Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Salt cellars

I was reading a post on a random blog in which the author referred to salt cellars as being a "hip new trend." I find this at once hilarious and extremely nostalgic. My grandmother always had salt cellars on the table. Her family had emigrated to this country from Ireland in the 1890s and I think there was always a need to prove gentility. Cut-crystal salt cellars on the table were clearly a part of that effort.

What I liked best about her salt cellars (and they were scattered about the table so that no one had to ask to "pass the salt") was that they came with the cutest little pressed glass spoons for ladling out the salt. This obviously appealed to my miniature-tea-set, dollhouse mentality.

So, what's out there now, in this hip new trend? Well, mostly larger containers, often with lids, intended to be in the kitchen, not on the dining room table. Not a salt cellar as I understand it. (In a skim-search on the InterWebs, I discovered that what I'm calling salt cellars, collectors call "open salts.") But I pressed on and found a few things my grandmother might have deigned to have on her table.

This nesting hen salt cellar has been around forever. I found it a couple of years ago in the Walter Drake tchotchke catalog (only $9), but it's more likely these days to be found on Etsy or eBay.

Or, how about this little guy? $22 from Uncommon Goods.

And when you think about it, a salt cellar (OK, open salt) is no more than a little bowl. So create your own by looking for little sauce bowls in Asian markets. How about a set of fish bowls for $2 apiece from Pearl River Trading?
Then just look around for little spoons to go with. Maybe some old unused demitasse spoons (remember demitasse? very '50s) or look for wooden salt spoons. Just search on Amazon; a number of choices, though I'm kind of partial to these spoons made of palm wood.

*The salt cellar to beat all salt cellars was designed by 16th-century Florentine sculptor Benvenuto Cellini in the 1540s. La Saliera (as it is called) was commissioned by Francis I of Austria and is made of gold, enamel, and ivory. It was stolen from Vienna's art history museum in 2003 by a thief who, in classic Hollywood-plot style, was an alarms system engineer. He kept the piece under his bed for several years, then eventually demanded a $10 million ransom (the piece itself is valued at $50-60 million). He was finally undone by a text message he sent to the police.
So . . . . he was smart enough to dodge the alarm system in a museum, but not smart enough to know that cellphones can be traced. Ah well.

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