the food museum

exploring and celebrating food

Food Marketing: France

Poilâne: The Legendary French Bakery

France: Salt in the Guerande



You can't eat the bright white light out in the Marais Salants, the salt marshes of the Guerande-- from the Breton Gwen Ran, or "white land"---though maybe it's bottled up in the flashing bubbles of the champagne you drink as you sniff the salty sea essence of the local oysters, before slliding them down the throat. The houses here are white or pastel, the sun bounces off the flats with a not unpleasant glare, and even the salt workers themselves, traditionally at least, wear white breeches.

Salt is not just a happy condiment, it is an essential life ingredient, and the primary means of preserving both food and drink before refrigeration. To the Romans it was one more good reason to invade Gaul. In the sixteenth century the insidious salt tax extended to the western parts of France, causing active revolts. According to French food historian Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, the rabble of Bordeaux evidently grabbed the bureaucrat who administered the tax, cut him up, and salted his parts, much as they would have ministered to a fattened pig. And by the time of the Revolution, the then centuries-old salt tax, mixed with famine after a poor grain harvest, was a further incitement to overthrow the aristocracy, who, naturally paid no salt tax. 

Salt, too, we discovered not only has color---gray salt is the most reminiscent of the sea---but also perfume. Experts can apparently sniff out the difference among salt from mines, salt of the sea, sea salt skimmed first from the surface of the flats, and salt from below, slow to appear after evaporation. My nose for salt was sadly undeveloped, though a faintly brackish, slightly geranium-leaved aromatic scent did begin to take vague olfactory shape.

---Excerpt from Gastronomie: Food Museums and Heritage Sites of France, by Meredith Sayles Hughes, and Tom Hughes

A remarkable union of three separate salt-related institutions comprises what we call a salt museum, perhaps the finest in the world.

Terre de Sel, or The World of Salt, in the town of Pradel

Musee des Marais Salants, Batz sur Mer

Maison des Paludiers, Saille