Ruth Mossok Johnston’s current focus? Salt. Yes, salt, and she’s making a lot of it with her company, Lot’s Wyfe, which she sells at farmers markets in Troy, Royal Oak, Birmingham, and Howell.
“No one else who makes salt seems to get the flavoring like I can,” she said.
There are a lot of flavors to pick from. She’s currently at 20, including her garlic turmeric. She said that one is a rock star.
Other popular flavors include alder smoke, which tastes like bacon, though there's no meat; a charred onion; and multiple lavender flavors. Her background as a chef and cookbook author – where she focuses on flavor profiles – help her come up with unique flavors.
No matter how much you ask, though, she won’t give away her secret recipe – she won’t tell her own children either, unless they come into business with her.
She’ll gladly tell you how Lot's Wyfe started, though.
Johnston – who is the author of nine national cookbooks – was working on a cookbook for the American Heart Association focused on low-salt recipes. She said they were trying to eliminate salt but wanted the recipes to still taste delicious.
So, many years later, that cookbook inspired the idea for Lot’s Wyfe, which she’s been doing the last four years.
“The reality is, we all need salt, you need salt to live...but you need the right sodium and you don’t need vast amounts of it,” she said. “The salt that I’m selling is so flavorful that you need very, very little, and part of that stems from Feed Me Heartfully.”
Feed Me Heartfully, the LLC Johnston owns, is her website and food blog that started as a place to post heart-healthy recipes and other articles while dealing with her husband’s health issues. The website now also features some of her cookbooks, “The Art of Cooking Morels” and “The Buffalo Cookbook: The Low Fat Solution to Eating Red Meat.”
Speaking of cookbooks, Johnston is currently working on a children’s book that will be food-related. It will have fun, healthy recipes for kids as well as a greater educational component.
Getting kids interested in food from a young age is essential. Luckily for Johnston, who grew up in Detroit, her dad owned a potato chip company. She was interested in food from a young age and her parents took notice.
“In 1963, my parents gave me my first Julia Child cookbook, which was probably the smartest thing they ever did,” she said.
Over the years her cooking style and careers have changed. Johnston even took classes with Julia Child, who would become a friend. She taught at the culinary center in Macomb, co-owned a pre-school and kindergarten in Birmingham, has written for a variety of publications, and ran multiple kitchens for Hiller’s Market.
Right now though, she’s a one-man band with Lot’s Wyfe, and in the midst of figuring out how big she wants to get. Eventually, she could see herself adding people to her team, like her kids, who had quite the reaction when she told them this was her next career move.
They asked, why not just retire?
“I said to my kids, did you ever stop to think I’m having a blast doing this?” she said. “It’s creative and it’s fun. I love my customers. I’m having so much fun with this.”
Photo: Laurie Tennent