Saturday, August 23, 2008

Salt and Shopping

Ever since we've been here, I have done our grocery shopping once in week in our local town. All the main supermarket chains of South Africa are represented here - Pick n Pay, Checkers, Shoprite and Spar but they are all on a small scale, suitable for the size of country farmers' town it is. I've always shopped in Spar as it has the best selection of fruit and veg, a good butchery section and a decent on-site bakery. I know many of the staff there by sight and always say hello to Johanna, ever since five years ago she held a crying five-week-old Youngest for me at the till, so that I could pay and manage the other two.

We can get everything we need here… with the emphasis on 'need' as opposed to 'would impulse buy if we had the chance'. Fancy ingredients we'd have to make a trip into Cape Town for, but I usually just adapt my recipes to what is possible. It was never limited to the very basics though: imported pasta from Italy (a staple on my list), soy sauce and a whole variety of exotic foodstuffs have been well represented for years, but our town being a practical sort of place, without any extravagant foodies in evidence, Spar has always restricted its lines to the affordable, to what a sensible shopper would be likely to buy.

Until the last two months that is... When I came back from England, with its over abundance of choice in the supermarkets, its acceptance of organic foods as a basic necessity available pretty much everywhere, I was resigned to returning to my shopping cart of bog standard groceries, (just as well really with the price of everything sky-rocketing), only to find that Spar had upped the ante.

Secreted around the store were little traps of excellence, the kind of ingredients that Nigella recommends in her recipes and that I laugh at as flights of fancy that have no bearing on my real world: genuine good quality vanilla extract (a bargain at R89! yeah right!), good quality cocoa, esoteric oils and vinegars and, the one that proved to be my Achilles heel, Khoisan sea salt. I was tempted by the vanilla extract, I have to admit, but the price tag made me banish it resolutely from my thoughts - Moir's ersatz but edible vanilla essence is good enough.

The Khoisan salt though is hand-harvested locally in natural salt pans not too far up the West coast from us, by a small family company. We've had their special seaweed and herb salt mix before - full of flavour and trace minerals and absolutely delicious, but hadn't been able to get it for a while. Now right there on the shelf, next to the Cerebos - 'see how they run' - processed table salt, sat bags of the various Khoisan salts.

My frugal self warred with my health conscious foodie side. R4 for a bag of Cerebos iodated table salt or R20 for the natural Khoisan salt. It was a tough call but I'm glad to say that the extravagant foodie won out. I made mashed potatoes last night and it tasted so much better - I was amazed that you could really taste the difference. I'm now addicted to extravagance in salt and since reading their site I can understand why it is so much more healthy than the industrially produced stuff. Just what I need to help my inner foodie triumph over the budget conscious cheap-skate every time!


  1. Wow--very cool on the salt. I don't tend to think too much about salt, or to add it myself, but I'd love to see what the difference is when one uses something like this over the regular variety. The inner Foodie has to win sometimes.

  2. I've been loving salt from the Camargue region, not far from us.

  3. Oh lucky you! I have a salt fetish, but don't often give into it. You've done it though...perhaps I will have to splurge a little on some this weekend :)

  4. Madura is biggest production salt in my country. See this article

  5. I love your salt! I must say nothing will do in my home unless its the beautiful big crystals from Maldon! Even young son thinks that it is cool salt.... this after I found him emptying my large box of Maldon Sea Salt all over the largest slug EVER!! (my all time favourite is the small very decadent roll of butter with sea salt crystals in it!)

  6. Wish you had been here when we did our salt tasting:

    I was also amazed at how much of a difference you could actually taste between the different types. Don't think I've had the Khoisan stuff, but I do love my little jar of Cape Herb & Spice Company fleur de sel with its adocable little woode spoon. And their wasabi-flavour fleur de sel os outstanding on hard boiled eggs :)


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!