Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? — Matthew 5:13
The grey sky drizzled and, despite my umbrella, an hour after I’d greeted a friend for lunch, my clothes preserved dampness against my skin. I didn’t have time for this detour, but I trusted her recommendation and so sloshed my way into the adjacent shop.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. The wall was covered in salt. Salt of many colors.
Salted memories. Salts of possibilities.
As newlyweds in a shoebox apartment almost three decades ago, my husband and I pinkie-swore to eat only healthy foods: no sugar, no fat, no salt. (No flavor.) We forced down weeks of unwanted leftovers neither of us wanted (even when fresh-served). Before long, we relented.
Oh, what a difference a few key ingredients made!
Still, we were on a college couple’s budget, so when recipes called for celery-, garlic-, onion-, or seasoning salts, I balked. Unable to justify their counterparts’ bottled costs, I stirred in chopped portions of the appropriate veggies and tossed in a pinch of salt from a generic cardboard cylinder.
When our kids were little, I faced a meal-maker’s dilemma. Granddaddy’s health required strict sodium limitations, but he was a proud Southern gentleman who wanted food with flavor. (Translation: Everything needed a little more salt.) It was up to me to find the wherewithal to make it savour-ful while obeying his doctor’s commandment: Thou shalt not salt.
Shopping took forever. I compared sodium content on every label.
I didn’t have time or space or energy to cook separate meals for Granddaddy and the rest of the family, so I attempted to create palatable foods everyone could
be happy put up with. So-called salt substitutes tasted awful. In those pre-Internet days, I experimented with alternate seasonings. The absence of flavor-enhancing salt screamed for the inclusion of herbs and spices, but Granddaddy had no tolerance for anything he called “spicy,” like the meekest of salsas labeled “mild.”
I dropped my firstborn off at college and dropped in on a friend from my own college days. Sitting at her kitchen table, I picked up a shaker and asked, “Did one of your kids put salt in the pepper shaker?” If not, I didn’t want to consider the source of the visible speckles.
“It’s natural salt,” she said. “It includes the extra minerals most companies process out to make it look white.”
Hmm. Hadn’t occurred to me that salt — its absence or presence — might have other health-related elements to it.
It cost more, but after following up my friend’s assertions with my own research, I bought it that way, too.
In the first months after my husband died five years ago, the flavor of food was irrelevant. If I remembered to eat, I ate. What it was or how it tasted didn’t matter. For a time, I tasted only the salt of my tears, but I stopped noticing that, too. Sometimes people asked why I was crying when I hadn’t realized I was. I knew I had a lot to live for, but life, for a time, lost its savour.
A few weeks ago, my thirty-years-ago college roommate — the woman responsible for me meeting my late husband — came to town. We ate lunch at Disney Springs (a complex owned by Walt Disney World but located outside its theme parks). It was harder getting there than I anticipated. Traffic, weather, construction, and mentally reviewing incomplete work tasks meant a stressful commute. I practiced deliberate, calming breathing (… in-two-three-four … out-two-three-four …) as I made my way to our meeting place.
The moment I saw my friend’s face (and soaked in the warmth of her hug), my morning stress slid into the rain-shedding puddle at my feet. Our meal was almost as delicious as the act of catching up in person.
Before we parted ways — she to return to her final Florida itinerary and I to return to quality time with my daughter and tending client projects at home — my friend suggested I take a few minutes for myself, by myself, to browse a few shops — just for fun. She thought I’d especially enjoy one filled with seasonings and spices.
So, convincing myself a few more minutes away from my to-do list wouldn’t hurt, I stepped inside — and came face to face with the inanimate wall of salts that nevertheless spoke to me. I grinned and pulled out my phone, taking pictures (like the tourists around me) of flavor combinations I’d never considered from parts of the world I’ve never been to. “I could make that,” I thought. “I could go there …”
One day, I will.
What are your salt memories? Where might salt inspire you to go?