September 11, 2013

"A growing trend to leave salt off the table in restaurants should fill me with satisfaction."

"I have said for years that it doesn’t belong there. In a restaurant, the chef should determine the seasoning of the food, and you may judge the restaurant on the choices made. If you want to decide for yourself, eat at home. Salt no more belongs on a table than do cloves or cinnamon or, for that matter, pepper.

But Mark Kurlansky — author of the book "Salt: A World History" — is not happy about this trend.

38 comments:

jr565 said...

There is an urban legend about Thomas Edison:
"Thomas Edison was taking a gentleman to dinner after interviewing him for a position on his research team. The man salted his food before trying it and Edison told him he wouldn't hire anyone that would make such assumptions without first testing it." May not be a true story.



Isn't this though the reverse of that? The assumption that salt won't be needed, that the chef can automatically determine what the taster will prefer. Maybe, the chef cooked someting that needs more salt?

So, in keeping with Thomas Edison's argument, I wouldn't eat at a restaurant that made such assumptions without allowing me to test their conclusions.


MadisonMan said...

If I were to go to a restaurant for breakfast (eggs, over medium, with a side of bacon) and there was no salt on the table, I would never go back to that restaurant.

I would also testily ask the server why I should have to ask for something as simple as salt. I would ask a manager the same thing.

I also dislike having to ask for water.

I am your customer, restaurant-owner. Anticipate my needs. Do not make me ask.

Peter said...

Just a bad idea.

Since many diners are accustomed to lots of salt, a restaurant that wants to stay in business will just have to serve salty food.

Thereby chasing away all those who use little salt, and will be unable to taste anything but salt in heavily salted food.

The obvious solution is to serve lightly salted food, and let diners add more if they wish.

(And, really, if your priority is to protect the ego of your auteur chef instead of serving your customers, you probably won't be in business for long.)

Dr.D said...

I think that leaving salt off the table is a bad idea. If anything is a matter of taste, certainly the issue of how much, or how little, salt I want to use fits that category. I think many restaurants cook for the no-salt group, knowing that salt can be added at the table. If it is taken away, that is allowing one group to dictate to the other. Can we all say, "Michelle Obama"

RecChief said...

I disagree. Quite a few recipes state "season to taste". If the chef seasons the dish to his/her taste, it isn't to mine. personally, I like pepper on my fries, and they don't come that way, which is fine because not everyone likes them that way.

MAtter of personal choice, if they take it off the table, I will just ask for it. If they remove entirely from the restaurant, I will most likely stay away until a new establishment takes up residence in the failed establishment's digs a few weeks or months later.

pst314 said...

"If you want to decide for yourself, eat at home."

What an arrogant, silly twit.

Ann Althouse said...

Kurlansky fails to recognize the people have different taste sensitivity.

Should the chef determine the size of the print on the menu and forbid the use of reading glasses?

I, for one, have a diminished sense of taste, and if the chef used other flavorings to keep the food from being bland, it might not work on me. I might need to compensate with salt that he finds unnecessary.

n.n said...

Step away from the salt shaker.

CDC Admits There Is No Benefit In Reducing Salt

The best advice is to consume in moderation. Each individual has different nutrient requirements based on their individual circumstances, which vary throughout their life, throughout the year, etc. The human body is an adaptive system. Each individual needs to be attentive to their condition.

Johanna Lapp said...

The lengthy trough containing white, brown, pink, blue, yellow, green, orange and tan toxic sweetener packets leaves little room for salt and pepper shakers.

tam said...

One of my favorite TV scenes ever is from the BBC sitcom "Chef". In this episode, Chef hears that a customer has asked his waiter for salt. He berates him loudly and publicly. I'm smiling again even as I type this.

I won't spoil the ending, but watch the clip all the way through.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MixYRIUzVXs

tam said...

One of my favorite TV scenes ever is from the BBC sitcom "Chef". In this episode, Chef hears that a customer has asked his waiter for salt. He berates him loudly and publicly. I'm smiling again even as I type this.

I won't spoil the ending, but watch the clip all the way through.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MixYRIUzVXs

Sam L. said...

De gustibus est non disputandum, IIRC.

Hagar said...

"Salt" is a very interesting book, BTW.

And for Bloomberg et al., it is about control; not health.

jelink said...

This "salt discrimination" stuff is just plain silly, especially given this recent finding:


http://junkscience.com/2013/07/10/cdc-admits-long-standing-error-there-is-no-benefit-in-reducing-salt/

as for the chef's deciding how much to use, I'm reminded of Marge Simpson serving up some ham, and disclosing, "the secret ingredient is salt".

What if the chef uses too little salt --- is the customer supposed to get up from the table and leave w/o paying?

I agree: the Salt Nazi who wrote this piece is an arrogant, silly twit.

I'd be willing to bet that his book is quickly remaindered, pulped, and recycled into something useful --- like a Morton's Salt box.

MadisonMan said...

The idea that the Chef is infallible and you must eat what you order exactly as it is prepared and presented, un-adulterated, is, of course, utter nonsense.

bandmeeting said...

Himalayan sea salt. Yummm. There is a store in Portland (and NYC, they opened a shop there) called The Meadow. Great stuff. I think a 2# bag of Himalayan is all of $10. Get some.

Brian said...

It's fine, it just needs a footnote:

"In a restaurant [1], the chef should determine the seasoning of the food, and you may judge the restaurant on the choices made."

1. For certain values of "restaurant."

Mike said...

Except too many restaurants listened to whiny little bitches like Bloomberg (God it's nice that despite out-spending pro-gun pols 8-to-1 Mikey lost BIG in CO yesterday) and cut back on their salt use, leaving restaurant food bland and unworthy of paying for. Now we know that all the anti-salt hysteria was hooey. But keep your goddamn hands off my shaker!

prairie wind said...

Kurlansky fails to recognize the people have different taste sensitivity.

Not quite. Kurlansky fails to recognize that he could be wrong.

David said...

I have no taste whatever, I have been told. Salt does not seem to help.

traditionalguy said...

Hating table salt figures since humans are only salt water, chloesterol and a few minerals...and it's normally the humans that the puritanical leftists of the faked science cults want to see cleansed from the earth, or else!

traditionalguy said...

Cooking Oatmeal without salt should be seen as a waterboarding equivalent.

PH said...

To grossly abuse historical quotes: Give me salt or give me death.

Or perhaps more accurately: Give me salt which will lead to my death.

Sigivald said...

What an immense douchebag.

As if the chef can account for your taste in saltiness?

Lord Ben said...

Some things I prefer saltier than standard. If they make my chicken dumpling soup or prime rib as salty as I prefer it they'd be out of business. So I don't even bother to sample first, I just put some salt on and test it, if it's still not salty enough I add a bit more.

To my taste, trying a bit before adding salt is as worthless as sampling some raw beef before grilling it.

Letting the chef decide is as stupid as only having one variety of hot wing spiciness at a wing joint.

jeff said...

And this is a restaurant where the chef serves me a free meal? Or am I a paying customer?

heyboom said...

To my taste, trying a bit before adding salt is as worthless as sampling some raw beef before grilling it.

I generally do taste my food first before seasoning it, but then that is also a personal choice isn't it?

David said...

jr565 said...
"There is an urban legend about Thomas Edison:"

In Pittsburgh, where I grew up, the same point was made by referencing Andrew Carnegie.

Doug said...

As humans age, their taste buds lose their sensitivities. This is why children are picky eaters and adults love tabasco sauce. The chef cannot possibly salt exactly to the taste preference of ever customer. Unless he loses so many customers to his unbelievable conceitedness that there are only a handful. Chef, please show me your PhD, you insufferable twit.

Anthony said...

There was a French restaurant in the small suburb where my parents live which they use as the epitome of pretentiousness - they took a friend there, who, after tasting, asked the waiter for salt. The waiter returned a minute later and replied "The chef says the food is perfectly seasoned".

elkh1 said...

If you and your friend go to a restaurant so neither of you has to cook, and you can spend more time to gossip. If your friend likes mild flavored hamburgers, if you like a little bit more salt in yours. Where do you go for those just right burgers?

.

roadgeek said...

Don't use it. Have never used it. Then again, I tend to eat mostly in places with tabasco sauce on the table.

Kelly said...

This is ridiculous. Since moving to Fort Wayne I've found people around here apparently have very delicate palates. I like spicy, they like bland. Hot salsa around here means extra onion. I don't put extra salt on my food, but I can see why some people might.

Mountain Maven said...

Bleeping experts want to tell us how to do everything.

lgv said...

"Kurlansky fails to recognize the people have different taste sensitivity."

This is the key point and why not allowing people to adjust for this difference is silly.

The anti-salt crowd always pushes that it is better to use less salt in cooking and allow people to add salt at the table to suit, which reduces the total salt used. So, not having salt at the table counters this concept.

I'm tired of the anti-salt nonsense. I'm tired of people saying some salt is better than other (like some water tastes better than others). I want to scream when I see the Campbell's commercial where the chef is trying to come up with a healthier reduced salt version of his soup, but maintaining that great Campbell's flavor. "Sea Salt!" is the answer. Because, you know, sodium chloride from a salt mine is different from sodium chloride from the ocean.

Food for thought. H2O is H2O. By definition it is odorless, colorless and tasteless. Any "taste" is something else in the water. Sodium chloride is sodium chloride. Any real distinction means there is something else in the salt. Sorry for the digression.

Strelnikov said...

This will only result in me, and people like me, having to ask for salt. If they tell me I cannot season my food to my own taste, I'll leave - along with everyone else.

Uncle Pavian said...

Removing salt from restaurant tables moves us a little closer to a world where all seasoning of food is done by state functionaries in government kitchens. Immanentizing the eschaton, one condiment at a time.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

The people of Ft. Wayne do not have delicate palates. The people of Ft. Wayne do not have delicate anything. I have been to Ft. Wayne. I made the colossal error of ordering a broccoli quiche... sometime around 1986 or so... it looked like broccoli that had knocked over by a very weak cheese storm. It was a disaster. And I realized that, by and large, the "restaurant renaissance" that was going on in so many big cities was happening for a reason. Like the broccoli quiche in Ft. Wayne. You probably still can't get decent broccoli quiche in Ft. Wayne, but you can at least buy a cup of good coffee. You take it where you can get it.