Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Selmelier – Wacky Word Wednesday

Today’s Wacky Word Wednesday will take you on a tasty journey to learn more about something no human can live without.

The definition of selmelier from TermWiki.com:

sel·mel·ier

[suhl-muhl-yey]

-noun

a salt expert; someone who helps choose the appropriate gourmet salt to go with any select dish or food item

A cartoon depiction of selmelier, a salt expert.

This word is technically not in dictionaries (yet), but it is such a fascinating concept that we just had to write about it. Selmelier can be traced back to sommelier (suhm-uhl-yey), which is French in origins and defined as a wine waiter or wine expert.

In 2006, selmelier was coined by Mark Bitterman, an American author, entrepreneur, and all-around salt aficionado. The following excerpt from his blog, Salt News, conveys his palpable passion for all things salt:

    …while I was fumbling for change to pay for the strawberries, what do I do but pull out a pile of chocolate salt that had spilled from a jar in my pockets a few days earlier. When this sort of thing happens it makes no sense to question fate. I…sat down for a little impromptu strawberry-stracchino-chocolate salt breakfast in the morning coolness.

Salt’s most widely known historical value is its ability to preserve food. It was also once considered a form of payment; the word salary originates from salt. In some cultures, it is believed that spilling salt will bring bad luck. This superstition initially emerged to prevent people from being careless with such a valuable commodity back in the day. One of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous works, The Last Supper, also illustrates this superstition: Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ ultimate betrayer, is painted with the salt container in front of him knocked over.

Of course, a post about salt isn’t complete without talking about the controversy around salt consumption. The Food and Drug Administration issued a report in May of last year that stated about 75% of daily salt intake comes from added salt in processed foods or restaurant meals. Consuming too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which is a leading cause of heart disease or failure, stroke, or kidney failure. The recommended daily salt intake is about 2300 milligrams (equivalent to about one teaspoon), with individuals in certain cohorts (those with hypertension, the elderly, etc.) recommended to reduce this amount to 1500 mg. The average daily salt intake for Americans is around 3500 mg.

Interestingly enough, the November 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition featured a study that concluded salt consumption for the past 50 years has remained more or less constant. Dr. Adam M. Bernstein, who lead the Harvard study, and colleague Dr. Walter C. Willett examined various studies that collected urine samples of more than 26,000 participants over a 46 year period, between 1957 and 2003. The results were consistent, with 3700 mg of salt being consumed daily. The article also states, however, that instances of high blood pressure and heart disease are still increasing, linked to the rise in obesity.

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One Response

March 10, 2011
Sophie

I had never heard about chocolate salt before–it is definitely something I would like to try now though!