve on the primed pressure cooker that is daily life. I swear like a sailor at bad drivers (F***ing learn how to drive, dipstick!), at my frozen laptop screen (F***ing piece of sh**te!) and at the speaker phone during the interminable musical interlude meant to soothe while awaiting a service representative to sort out why I still haven’t received my credit card when it was supposed to have been sent by courier two weeks earlier (FFS, that was your only job!). But when I’m really riled up, I curse in Italian, adopting the sexy, salty blasphemy that Tuscans, in particular, have made into an art form.
Bestemmiare, or to blaspheme God and the Catholic Church, had been a prosecutable crime in Italy until 1999, rarely enforced. Strolling the lungomare (seafront) in any Italian coastal resort after an exhausting day at the beach sporting a Fellini-esque wide-brimmed floppy straw hat in full make-up and heels sipping chilled rosé beneath candy-colored ombrellone, you’ll overhear animated conversations salted with profanities casually damning God and His extended family of saints. Italians have summer sussed, especially during the obligatory beach holiday, from garnering a covetable spot in the long lines of canopied sun loungers to what to eat and drink when, to the perfect outfit for the requisite post-shower, pre-dinner parade through the streets. It was in a seaside town on the east coast of Italia during the summer of ‘85 that I met my Etruscan ragazzo, and although I didn’t yet speak Italian, after a few days of being ferried on the handlebars of a pushbike, eating live razor clams he’d dug up for me from the wet sand and a thrilling night sleeping out on the beach under the stars listening to him talk dirty in a throaty Tuscan dialect, I’d acquired a taste for salt and salty language I still can’t seem to shake. Mannaggia la miseria, love is a b*tch.
Clean eaters and the health service have been bad-mouthing table salt as the enemy for hardening arteries and driving up blood pressure, leading to heart attacks; some restaurants refuse to put salt on the tables, if not for our own good, then for the headstrong belief that the kitchen has seasoned its food just right. Chefs like Nusret Gökçe, nicknamed Salt Bae, have made salting food into performance art –see the Turkish chef’s mouthwatering viral video in which he slices and salts meat like a Samurai, a meme that definitely raised my blood pressure! Salt was regarded as the bitcoin of the Roman Empire; for 6,000 years, we’ve relied on salt to preserve meat and fish, salting, pickling and brining with it – soldiers were purportedly paid in it. Since the invention of the icebox, we’ve been salting dishes because, according to the late chef Anthony Bourdain, “It’s what makes food taste good.” Foodies claim salt reduces bitterness while enhancing and balancing other ingredients in a dish. But what, exactly, is salt?
On a molecular level, sodium chloride (NaCl) is a crystalline mineral present in large quantities in the sea; naturally-occurring or compounded chemically, salt is estimated to have over 14,000 uses. In “The Wonders of Blood”, a New York Times article by Natalie Angier, she muses that “blood can also be thought of as a private ocean”, its plasma containing a concentration of salt akin to seawater. So, we are all made of stardust … and salt. This summer, whether you salt your chips or curse like John Waters, don’t forget to pack the salt spray; beach hair is f***ing amazing!
This month’s moodboard
(1). I’m sipping peroni with lemon wedges, Dolce & Gabbana crystal-embellished lemon-print brocade platform wedge sandals, to be precise (2). I’m lounging on the lido alongside Italian families in Viareggio, staying in the historic Art Deco luxe Grand Hotel Royal. Vieni? (3). I’m gilding the lily with Dolce & Gabbana lemon drop enamel earrings, with amber Swarovski crystals (4). I’m salting my barbecued grub with O’Neill’s Irish Atlantic Sea Salt flakes from the Beara Peninsula in West Cork. www.irishatlanticsalt.ie (5). I’m nibbling Bean and Goose Irish Sea Salt & Cocoa Nibs dark chocolate, craft chocolate made in Ireland, delivered worldwide. www.beanandgoose.ie (6). I’m texturising my tresses with Sea Mist Salt Spray from www.herbivorebotanicals.com (7). I’m studying the moves of Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe, nicknamed Salt Bae. Worth the occasional spike in blood pressure! (8). I’m perfecting beach hair at www.thestudio.ie, 13 Oxford Lane, Ranelagh, D6 (9). I’m mastering the elements of good cooking with Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat, at Dubray Books (10). I’m sharing a tub of Nobó dairy-free Irish salted caramel ice cream with a vegan friend, made in Dublin, stocked nationwid.
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