In the rush to make all of our food local, there are some staple ingredients, vital to nearly everything we cook, whose origins we may be less aware of. One of those? Salt. Yes, now Hawaiian pink salts are hip, and the famed French Fleur De Sel. But, at one point, a lot of the salt Americans used had its start in one corner of the South: the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia.
Salt-making in this part of West Virginia goes back to the 1700s, but the salt, itself, goes back even further than that, to an ancient, prehistoric ocean. It’s a history that also includes slave labor and the kind of environmental destruction associated with other industries that rely upon natural resources. In today’s episode of Gravy, Caleb Johnson and Irina Zhorov have the story of one seventh generation salt-making family that’s reckoning with both the darkness and the bright spots of that history, and seeking to find a way forward for a future of West Virginia salt.