Jul 25, 2017

Purity of the Sea / A Visit to Eggemoggin Reach

"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day." - E.B. White

Mark knows that whenever we plan to go anywhere that inevitably it'll be spice related. Fortunately (or unfortunately for him) there aren't many places on the planet that don't grow or celebrate a spice, and if there isn't a spice then there's a salt. Thankfully, our world is rich with aromatic plants and intriguing place-based salts so even if soylent shakes are the future, you can be sure they'll be well spiced. But it's also why E.B. White's statement about torn desires is very true to my heart. I'm not just hunting treasure when I travel but looking for ways through which spices can teach me about improving the world.

Earlier this July Mark and I planned a short camping trip. Since I put myself in charge of finding a campground, it "just so happened" that I found a place only a few miles from one of our salt producers, Eggemoggin Salt works. The Eggemoggin Reach* is a section of the Penobscot Bay that lies between the Blue Hill Peninsula and the Deer Isles (Little Deer and Deer Isle) just south of Mt. Desert Island.

The salt works is located on the homestead of the Frifield family, Debbie and her son Travis. Just in from the coast, the landscape was completely swathed in fog when we drove out to visit. Stopping by a small beach we watched moored sailboats bob in the water, seaweed swirling green in the waves.

After traditional introductions in the driveway Debbie began to show us around the property. "There's not much to see!" she told us, and I assured her we didn't mind and were just glad to be there. We learned that both mother and son work in the local seafood industry and that the salt business keeps them busy throughout the year with a supplemental income. I reflected that this is the way a lot of spices are produced in what are considered large spice production areas - that is, a farmer will make his or her main livelihood from a crop such as rice, and supplement their income with what they can grown on their property, for example with ginger, nutmeg or vanilla.

they also raise pigs!
But it wasn't just the idea of making some extra money that drew Travis, Debbie's son, back home after working out of state. He told us how it was the community and farm-to-table way of life that in fact drew him "away from the corporate world," driven by a desire to give back to the place where he grew up.

The cool thing about sea salt is that it captures that 'sense of place' the same way oysters do. Sea salt varies greatly from place to place, taking on different flavor profiles, yielding different textures and crystals. The method Debbie and Travis use to make their salt is to first collect it in buckets from the reach, then boil the water in pots over a gas flame, slowly evaporating the water until just a slurry remains. It's then finished in the oven as the final drying stage. They then send orders out all over New England, as well as across the country. "I've always got a stack of orders!" Debbie told us. The sea salt has a lovely soft moisture, like Fleur de Sel, with a variety of fragile crystal sizes that make it a beautiful finishing salt.

Keeping the ocean water clean from pollutants and trash so that we can have nice sea salt is just one motivation for protecting our oceans. While sea salt can't be certified organic, it can be measured for its purity, and many sea salts around the world have been found to contain a large percentage of micro-plastics, those pesky hard-to-see granules that never biodegrade. While they won't kill us (at least, immediately), they definitely disrupt the marine ecosystem, so it's wise to be aware of the issue and make sure you aren't using products, like a face scrub, that contain them. Sadly, just washing your face might mean that you're polluting the ocean. Check this list to see if you're using a micro-bead product here in the U.S. 

Thankfully, the water at Eggemoggin reach is pure (and actively being protected by the EPA's Clean Water Act) and therefore the sea salt is too. Let's keep it that way, and inspire a future of clean oceans and good crunchy salt.

*"Eggemoggin" translates to "fish weir place" from  Abenaki, the native tribe; a weir is a type of trap placed in the water to catch fish. "Reach" is a sailing term that means to sail perpendicular to the wind.

Smog of the Sea
My brother Ian made a film about microplastics with music by Jack Johnson (an avid ocean conservationist.) Check out the trailer here and click the ACTION link to see how you can get involved with this issue.

UK Bans Micro-beads
Check out this recent news from the UK on banning micro-beads!

Try Eggemoggin Salt from Curio!
We sell pure Eggemoggin Reach salt as well as a unique Madagascar Vanilla salt 

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