Food and Drink, Lectionary

About Salt

Today I made soup, from scratch.

I started with a chicken. I made up my mind to do this after LP and I enjoyed a thrown-together chicken soup the other night using a carton of chicken broth and some lasagna noodles from an open box in the cupboard and whatever else we saw fit to toss into the pot.

So I went to the store on Monday and picked up a chicken, and this morning, I looked for a recipe including at Pioneer Woman Cooks, because someone mentioned her the other day, and I know I’ve loved her recipes before. I got a huge description there of how to do the whole process, from cooking the chicken (how long, so it doesn’t get overcooked, for instance) and all sorts of little picky pieces of turning a chicken into stock and then turning stock into soup. I had a whole chicken, not a package of thighs, so I made a few adaptations along the way, including a friend’s recommendation to use fresh rosemary.

Snowman and I made soup the last couple of times he was home, but each time we didn’t seem to have the seasoning right, so I paid special attention to that part of the recipe. And I was astounded by the amount of salt called for: Lawry’s and Jane’s Mixed Up Salt and Celery Salt and all of that on top of Chicken Base, which is surely also salty.

I only have regular old Morton’s Salt on hand. And it’s a snow day. So I made do. And I put in more salt than I would ever think of doing, right from the beginning.

It made me a little uncomfortable. I grew up in one of those low salt households, because my daddy took those little red blood pressure pills, and my mother paid attention to the doctor’s instructions to watch his salt. She once expressed horror when she saw me put salt in water I had boiled to cook pasta. The look on her face felt like a slap.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” (Matthew 5:13, NRSV)

When #1 Son was a sitting up baby, I went out to lunch with my mother-in-law, and we set him up in a high chair at the end of our table, and without thinking to ask, she opened a package of crackers–Waverly Wafers, I think–and gave him one. He picked it up and put it in his mouth, and his eyes got wide. It was the first time he had tasted anything really salty. He put his hand out for another.

Salt matters. Oh, yes, there can be too much. There can be. But salt brings out the other flavors and makes everything taste fuller and deeper.

I tasted the stock before I added the carrots and celery and onions to begin making it really soup, and I knew the truth. It needed just a little more.

I poured a little salt into my hand and let it fly into the pot.

And it was good.

6 thoughts on “About Salt”

  1. My mother-in-law, bless her heart, took the no-sodium advice to heart. She'd make the most delicious looking soups — with absolutely no salt whatsoever. No amount of salt added at the dinner table ever made the soup taste like anything other than vegetables and chicken in hot water.

  2. We are a low-to-no salt house. Neither of us learned to cook with salt.And so we easily find that things taste overly salted, especially prepackaged foods.But I like your point as I strive to figure out how to preach salt of the earth to a low-salt culture

  3. It's certainly a challenge for sure for those who have to have a sodium restriction. One of the MD's I work with is very conscious since he had to go on a low dose BP medication. He said that he was watching the news once and saw that there is a dish at PFChang's that has a whopping 7,000mg of sodium! And then people do what? Add soy sauce! There is a fine balance for sure. He calls the new Panda Express dive through Chinese food place the "Sodium Emporium!"

  4. Gord, I think this is one of those verses that needs a lot of unpacking and perhaps can serve as an example of how and why we do exegesis. What did salt mean then, as opposed to now? If we overlay it with our 21st century literalism, we lose its flavor. 😉

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