‘Tis the Seasoning

For years now I’ve suffered from garlic salt shame. It’s the seasoning I use most often, thinking that it’s a shortcut, that an accomplished cook with stores of self-respect would employ solo salt and stand-alone garlic that he would strip, dice, and sprinkle on a side dish or main course instead of going the two-in-one route.

I thank my mother-in-law for introducing me to garlic salt. When I joined the Canducci table and began to lurk in her kitchen, watching her cook, I got to know and started to use garlic salt. If it was good enough for her, I reasoned, it would be good enough for me. For years I bought the McCormick brand, the biggest container I could find. When Costco came along, I tried their garlic powder and garlic salt, and found both to be too thin, too fine, not quite to my liking. And all along, in the back of my mind, there was this niggling doubt.

So imagine the joy in the affirmation, in seeing garlic powder described, by The Washington Post, as a “reliable seasoning deserving of respect.” Aaron Hutchinson, a Post food columnist and a bonafide culinary dude, leads his article with this proclamation: “Garlic powder is essential in my cooking.”

Well okay.

A year or so ago I graduated from McCormick to a premium product, made by the San Francisco Salt Company, their Organic Garlic Himalayan Pink Salt. This stuff is the bomb. Opening my first two-pound bag, I lowered a forefinger that I had licked into the bag, then rolled some salt on my tongue. The flavor is so intense, it detonates on your tastebuds.

There is, of course, a range of possibilities.

A few years ago I visited my future son-in-law in Paris for five nights. A serious and eclectic foodist, every morning he suggested a location I try for lunch, all of which were fantastic; and every evening he took me to one of his favorite places for dinner. One night I got to see precious, fastidious French cooking in action, as the head chef-owner perched at the window in front of the kitchen, taking dish after dish from his backroom team and giving each work of art a tiny pinch of seasoning before it went to the table. I mean microscopic adjustments, fine tuning. In contrast, in one of our favorite restaurants near San Marino, Casa Zanni in Villa Verucchio, a grandma sits next to the open fire grill where meats meet fire. From a bowl she grabs handfuls of a salt/pepper mix and flings in in the direction of the meat.

It’s the end result that matters. I will no longer worry. Herewith a few dishes seasoned with San Francisco Salt Company Organic Garlic Himalayan Pink Salt. And eaten with great pleasure. In the kitchen, I’ve grown up to be my mother-in-law. My good fortune.

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