Saturday, March 31, 2007

Salt Of The "Oval" Silhouette

This is salt of the Death Valley floor as far as the eye can see ("See Salt"). This salt may be eaten but it is not reccommended. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks, Copyright-2005

Salt Of The "Oval" Silhouette

There is Sea Salt and then there is "See Salt". Many love to experiment with different types of salt this great Earth provides while others don't get much farther than ripping open the paper packets or breaking the "perfs" on the servings provided at the local In-N-Out.

Here is a posting that shows how far afield one can get when one explores the worlds of salt and salt culture - there is even a blog dedicated to JUST SALT!

Consider this originally posted at Pajamas Media -

Whereas I used to have two salts – table and kosher – in my pantry, I now have six, and counting.
by Nancy Rommelmann

Let me explain.

First, an acquaintance began importing
Portuguese Flor de Sal, the “flower of salt” harvested from salt crystals that float on the water’s surface. Snowy white and sparkling, its taste is both delicate and briny. My husband and I used it when we were feeling fancy, pinching it on top of fresh bread dipped in good olive oil.

Soon after, a friend gave me a box of
Maldon sea salt, from Britain. This salt is flaked, looking like translucent bits of shale, and its flavor is clean and sweet. I started to stir it into chocolate chip cookie dough, and found the chocolate and salt pinged off each other, pushing up the cookie’s “wah!” factor. I next sprinkled it on a caramel sundae, also to good effect; the salt hit intensifying and by contrast mellowing caramel’s milky sweetness.

Why did these things happen? As best I could figure, what I’d heretofore been using—regular table salt—was a miniscule grain, and thus too easily diffused; it made things “salty,” but that’s it. The sea salt, by contrast, had texture, and hence enough muscle to punch out discrete pockets of flavor.

The beginnings of a Death Valley salt flat. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks, Copyright 2005

Hmm. Were other flavor amplifications as easy as adding the right salt? And if so, what kinds of salt?

In order to learn how far I could go, I first looked up were we’d been. A cruise around the web taught me that in ancient Rome, a soldier’s pay was in salt, thus the word “salary”; that in Rabbinic literature, salt was a metaphor for wisdom, and that France’s Medieval salt tax, the onerous “gabelle,” was in part responsible for inciting the French Revolution. I knew from experience that salt-free bread tasted like cardboard, and that eggs and soups were ghastly without salt, they simply need it, as do all living things: no creature on earth can survive without sodium and chlorine, the two main components of salt.

My fetish with this most common of staples must have been part of the cultural flotsam, for in short order my husband came home with a set of Danish modern salt and pepper grinders and announced, “I like a salt you can grind,” and a gourmet shop specializing in “finishing salts” opened a few blocks from our house.

“Welcome,” said the proprietress of
The Meadow, pouring small cups of a port-like Banyuls from the Pyrenees, as we faced a panorama of salt, in feathery mounds and quartz-like slabs and one mortar and pestle made entirely of rose-colored salt from Pakistan. There were nearly fifty salts, from Bali and Cypress, Bolivia and Portugal, Peru and New Zealand and Vietnam. There were salts smoked over French oak casks used to age Chardonnay, and salts speckled with Tahitian vanilla bean. There were shards of salt so sharp I could imagine it slicing my tongue to bits, and salt as fluffy as baby powder. There were deep-sea salts and salts from quarries and those derived from volcanic clay; gold salt and silver salt; salt black as pitch and white as cream. Salt that tasted like salt, salt that tasted of smoke, of fruit, of mineral, or metal. Tasting pinch after pinch, reading how the salts were procured and by whom was like hearing a new language, and one that you could learn rather quickly, simply by being curious.

Though in truth, it was not possible to be too curious; my mouth simply couldn’t take more than a dozen salts, no matter how many
honey-roasted cocoa beans I ate to cleanse the palate. We wound up buying two— Hiwa Molokai Black Lava, and Alaea Volcanic. The first is black and rocky and intense; the latter, a dusty rose, lightly crunchy, and mild. We’ve used them for poultry and popcorn and to salt the rims of cocktail glasses. I like them both but sense there are others I will like more, and after that, another.

Though I am not yet as evangelical as the owner of the Meadow—
who blogs that “a strong relationship with gourmet salt safeguards against the stagnation and turpitude that overtakes us as money, children, and slackening metabolism slowly suck the juice from our bones”—I do see how this first step might lead right down the wormhole. That once we insert the sublime on the everyday, it’s hard to go any other way. For now, I am content to know there’s a little colored salt in the cupboard, and perhaps next week, a Halen Mon Gold from the coast of Wales, because I read it is exceptionally harmonious with sweets, and maybe a Fleur de Sel de l’Ile de Ré, which is said to smell like violets.

How Death Valley Salt Is Made - Video Credit: Edmund Jenks, Copyright 2005
Nancy Rommelmann is a columnist and feature writer for the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly, Bon Appetit and other publications, and a frequent contributor to Portland Food & Drink. She is the author of several books, including Everything You Pretend to Know About Food And Are Afraid Someone Will Ask, and the recently completed memoir, Leaving Los Angeles. Her personal blog can be read here.

"Oddball" Earth

False-color satellite image of Chimborazo (center, left), Carihuairazo (10km northwest of Chimborazo), Tungurahua (center, right with ash plume) and El Altar (bottom, right), Ecuador. Pale blue indicates snow/ice cover, bright green indicates lush vegetation, and red indicates sparser vegetation. Tungurahua’s volcanic ash plume appears in lavender. Image width is 78km, image direction is top to North. Image Credit: Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory, based on data provided by the Landsat 7 science team and the University of Maryland’s Global Land Cover Facility.

"Oddball" Earth

An interesting fact was revealed in a highlighted segment of the morning's news on ABC7, Los Angeles and that is - Mount Everest is NOT the tallest place on Earth, ie. the place on Earth that would be the closest spot next to any other celestial object.

The segment pointed out that the Earth is not perfectly spherical. The Earth has a shape that a beach ball would assume when someone sits on the ball. Kind of an oval silhouette type of shape known formally as an "Oblate Spheroid"! ... Hence the name of this weblog.

The point here is that when one takes this spheroid shape into consideration ... the "tallest" place on Earth would be located logically somewhere around the Equator and it has been found as a volcano in Ecuador.

Mount Chimborazo is located in the Cordillera Occidental of the Andes of central Ecuador, 150 km (93 miles) south-southwest of the capital Quito.

The shadow of Chimborazo as seen from the top of the mountain. Image Credit: Gerd Breitenbach

This description from Wikipedia -

Farthest point from earth center
Although the summit of Mount Everest reaches a higher elevation above sea level, the summit of Chimborazo is widely reported to be the farthest point from earth center (Senne 2000), although this could be challenged by Huascarán. Chimborazo is just one degree south of the equator and the earth's diameter at the equator is greater than at Everest's latitude (nearly 28° north), with sea level also being elevated. So, despite being 2,581 m (8,568 ft) lower in elevation above sea level, it is 6,384.4 km (3,968 mi) from the Earth's center, 2.1 km farther than the summit of Everest.

Mount Chimborazo as viewed from the Southwest. Image Credit: Wikipedia

Reference Here>>

After eating some rats and nearly being killed by a mudslide in Baños, we took off more or less at random and decided for the other side of Chimborazo. First day of approach walking up scree slopes with big packs. Then we didn't feel like going to the summit the next day (that is to say, Vincent was altitude-sick, as usual), so we just went for some ice-climbing on the face on a route that led to nowhere. Basically the rule was: "go where it's steepest". In fact it is hard for us ice climbers to find any routes of technical interest on those gentle-sloped volcanoes. Well, we managed to find a couple pitches of 80° ice. The rock around is real bad though. Image Credit: Guillaume Dargaud

Traditional summit picture on Chimborazo, this time with some sun. The Altar is visible on the right and Iliniza (?) on the left. The Altar is not very well known but it is one of the nicest mountains of Ecuador. It is also one of the hardest, having been first climbed only in the 50's by an italian team. Image Credit: Guillaume Dargaud

With this change in perspective, it's funny ya' know but the gentlemen pictured above did not know that they had just scaled the tallest point on the planet Earth.


Who was the first person to climb and conquer Chimborazo and replace Sir Edmund Hillary as the first person to the "Top Of The World"?

Any comments?