Thursday, June 1, 2023

"Salty" Insight


A jar of salt! (I'm used to salt being sold in a cardboard box or cylinder.)

I've always been fascinated by ephemera – those humble, utilitarian objects designed to be temporary; fragments of ordinary life, that when moved from one culture to another, turn out to be not ordinary at all, and give some unexpected insights into the ways people in other parts of the world live.

That's perhaps one of the joys of cruising, of being able to deeply immerse yourself into a new place, staying for longer and being outside of the typical tourist hotel bubble. And though we're not actively cruising right now, we're still cruising-adjacent. 

Annapolis is a great place for meeting people who are starting – or ending – their cruising careers. We once had some dock neighbours who were ending, after exploring the Mediterranean, crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean, then coming up the coast here to sell their boat. In their final scurry to empty the boat of their personal possessions before turning it over to the new owners, we ended up being the casual recipients of a very eclectic group of leftovers completely out of context – a colourful t-shirt, two wine glasses, a screwdriver, a jar of olive oil, a jar of salt.

This salt jar now lives on my kitchen counter. It's thoughtfully designed with a flat spot on one side so it can be used standing up in a cabinet, or leaning over next to the stove as a kind of “salt pig” to grab a pinch of salt while cooking. I used Google Translate to read the label, which informed me that it was crystal sea salt for grinding at the table. Only, I had a small typo the first time I keyed it into my phone. That is how I learned that in Turkish, the words for “grinding [salt] at the table” and “arguing at the table” differ by only a single letter. And now I have a mental image of a big table laden with exotically-spiced food, boisterous family gathered around for a dinner filled with laughter and good-natured “grinding” -- in both senses of the word. 

Seemingly unusual to American eyes, the jar can stand on its base or its side.

Looked at up close, the grains are a wide range of sizes, and show the square crystal shapes that hint at slow evaporation, perhaps in the old-fashioned way, in a shallow pond in the sunlight

(Note: this casual jar of salt crystals is especially poignant to someone who grew up in a very different style, someone whose parents' table just miiiiight have included individual crystal salt cellars with tiny glass spoons at each place setting.)

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