When Salt Goes Viral
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because part of you wonders, all the time, if there’s another kind of life.
The term “Renaissance man” is thrown around frequently. But who actually qualifies? If you go by the dictionary, it’s a person who has “wide interests” and is “expert” in more than one area. Good start. Moving on to Encyclopaedia Britannica, we learn that a Renaissance man is the philosophical concept of an uomo universale, or universal man. Developed in the 15th century, the concept is an ideal — someone who reflects that man is “limitless in his capacities for development.”
Say hello to Angelo Garro.
To most people who have tasted his pig or drunk his wine, Garro may seem like the Renaissance man that Merriam-Webster or Britannica is defining. A transplanted Sicilian in San Francisco, he lives in a forge — complete with a fig tree growing through the roof — and can often be found sculpting metal, goggles on and sparks flying. In his spare time, he hunts boars and makes sausage and prosciutto. He also makes his own wine, pasta, grappa and balsamic vinegar. Garro, the boar hunter described in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, is a well-known figure in the Bay Area, and can occasionally be spotted in parking lots or along the side of the road foraging for wild fennel.
In the past year, Garro has achieved some national renown, too, in the form of his Omnivore salt blend. Once a treat reserved for friends and family, his sea salt, black pepper, dried fennel and red pepper mixture has gone viral. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign (featuring a short film, below, made by friend Werner Herzog), Garro began selling his signature blend to some 350 stores across the country, including Whole Foods and butcher shops.
The advice that Garro’s Sicilian grandmother gave him upon leaving Italy is the secret behind his salt, he says. She too used a similar salt blend to season everything from fish, poultry and meat to vegetables and salads. You can make anything taste good, she said. “That stuck in my head,” Garro says. “Life is going so fast. We’re working like busy bees. But it’s not that big — we still do small batches, around 6,000 bags of salt every couple of months. It’s not like we’re some production line.”
Even so, one does wonder if all the salt leaves time for everything else. Garro has also thought of this, and hopes that once his new business stabilizes, he’ll be able to spend more time on other things, such as sculpture, cooking and friends. That said, Garro has continued to find time for new adventures, including auditioning for a part — the role of a Sicilian mobster — in a Hollywood movie. “It’s as crazy as America can be,” he says, summing it all up.