By Lloyd Graff
Salt is the ultimate commodity. Buy a canister of Morton’s off the very bottom shelf at the supermarket for a buck and a quarter and use it for six months, then buy another.
But for a seasoned cook, salt has a flavor that varies with the coarseness of the granule and where it comes from. Sea salt tastes different than mined salt, and rough kosher salt makes better brine than the fine stuff. When I think of salt I envision Tony Maglica, the man behind Mag Instrument, the greatest machining success story of the last 30 years. Tony grew up poor as dirt on a tiny island in the Adriatic. He and his mother survived on the pittance they gleaned by collecting sea salt during and after World War II. For Tony, salt afforded life—if just barely.
Nowadays, when I visit my daughter Sarah in Palo Alto, California, I always check out the Saturday morning farmers’ market. One of the newer sellers is a company called Spice Hound. They sell several different types of salt. I own a Bounds salt grinder and I was looking for the chance to buy something more interesting than Morton’s generic, but I didn’t know what I wanted.
The Spice Hound had 50 different containers of condiments. I certainly didn’t need to buy salt, but I saw a vial of tiny pink rocks labeled “Bolivian Salt.” The Bolivian thing, plus the quartzy pink cast of the crystals pulled me in. I asked the owner of the kiosk business to tell me her story and the story of the Bolivian salt.
As I tasted the salt, I imagined Paul Newman and Robert Redford in Bolivia in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I thought of Tony Maglica harvesting salt. I thought of this young Asian girl, Tammy starting a spice business in the pit of a recession. The salt was no longer just salt. It was a sensual, exotic, fresh must-have with an interesting story for only $7.00. I bought it and every time I grind salt for my tomatoes or omelets I think—wow this Bolivian salt is such a delicious luxury.
The task we all face as sellers of products that masquerade as generic commodities, is to give them a living story that sticks. Bolivan salt—pink as the Andes Mountains. Is it really different than Andy’s Machined Products from burned-out Detroit. Maybe the story is about a job for an ex-offender in St. Louis or a chance for a blind machinist in Seattle. We all have a story to tell—if we are worth our salt.
Question: Would you consider buying Bolivian Salt?