I admit I have a problem. Maybe I am a little too attached to the stuff. It just makes life so much more palatable. It’s cheap. It doesn’t interfere with my work or school, but I do feel pretty miserable without it. The thought of snowy heaps of white crystals makes my mouth water. I even carried some all the way around Europe and back, really good stuff. But the bad rap of this rock is mostly hype, I’m telling you.
I know what you are thinking. The food columnist has gone ’round the bend, and is revealing something she ought not. But I just can’t live in denial any longer. So stand if you are one of us. Stand up, chocolate-covered pretzel fiends. Potato-chip junkies and French fry devotees, make your voices heard. I like salt and I’m not sorry about it.
History is on my side, people. Wars have been fought over this mineral, and it was valued enough to have been used as money, according to Cargill Salt. Cargill’s Web site contains a compendium of historical facts about salt and its many uses in all civilizations. For example, salt was the first preserving agent for meat and fish, and our ancestors relied on being able to store salted food to survive barren winters.
Modern edibles benefit from just a whiff of salt as well. The pretzel was clearly invented as a vehicle for salt, and who ever heard of a ripe tomato or chilled cucumber that didn’t just cry out for the white stuff?
Salt and savory foods are made for each other. When chefs say “season it” what they mean is “SALT IT.” I come from a long line of sodium fiends who could carry on a dinner conversation, looking you in the eye, and all the while just salting away. Why deny it?
What shocks even salt-heads is that salt is good on sweets, too. Just a dash added to chocolate makes the sweet and bitter flavors sparkle. It’s a good thing to shake a little onto watermelon, or even a bit in rich drinking chocolate. Mark Kurlansky, in his book “Salt: A World History,” notes that the Aztecs drank thick chocolate laced with salt and a little chili pepper as a restorative and aphrodisiac. Take that, you grainy Swiss Miss.
Still we hear that too much salt is bad for you. Well, too much anything is bad for you. Eat nothing but much-touted healthful vegetables and you will turn vegetable colors. If you are over 45 and have hypertension (high blood pressure), doctors might tell you to cut down the sodium in your diet. Me, I’m shaking away until my doc tells me to quit it or else.
Even our human blood has about the same salinity as seawater. We were born needing salt to sustain our lives. Sodium chloride allows muscles to contract, digestion to occur, and wounds to heal. You have about eight ounces of dissolved salt in your body right now, according to www.saltinfo.com. Many religious rites use salt as a purifying agent or to ward off evil spirits. Nothing about evil spirits could be as tasty as a judiciously salted dark-chocolate brownie, though.
I’ve got nature, the body, economics and religion all on my salty side. So if anyone else is standing up, clutching a bag of deliciously saline snacks, I’m here for you. Don’t be ashamed of your love of this pure white crystal. It’s natural. For the rest of you salt-haters out there, you can take your Mrs. Dash and … well, that’s your problem. The rest of us will be in the kitchen, seasoning our mashed potatoes and living happily ever after.
Felicia D’Ambrosio can be reached at Caspian@temple.edu.