Salt of Earth, Crucible of Life

Just a pinch, and the primal sea surges, memories filling your mouth.

Weep, and you’ll know what fish first knew.

Bleed, and you’ll smell the earth.

Sweat, and you’ll sense ancient waters flowing.

Building block of blood, sweat, and tears.  Salt, not sugar, primeval taste.

Ancient, this elixir. The essence of legends, myths, stories. Pillars of salt, sign of souls gone astray. Salt of the earth, logo of virtue.

Sacred and pure, cleanser of souls and of pots, this simple, profound tool of your kitchen.

Cradle of life, impossible without salt.

The pith of salt … in brine.

The perfume of salt … in fermentation.

The marrow of salt … in baking.

Salt-Baked Fish
Serves 4

Olive oil, for baking pan
1 whole red snapper, 2 pounds, cleaned and scaled
Rosemary and thyme sprigs, lightly crushed coriander seeds, a couple of bay leaves
2 ½ pounds Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet big enough to hold the snapper. Rinse the snapper thoroughly, inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels. Stuff the cavity with the rosemary, thyme, coriander seeds, and bay leaves. On the baking sheet, spread about 1/2 pound of the salt in an even layer that is slightly longer and wider than the snapper. Place the fish on the salt layer and cover completely with the remaining salt. Bake until a instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the fish reads 130 degrees, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven. Brush away as much salt as possible. Using two large flat spoons, remove the top fillets and transfer to a warm plate. Lift off the bones, then transfer the bottom fillets to another plate. Serve immediately, with extra-virgin olive oil and lemon wedges passed on the side so each person can season his or her fish as desired.

The earth resides in the food we eat … and therefore in us.

© 2011 Cynthia Bertelsen


  1. Vicki, thank you for such kind words. Truth be told, I feel the same way about a lot of things I read written by others. A wise person once told me not look at others’ work and despair, because only you can give the world your story, your creativity, your view. Have a great day; it’s STILL snowing here. :-(


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