Last Tequila Standing: Sal del Mar

Sal Del Mar

IT ALL STARTED WITH ……A GRAIN OF SALT.

sal del mar, last tequila standingAfter I left my job as editor of a home and garden magazine a few years ago, I met a great guy, fell in love, got married and moved to Mexico.  I soon realized I had actually moved to “paradise,” a small beach town on the Sea of Cortez called San Carlos.  I loved the new lifestyle, but it wasn’t long before my creative need to find a new venture began to surface.

I am a “foodie,” even though I am not a great cook. But I love the whole process of choosing a menu, shopping for the ingredients and then spending time preparing a meal with my husband who IS a great cook (yes, he is perfect!)

We discovered that to cook in Mexico you need to give up the idea of finding the same ingredients that you are used to cooking with in the States.  Everything is different.  No long store aisles with endless assortments of salad oils, vinegars, canned tomatoes, cake mixes or even ordinary spices to choose from.
sal del mar, last tequila standing

The salt we bought wasn’t in a pretty round box with a spout to pour it from, but in plastic bags. It was surprising to find it much coarser and more moist than we were used to having.

We loved it immediately.  It had an intense, rustic flavor that was crisp while not sharp and what we really liked was how it enhanced the flavor of our food without disguising the fundamental flavors.  It also only took a pinch to season a dish.

I wanted to know everything about this salt and so began an adventure traveling further south in Mexico along the Sea of Cortez and seeing for myself where the salt was “made.”

sal del mar, last tequila standingThe first thing I learned was how the salt is harvested. Based on ancestral traditions using controlled salt ponds, the Sea of Cortez is allowed to flood huge, flat, shallow beds and then a dam is used to trap the water. The water then naturally evaporates as it is dried by the sun, leaving a layer of salt that is then harvested by hand. As I researched salt more I realized that this was a very special salt.

And so, Sal del Mar was about to be born.  Looking back, it seems that it was meant to be, because near where Sal del Mar is harvested is a small Spanish Colonial village called Alamos.  I was enthralled the first time I saw it. To experience it is as if time stopped there. There are cobble-stone streets, cowboys riding on horseback through the village, and best of all women who sit on street corners embroidering dresses, napkins and bookmarks to sell.  It was as if a light bulb went off.  I have always loved embroidery as an art form and I realized I could have the salt I love “packaged” in hand-embroidered bags.

Soon after the “light bulb,” the most important part of the Sal del Mar story for me came when I was introduced to the women of Sabinito, a small village about 20 miles (and a world away) from Alamos.

sal del mar, last tequila standing

Embroidery is a natural art form for the women of Sabinito, a village in Sonora, Mexico. More often than not, after their daily chores of taking care of the children, cooking and cleaning, they can be found sitting with their hoops and needles embroidering flowers and fanciful creatures.

Recognizing the women’s artistic talent, Sal del Mar created an opportunity to empower the women of Sabinito by having them embroider the bags to package the salt. The partnership with the village women enables them to stay at home and care for their children but still be able to earn money to benefit their families. The underlying belief behind Sal del Mar is that helping each other helps make ours a better world.

The hand embroidered bags are made of natural muslin.  There are over eight current designs…some with whimsical fish, waves and palm trees and others with mermaids (some with Santa hats), hearts and graphics depicting margaritas and giant fish.
And what makes all of them such a keepsake is that the women embroiderers add personal artistic embellishments, giving each bag its own charm.  See the designs in our Shop.

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