Expat Foodie: It’s Not Just White Stuff?

by missfootloose on August 18, 2012 · 13 comments

in And So It Goes, exotica, Food, Netherlands

Mother Nature, fickle as she can be, has such a lovely artistic side to her, don’t you think? Just look at this photo of some of her creations below. Beautiful, right? Can you tell what it is?

Chunks of salt

I took this picture in a shop in Amsterdam last month. I was in my native Holland, taking a break from my expat life in Moldova.

Amsterdam is full of surprises. It has funky museums such as a torture museum, a sex museum, and a hash museum. It also has lots of fun and interesting shops. I visited one unique shop that specializes in the sale of one product only (see picture above). The only other brick-and-mortar shop like it in the world is in Japan. And at this very moment you may well have the product of the sort they sell sitting on your dining room table no matter what obscure corner of the world you inhabit.

Salsamentum Amsterdam

What does this boutique shop sell? Salt. And only salt. Over 100 different kinds of salt. Don’t confuse this with the product called “table salt” you find on the supermarket shelves. That stuff began its life as salt but has been so burned, chemically abused and adulterated that it has lost all its value and character.

I learned a lot about salt lately. I never thought of salt as being interesting. Did you? As a matter of fact, until a few years ago, I never thought about salt at all. It was just white stuff in a box or shaker.

The colors of salt

Salt: Not just white stuff

Like the spice trade, the salt trade has a fascinating history, and images of camel caravans trekking through the Sahara with their loads of salt come to mind. Actually, these caravans are still at it today. The photo below was taken earlier this year in Ethiopia (but not by me).

salt trade

Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you all about the history of salt. If you are interested, you can read Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. It’s fascinating.

I loved browsing the Salsamentum, looking at all the different types of salt from all over the planet. Here just a few:

o   Sundried salt from the Kalahari, 280 million years old.
Hollow salt pyramids Bali
  Chunky salt from the Indonesian island of Bali, where the salt crystallizes in the ocean and grows into little hollow pyramids that float along the top of the water. How cool is that?

o   Pink Himalaya salt from Pakistan, also ancient.

o   Alaea, traditional Hawaiian sea salt, that has the color of terra cotta because of the addition of a small amount of iron-oxide-rich clay.

Ever taken part in a salt tasting? Think about it: Wine tastings, cheese tastings and olive oil tastings are so yesterday. Surely you are ready for the unique experience of a salt degustation. So, dear readers, schedule one with the Salsamentum in Amsterdam.

Salsamentum Amsterdam

Amsterdam salt shop

Sadly, the shop’s FB page and online shop  are only in Dutch, but the owner speaks excellent English, no worries. Call him at +31.(0)20-6812440 or send a message via Facebook. Or just go and have a look around. The address is Spaarndammerstraat 34, 1013SW Amsterdam. It’s just outside the centrum but within walking distance. Oh, and tell the owner his nomad cousin sent you.

NOTE: Did you notice the lamps in the store? They’re big chunks of natural salt, hollowed out and fitted with a light fixture. I bought one. They’re cool.

Zoutkamer salt lamp

* * *
Your turn: Have you ever discovered something “ordinary” was not so ordinary after all? Or what kind of unique shop have you discovered in your travels?

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate August 18, 2012 at 8:19 am

If you’re ever in Kraków, Poland check this salt mine out http://www.kopalnia.pl/en/about-the-mine

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missfootloose August 25, 2012 at 3:34 pm

A Polish salt mine. I’d never heard of it. Amazing the things you can learn about salt, isn’t it?
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maggie myklebust August 18, 2012 at 10:06 am

Interesting indeed and pretty…

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Mara August 18, 2012 at 12:15 pm

I knew there was more than the ordinary table salt about, but I would have never guessed there were so many different types. Do they actually taste very different from each other as well?
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missfootloose August 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm

They actually do salt tastings at the store, and I imagine you have to have a pretty sensitive palate to distinguish between the different kinds. I suppose you learn, like you learn to taste the various flavors of olive oil, which I have not mastered either.

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Red Nomad OZ August 18, 2012 at 3:29 pm

That’s so cool! Downunder here in Australia, soil salinity is causing increasing problems for our largest river system. But hey – if you’ve got lemons, make lemonade – there’s a delicate pink gourmet salt extracted from the River Murray Water that looks and tastes sensational!
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missfootloose August 25, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Like everything else, salt has it’s negative sides. So there’s a pink Australian salt too. Great fun to learn about all the kidns of salt in the world.

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OutsideTheGuidebook August 19, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Wowser! Never knew that there was THIS much to salt. New found respect deluxe!

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missfootloose August 25, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I keep learning more and more amazing things about salt!

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Diana August 19, 2012 at 7:30 pm

This is really cool – wish I had known about it when I was in Amsterdam! I recently went to the Salinas Grandes Salt Flats where it was endless miles and miles of salt in all direction (http://wp.me/p27toQ-Eh) — it was so breathtaking — so I totally agree with you that salt isn’t just white stuff!
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Nancy August 20, 2012 at 6:40 am

Love salt – all kinds. I will definitely visit this shop if ever in Amsterdam. Thanks!

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Carol Perehudoff August 21, 2012 at 1:26 pm

I agree, salt is way more interesting than I ever gave it credit for until I discovered this healing salt cave in Germany – similar to the one in Poland. This was my crazy salt adventure: http://wanderingcarol.com/?page_id=574
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guyana gyal August 24, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Wow…this goes to show how amazing nature is! And how, if we have a passion for something, we can do so much with it.
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