The Problem with Being Me

I love food. I love food possibly more than I love adventure. To me, food is an adventure. Where I grew up, food was overcooked, overfatted, oversaturated, and, by God, almost always oversalted.

When I think of salt, I think of my maternal grandmother. The woman salted everything. If she ate ham, she salted it first. If you told her you already put salt in the food and maybe she'd want to try a bite first, she'd smile sweetly and shake that shaker all over her plate as though she'd never heard what you said. Oh, I used to be like everyone else. I used to salt my food mindlessly. One day in the middle of McDonalds, just for kicks, I picked up the pepper shaker and shook it all over my french fries. And then I dug in.


What I found was that food didn't have to have salt to be flavorful. That other spices could enhance food flavor in ways that salt never could. Salt is like duct tape. It may not be the most creative approach, but it gets the job done. After my pepper experience, salt was no longer my go-to spice. Salt was strictly back shelf. I had a world of new spices to try. I use it in cooking only when not doing so will compromise the recipe. I have found that salt is absolutely required only in some baked goods and a pot of beans. And that is how, in junior high school, I came to stop using salt as a flavor enhancer and started to develop my palate and my love of good food.

The problem with never having picked up a salt shaker since 1977 is that processed foods containing salt taste like salt and not the foods they are intended to resemble.

Here is a partial list of processed foods I find too salty to eat.

Most pork products
Deli meats
Most canned soups (worst offenders are Campbell's Chunky soup line)
potato chips
canned vegetables, particularly green beans
most tv dinners

I have found that most soups have sodium levels approaching 900 mg per serving. That's seven times more sodium per serving than the Baked Lays I like. In general, any food with greater than 500 mg sodium per serving tastes salty to me. Anything over 700 mg per serving is hard to choke down. Those soups? Forget about it.

Which brings me to today. Today, I tried to eat some deli roast beef that I purchased at Kroger. The roast beef tasted like it was saturated in brine. I paid $6.50/lb. for salty protein--the salt was so bad that I couldn't taste the flavor of the meat.

I once wrote the Campbell's company and asked them why they had to put so much salt in their soups. I told them that, IMHO, salt should enhance the flavor, not be the flavor. They wrote me back a very kind note that said they did extensive taste tests of their products before bringing them to market and the salt content of their soups was based on the most popular versions from the taste tests. They told me that the rest of America does not share my aversion to super-saturated saline solution passing for broth these days. Then they offered me 4 coupons to purchase more of the soup that I couldn't choke down in the first place.

Ahhh, America. Why don't I fit in?


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I could be misremembering this, but I think I read somewhere that they've been continuously upping the salt as Americans get more used to it... I don't think today's mass food would taste great to Americans several decades ago; well, not that processed food used to taste great but I think the salt content is up. And as they get Americans used to it, they can continue to replace other, more expensive flavors with salt.

    I'm with you, though--even the thought of, say, Campbell's soup and I feel parched. My throat gets dry just thinking about it, even though their product is a liquid.


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