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Salt and sex puts local writer in national anthology

Science writer Amy Loeffler of Fairbanks prepares fruit and chocolate for salt tasting.
Science writer Amy Loeffler of Fairbanks prepares fruit and chocolate for salt tasting.

An article by Fairbanks writer Amy Loeffler is featured in the prestigious national anthology Best American Food Writing, released next week.

“Human beings have really, evolved to have this mineral be a very fundamental part of our body chemistry and we literally would die without salt.”

Amy Loeffler is a science writer. Her story chosen for the 2023 edition of Best American Food Writing is about salt and has some very scientific aspects regarding sex and love throughout human history.

“We typically do associate love and sex and everything that has to do with romance as being sweet. And doing research, I found some scholarship --You're really talking about the nitty gritty of sex and love-making, you're talking about a lot of things that are made with salt and are salt-inspired.”

To explain a little of the effects of salt on the human brain, she spread out a sampler of foods and salts, and had a tasting.

“So, what happens when you put salt on fruit? In tropical countries, where there's a lot of fruit,  people tend to salt their fruit because sodium ions interact with your tongue to tamp down bitterness. They neutralize the taste buds that receive bitterness and the fruit actually tastes sweeter when you salt it.”

Loeffler met a chef who was drying out water from the Atlantic Ocean to make her own sea salt. She inspired Loeffler to research the different types and tastes of salt.

“This salt is from Appalachia from an ancient underground ocean... has a brightness to it that sea salt does not. It should taste... People say that salt makes chocolate taste more chocolaty. Because it's the ions of the sodium are tamping down those taste buds that receive bitterness.”

Soon Loeffler was writing about salt, and attracting the attention of chefs and foodies like former New York Times food editor Mark Bittman, who edited the articles in this year’s edition of Best American Food Writing. She says salt is a mundane mineral, but we can’t live without it. It is also a cosmic element and is found in space and star matter.

“I went down this huge rabbit hole learning about salt, how has salt figured into human history and it really has been, a prime ingredient in human culture and existence, including sex.”

Not to give any spoilers here… the book comes out on October 17… but Loeffler’s article has already been published last year in Whetstone magazine. It was accompanied by some very … savory photographs.

Best American Food Writing 2023 is available from Harper Collins.

Robyne began her career in public media news at KUAC, coiling cables in the TV studio and loading reel-to-reel tape machines for the radio station.