Adriana Almazan Lahn’s grandmother was a purist; she always got to el molido (the mill) at 7 am, just when it opened, so that her ingredients could be milled first, before those of her neighbors, keeping her flavors pure. Which may explain why Adriana’s love for great food and flavors has come into fruition in the form what is the purest and most basic of ingredients, sea salt, to which Adriana creatively and selectively adds flavors. Going well beyond the traditional garlic salt, Sal de Vida offers:
The Aztecs and Salt- Huixtocihuatl (pronounced we-sto-key-WAH-tl) is the Aztec Goddess of salt and salt water. She is the older sister of the rain gods, the Tlaloques, who were responsible for releasing the rains. The myth is that, in an argument, they drove off their sister Huixtocihuatl and threw all of their salt water at her, giving her reign over it forever. She is usually depicted wearing a skirt adorned with waves and jadeite, with golden bells around her ankles. She carries a special shield with a picture of a waterlily and decorated with parrot, eagle, and quetzal feathers.
Salt and Ritual– as is the case in many cultures, Mexicans have various beliefs and rituals around the use of salt. Many Mexicans start their meal with “una cruz de sal“, that is, by making a cross with a pinch of salt between their fingers over the food as a way of blessing it; and some end their meals, similarly, putting a pinch of salt on their closed fist, and licking it; the belief is that this assures easy digestion. Mexicans never throw salt away; let’s say you’ve poured a bit more salt into you hand than the recipe calls for, it would be considered back luck to throw it away, it has to be used or returned to the storage vessel. If you spill salt on the floor in Mexico, you mustn’t sweep it up, but rather wash it away with water, returning it, at least symbolically, to the sea from which it came.
There are more than 30 references to salt in the Bible, including in Exodus, Ezekiel, and Kings, where salt is present as a purifying agent and in Leviticus, Numbers, and Chronicles, where it is a sign of God’s covenant. Even in pre-Biblical times salt was important as a preservative and in the Rabbinic literature of the period salt was a metaphor for wisdom (Wiki). Salt was also of crucial importance economically. A far-flung trade in ancient Greece involving exchange of salt for slaves gave rise to the expression, “not worth his salt.” Special salt rations given early Roman soldiers were known as “salarium argentum,” the forerunner of the English word “salary.” (Wiki).
Sources of Salt– there are two principal sources for salt: sea water and rock salt, which occurs in vast beds, sediment which is the result of evaporated minerals from dried up ancient seas, lakes and rivers. Salt beds may be up to 350 m thick. Sal de Vida uses only Giusto’s Natural Sea Salt, harvested from the San Francisco Bay. This extraordinary product is extracted from the only living sea salt bed in North America and is 100% pure – there are no flowing agents, added minerals or anti-caking agents.
Sal de Vida– when Adriana Almazan first arrived in Los Angeles from Mexico at the age of 24, she was immediately fascinated by the culinary traditions of the multitude of cultures that make up the LA population, a world of flavors and ingredients well beyond those used in her grandmother’s kitchen. Adriana began to experiment with ingredients, finally able to work where she had always wanted to, in the kitchen. Adriana grew up in the state of Mexico and, although she loved to watch her grandmother cook, as a child; even as a young woman, was not allowed to participate in preparing the family meals, much less go to cooking school, which was her secret dream. Adriana tells the story of her brother’s wedding, where the chef, much to her delight, invited her into the kitchen to help and watch him prepare her brother’s wedding meal. But, Adrian’s strict father wouldn’t permit it, and left her with a longing that would follow her for life. From that moment, “I knew that my place.. my heart’s desire… was the kitchen”.
After attending numerous cooking classes (even at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris) she began making seasonings and flavored salts for her friends and family. Still, Adriana was far from realizing her dream of making the kitchen the center of her life and livelihood.
It was with the help and nuturing provided by La Cocina that Adriana began to see that possibilites for Sal de Vida as a brand and a business. “The mission of La Cocina is to cultivate low-income food entrepreneurs as they formalize and grow their businesses by providing affordable commercial kitchen space, industry-specific technical assistance and access to market and capital opportunities. [They] focus primarily on women from communities of color and immigrant communities. Now, Adriana is the owner of Sal de Vida Gourmet, showed her wares at the Fancy Food Show in January at the Moscone (which boasts over 17,000 attendees!) and you’ll frequently find her at La Cocina’s Kiosk at the Ferry Building (follow Sal de Vida on FB for scheduled appearances).