Inspired by Salt

Netflix with me: Restaurants on the Edge

In my previous entry, I wrote about how much I love baking shows. I also love cooking shows. This show seems similar to Kitchen Nightmares, but in this case the restaurants needing new life are in exotic locales.

Late the other night, I wanted to watch something relaxing, but for once I didn't feel like a baking show. I made a good choice: not only was this an enjoyable watch combining my love of food with my love of travel, it reminded me of a key inspiration for a novel I started at the end of last year that I haven't been able to pick back up lately.

That inspiration is—quite simply—salt.

I know, salt seems like a strange spark for creative inspiration. But as I said in my previous post, inspiration can be anywhere. And it is! Inspiration is everywhere.

So, salt.

A Story About Salt

The first episode of Restaurants on the Edge features a failing restaurant in the country of Malta. The chef from the team tasked with saving the restaurant toured the area to find flavor inspirations from Malta's local culture. He visited an island just off Malta called Gozo to watch the locals harvest sea salt. If you're not familiar with the process, it's surprisingly simple and yet so labor-intensive. The water floods small ponds (either man-made or natural) and evaporates, leaving the salt behind to be swept up and collected.

It reminded me (quite joyfully) of my past travels. I incorporate my favorite parts of my life experiences into my writing sometimes—the sights, the terrain, the sounds, the foods, the culture—so I'm quite lucky to be from New Orleans. There's a plethora of culture for me to mine right here at home. But I'm also blessed that I had the opportunity to study abroad during graduate school.

While on a bus heading to a party at a Basque bull ranch in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, France (sometimes I read myself writing about my life and wonder at the strange, cool, unexpected things I've done), we passed by the medieval walled city of Aigues-Mortes. One of my great disappointments is that I didn't get a chance to stop and visit, merely see it passing by through my window.

However, what I saw through the window stuck with me, something I knew that one day I would put into a story. I saw water, beautiful wide expanses of water outside of the city walls, and the water was rose and lavender.

The lavender and rose color is from various micro-organisms beneficial to salt production...and it's beautiful. You can also see the big mounds of gathered salt like miniature, sparkling white mountains rising from the water. They're called "camelles."

These pictures aren't good AT ALL—I was taking them from inside a moving bus and at the time my camera wasn't great, so the vivid colors were washed out.

But despite the poor quality of my photos, I think this is good enough to give you a taste—you can imagine (or Google) the stunning view.

I had never, before this, thought about salt production at all. But afterward, it lingered with me, the pastel flower hues of the water and the pure white salt mounds, like something out of a fantasy story.

So that's why I'm working on a novel called Salt right now. If it seems like it came out of a fantasy story, why not make it come out of a fantasy story?

Where the verdant land met the green-glass sea nestled a small village famous for its salt. This salt gave the town its name—Brine. Your first impression of Brine might be of improbable color, your eyes drawn to sparkling salt crystals limning the lavender-and-rose salt pools and the sweeping expanse of a living blue sky.

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