A Salty Rant

Calvin and I like to watch Chopped on the Food Network sometimes. The other night, and one other time that we have seen, the judges have had a problem with the contestants’ use of salt. Or rather, underuse of it. Hmmm, in my house, when something isn’t salty enough, you add a little salt at the table. Am I naïve and uninformed? Should food be magically salty enough for everyone, without being too salty?

I don’t like my food as salty as some people, and I know there are people who like things even less salty than I do. And, of course, there are people who prefer their food saltier. How do the judges expect the salt level to appeal to everyone? I know that there are some dishes that cry for salt, like potatoes of any kind. And there are some dishes that are less than tasty if you forget the salt. But some foods are just fine without added salt, and some are better without it. Am I wrong if I like my food less salty than someone else?

On the show we just watched, one judge mentioned umpteen times that the contestant didn’t salt his pasta water. I never salt my pasta water. A lot of people I know do not salt their pasta water. Are we all wrong? Methinks it is time for a side-by-side pasta taste test.

To clarify, I am talking solely about taste, not health. Using way too much salt, especially on cooking shows, makes me think the cook isn’t taking the time to think of how to build layers of flavor; but is instead using the salt as a crutch. I prefer not to have my taste buds assaulted (I couldn’t resist) by large amounts of salt.

Let’s get a salty debate going and see where it leads. Do you salt your pasta water? Do you rate a dish as substandard if you have to add salt at the table?

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5 thoughts on “A Salty Rant

  1. Sarah, I cook everything without salt. Salt shaker is on the table for some of those dishes that do need a little bit. My mother did the same thing so I grew up without all that salt in food. Our family doctor (60 some odd years ago) said already at that time that salt should cost a gold bar per 100 gram. The man was way ahead of his time.

  2. Sarah, we cook with very little salt. The only times I am sure to use salt is in yeast dough, eggs (helps coagulate the protein), and on popcorn. We do like a few grains of ‘exotic’ salts as a finish on some things, but I bought an ounce of Himalayan pink salt about 2 years ago, and I bet we’ve used less than a quarter ounce. Same with Sel Gris and black salt from Hawaii.

    Once upon a time, a lady at work asked me how many POUNDS of salt I used in a WEEK. Her kids all had high blood pressure in high school……

  3. I like my food fairly salty and so I cook that way. I do often, but not always, salt my pasta water–it depends if I want the pasta itself to have a salty flavor. I agree, though, that it’s completely a matter of taste. I guess I’m lucky because I can always add salt, while people who prefer their food less salty might find it harder to modify an over-salted dish!

  4. Hiya, Sarah…I’ll add my thoughts, and a personal experience. Firstly, having been raised by an Italian father, and a Sicilian mother, I’ve been both cooking, and eating various forms of pasta products my entire life, and I’m getting close to 60. I was taught, from earliest memory, to liberally salt the water in which the pasta was to be cooked, a LOT of salt, way more than most “Americans” were taught to . My mother’s mom used to say it should ‘smell like the sea!” A handful was what she’d use, coarse salt, just as the water was coming to a boil, so it would dissolve rapidly. Grandma was tiny, with very small hands, so figure a couple of tablespoons, for measure. Since any pasta product is made only from water and flour, it has virtually no flavor, other than the small amount of salt it absorbs during the cooking process.

    Now, for my experience, with unsalted pasta…The bakery/cafe I was employed by, a couple of years ago, always offered a ‘pasta salad’ they referred to as “Southwestern”, primarily, I suppose, because part of the dressing consisted of jarred commercial salsa, along with sour cream, and some other seasonings, and a bit of sea salt. I had to make this up, nearly every other day, in rather large amounts, it being a popular dish. When I was being taught how to prepare it, I was given very firm instructions to NOT add salt, to the pasta when cooking it. When I questioned my fellow employee, she stated that it made the salad ‘too salty’…so, I didn’t add salt, as requested. We of course, taste-tested any type of potato salad, the pasta salad, and even the (bleaghh!) ‘congealed fruit salads’ we hand prepared, to ensure that flavors remained consistent for our customers. Not being a fan of any cold pasta salads, I took a spoonful, specifically to taste the pasta…which tasted like flour and water paste, which of course is what the word pasta means…lol…but, the type of paste we used to use on our papier-mache projects in 2nd grade.

    Of course, the bakery, and its customers, also had an overwhelming sweet tooth…Many of the most popular items we prepared were way over the top too sweet for me! Gacky, make you choke sweet!

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