I was paging through my newest Penzey’s catalog and saw this note on the salt page and was kind of shocked to read this little message from Bill Penzey.
We’re cutting back on salt.
A really good and healthy thing going on with food right now is that people are using less salt. We want to be a part of this. Going forward we will continue to sell reasonably priced generic salts of the earth and sea, but we will no longer be selling the higher priced specialty salts. I feel things have gotten to a point where the specialty salts are glamorizing the use of salt and, with that, encouraging people to use more of it. I have also found that along with the marketing of specialty salt has come a great deal of misinformation, including claims that some salts don’t affect your health like others do. This is just not true and not something we want to be a part of. Salt is salt, it really is, and it tastes no different no matter where it comes from.
With our belief that cooking comes from caring for those around you we feel part of that is caring for the well-being of the people we cook for. We all have our own relationship with salt and I respect that, but as a cook and as a business I feel so much better about working to cut back on the use of salt rather than encouraging the use of more. I hope this makes sense to you,
I have several issues with this decision. First, I am disappointed that instead of letting customers decide what kind and how much salt to use that Bill Penzey is making the decision for you. Yes you the loyal customer who have fueled the almost unbelievable expansion of Penzey’s across the country are too dumb to realize that salt is salt. From now on if you are buying salt from Penzey’s all you can get is Kosher Flake Salt and Pacific Sea Salt. However that is not really my issue because it’s not like Penzey’s was carrying exotic salts like Pink Salt, Indian Black Salt, or even Smoked salt, my issue is how he is going about this.
The problem is that while salt is salt, there are differences in styles of salt that people use. While there really isn’t much difference in taste there is a difference in texture and how they dissolve. A nice sprinkle of Penzey’s Sel Gris on some grilled Brussels Sprouts has a different effect than if you were to use kosher salt or table salt. Most baking is done with table salt and if you used kosher salt chances are your recipe wouldn’t turn out as well. As a magazine devoted to providing the home chef with great herbs, spices, and blends, I am disappointed they are so dismissive of salt. Without salt you cannot cook great food. Things taste flat, bland, and uninteresting. Ask any chef what is the most important seasoning in the kitchen and they’ll all say salt.
The problem with salt and sodium in our diets is not because of the home cook using a pinch of fleur de sel to season their green beans, it’s the use of salt as a food preservative in processed foods. Look at a can of soup and your blood pressure will skyrocket just by reading the sodium content. Look closer and you’ll likely find that the sodium listed is for one serving and not the entire can (usually 2 servings). Look at any TV dinner, even those horrible Lean Cusines that everyone has been duped into thinking are actually good for you. Look at the boxed chicken broth and stock that everyone uses and see how much salt is in there. So yes I agree there is a sodium problem in our diets but to think that by eliminating the “fancy” salts from the Penzey’s catalog you are helping the cause is just moronic and a little bit narcissistic. Reduce the amount of processed foods you buy and you’ll probably cut your salt intake by more than 50 percent.
Penzey’s is one of my favorite food businesses and I am proud that they are based here in Wisconsin. They have some of the freshest and most reasonably priced herbs and spices around and I’ll continue to support them even though they think I am too dumb to know how to buy and use salt.