Silly seasoning

There’s no point having a blogging facility if you don’t occasionally use it to mount a hobby horse, no matter how trivial or pedantic the result may appear to be.

So, today, I want to talk about salt. We all like a bit of salt on our chips don’t we, but it won’t have escaped your attention that in all but the most proletarian of eating houses these days the  salt provided is crystalline rock salt (or sea salt). This comes (usually, at least, – see below) in a grinder, which simply enables you to render the lumps slightly smaller. It’s almost as if this is seen as a sign of the restaurant’s upmarket pretensions; a suggestion that ordinary granulated salt in a shaker is too common to merit consideration in the context of haute cuisine.

As you may have guessed, this really hacks me off. The shards of salt produced by the grinder are too large to adhere to the food, and end up on the plate, where they do nothing at all. Occasionally, of course, a chunk does make it into your mouth, where it results in a nasty, gritty saline explosion that does nothing to season the bulk of the food.

Granulated salt, on the other hand, can either be sprinkled over the food, or deposited in a little pyramid on the side of the plate, to be eked out, mouthful by mouthful, as required. I have an awkward feeling that one of these two options is so non-U as to mark me out forever as irredeemably working class, but the point is that the salt can be deployed as required, and actually achieves the aim of seasoning the food without giving the impression of eating gravel.

To summarise: rock salt is fine for treating the roads during a cold snap, but I don’t want it on my plate, thank you.

I only mention this now because yesterday, I experienced the all-time low in saline insanity. We went to try a new, upmarket steak house just up the road from where we live. Like most of these places, the decorative motif was black wood and bright chrome, but it was pleasant enough. However, the only salt available for the table (and I know, because we asked) was a bowl of rock salt crystals which you had to dip into with your fingers. Not only did the absence of a grinder mean that the chunks you had to chew on were sized more like pea shingle than road grit, but there was no way of knowing whose fingers had been grubbing about in the bowl before we arrived.

It’s that urea in the communal bowl of peanuts on the bar thing again, urban myth or not, and in the throes of a coronavirus pandemic, when we are being told to wash our hands before, during and after we do anything at all with them, it struck me a significant potential health hazard. So, we won’t be going back (although, the fact that the food was not very good and hugely overpriced also had a bearing on the decision).

Wow! – 528 words on culinary salt. Who’d have thought it?