Field trip

I know I’ve previously mentioned my predilection for doing my food shopping in less-traditional places.* I make it a point not to shop in “regular” grocery stores, because being surrounded by loud displays of the worst sorts of processed foods makes me cranky. When I am in one of those places, I feel like I’ve been thrust into a “find the REAL food” scavenger hunt. Really, I think I’d almost rather have a root canal (not that I’ve ever had one…or a cavity, for that matter…but I’ve heard about them).

One of my favorite food haunts is one I rarely get to. Big John’s Pacific Food Importers. They’re closed by 6 p.m. on weekdays, and not open on Sundays, so that leaves a relatively slim 10-4 window on Saturdays for me to go. For months, Saturday classes made visits impossible. So I was a bit giddy yesterday, naturally, when a PFI trip was on the agenda (after going to an estate sale where the former owner had, I’m not kidding, my EXACT taste in books…it was a little spooky).

Anyhoo, I had been this close to ordering some fancy salts online, so imagine, just imagine my glee when I spy huge white food-grade buckets full of salts! Jade green, pink, red and black! For $2.95 a pound! Naturally, I bought some of each. (That’s not all I bought…I bought bulk red quinoa and green lentils, raspberry and sherry vinegars for all those green salads I eat, some fantastic olives, crushed tomatoes, and a wedge of the best Gouda cheese I have ever tasted in my life!)

It feels a little funny to be writing about the thrill of buying salt, when I spent a portion of last week (for work) writing about the American Heart Association’s new recommendation that people lower their sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day. However, Jeff and I eat very, very little fast food and other highly processed foods (the biggest source of sodium in the standard American diet). We also don’t have problems with our blood pressure (my bp hovers around 90/60).

In our case, a moderate amount of salt added while cooking or at the table is not unhealthful. Because we haven’t deadened our taste buds by overloading them with high-sodium foods, it doesn’t take a lot of salt to please our palates. By buying unusual salts (which contain various trace minerals), I’m simply trying to get more bang for my seasoning buck. Plus, they’re really pretty.

The sodium-blood pressure connection is interesting. Mostly, high sodium intake is associated with high blood pressure (hypertension). It’s not a case of cause-and-effect, in most people (some individuals are particularly salt-sensitive). I often wonder if part of the problem with eating too many high-sodium foods is the junky, processed, often fat-laden package that sodium comes in. So if people heed the call to lower their sodium intake by skipping those trips through the fast-food drive-through and opting to stop putting potato chips in their shopping cart, then health will benefit, regardless.

* I realize that this is not an option for everyone, in all parts of the country. However, way back when I was fresh out of college, working for pennies as a reporter at a tiny weekly newspaper in a tiny town in the middle of cattle country in Eastern Oregon, I would descend like a one-woman horde of locusts on ethnic and natural food stores whenever I (and my perpetually-on-its-last-legs ancient Honda Accord hatchback) happened to make it to a larger town that had such things. My food-shopping preferences are not new.