Recently I was loitering in the packaged fish section of the gourmet supermarket near my home, Fairway, when I encountered something called “Smoked Spiritual Salmon.” I rolled my eyes. There are a lot of calcified hippies living in my neighborhood, so I thought I’d seen it all, but not this. Nevertheless, I needed to know what made this smoked salmon “spiritual”: suppose it had healing properties?
I looked at the package label. It read:
“Made in Mamaroneck, New York.”
Ha-ha, the “affluent” suburbs. Westchester County is so rich that I once read it has one of the highest per-capita incomes in the country. That’s where Hillary and Bill reside.
Not exactly Lourdes.
I asked a couple of employees if they knew anything about the “spiritual salmon,” but none of them had a clue. Finally, I was told to ask at the smoked fish counter. I put the question to a clerk, who referred it to his manager. Then the clerk told me:
“There is just a type of fish called “Spiritual Salmon.”
So I replied:
“Well, I understand that, but I still need to know what it is it about this fish that makes it “spiritual??”
(I imagined the salmon sitting in a lotus position, meditating. Or wrapped in a tallis, davening.)
But it was hopeless. It dawned on me that the foreign-born clerk didn’t even know the meaning of the word “spiritual.”
Anyway, this dialogue was repeated a number of times like something out of a comedy routine. Finally, I was made to understand that “Spiritual Salmon” is just the generic name of a variety of salmon.
I didn’t like the clerk’s attitude, so I told him in a loud voice:
“I was only asking about this for health reasons. My husband has cancer.”
The clerk didn’t seem at all penitent, but the line in front of me miraculously dissolved. (“Cancer Card” works like a charm, doesn’t it?)
As soon as I got home I googled “spiritual salmon” and I found an article telling me that the Native Americans considered salmon to be the holiest food of all. The only other information I came across was at recalls.org. It said that the “Spiritual Salmon” made by this company had been recalled because it contained a serious toxin.
Later on, I told dear husband about my frustration at the market. All he said was:
“As usual, you’re being too hard on yourself. You’re not expected to know everything about smoked fish. After all, you’re not a “loxsmith.”
Perhaps we should start a congregation, or at least a club. I did the exact same double take at a Fairway (Red Hook section of Brooklyn) yesterday, and wondered if it was a typo, or if I was going crazy. Unlike you, I didn’t bother to ask the store personnel, just assuming that they wouldn’t have a clue. (Besides, they were all too busy keeping track of more important things, such as whether I intended to eat the prepared food I was buying on their premises, or was planning to take it with me to eat later.) But I did buy a package of spiritual salmon, instead of the identical-looking and identically-priced King salmon and Irish salmon on either side, because I was determined to have a spiritual experience. (I knew you can get one by smoking any number of different plants, but never before did I hear of getting one by smoking FISH 🙂
Upon carefully reading the list of ingredients today, I saw that one of them is “tequila/vodka/bourbon/scotch.” A check of the company’s website shows that they make four varieties, NONE of which is called “spiritual” by themselves. However, one of them is called “Scottish,” and the first sentence in the product description is: “Our Scottish Smoked Salmon has been specially cured with Scotch creating a truly unique taste.” Thus I believe that the solution to our mystery is at hand. The people in charge of prodeuct labeling at Fairway decided to call it “spiritual salmon” because the curing ingredients include alcoholic spirits. Oh, well of course, so obvious…
Was wondering the same thing and just found this.
I’ve purchased the “Spiritual” Salmon in the past. I like the packaging, which keeps the slices relatively free of each other. I like the fact that there is no nitrates added. But I didn’t particularly care for the taste. The Irish Salmon, while bland, is perfectly acceptable.
Thanks, Harry, for solving the mystery — it’s salmon cured in spirits!