Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Hold The Salt

Red Chair Fallow Field, Pittsburgh, 2012

Seldom is the evening that we find our selves dining out at a restaurant.  The reasons are pretty simple:  1)  I enjoy being in the kitchen.  2)  It's easier to prepared healthy meals at home (less salt, less fat, less sugar).  3)  Cost. 
What annoys me the most about dining out is the amount of salt used in basically every single dish.  Chain restaurants are the worst offenders for salt and fat.  Although, Emeril Lagasse, a supposed master chef who should know better, is right up there with the worst of the worst.  Anyway, couple of years ago we were given a gift card to Outback Steakhouse and since there's one within a few miles of our house, we went there for steaks.  The American Heart Association recommends that an adult consume no more than 1500mg of sodium per day, and that steak alone contained nearly half of a daily allowance (740mg).  Once you factor in the accompanying house salad with light balsamic vinaigrette, and plain baked potato, your sodium intake tops off at 1860mg.
Why?  Why so much salt?  I don't enjoy an overly salted meal at all, but this seems to be common across the board in American restaurants, from high end establishments to Burger King.  Is it possible that high sodium in restaurant food is simply a default result?  Because sense of smell is linked to our sense of taste intrinsically, and because these two senses vary widely in the general population, particularly between men and women, have the restaurateurs chosen to cater to the lowest common denominator of taste, to over salt everything?  And you know, the old adage holds true; it's easier to add salt than it is to take it back out.  Why not leave that choice to the diner?  I know that some foodies are hysterical when it comes to proper seasoning, with Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio often going off on contestants who under season food, but to me this makes no sense.  Given the differences between individuals in their ability to taste, or process what they are testing, how can anyone set a standard for salt?  Especially once you consider the health implication.  Shouldn't it be imperative to under season with salt?  If the person eating that dish wants to salt it like Dick Cheney, then let them assume that risk.  I for one don't want some clod in the kitchen who thinks that the more salt the better is the way to prepare food making that choice for me.


Julie said...

I went to an Emeril's restaurant once, long ago (during my Florida years). I was excited about what I had ordered, but it was grossly over-salted. I don't remember what it was. A pizza of some sort, I think. The salt actually ruined it.

I couldn't send it back because this lunch was part of a job interview. I didn't want the job, so I wouldn't have minded inconveniencing my interviewers - but I didn't want to prolong the lunch, either.

Tsk, tsk, Emeril. Way too much "BAM"!

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

Other than the small amount of salt that goes in the pizza dough (1/2t) there shouldn't be any extra salt because of how the cheese is already salty. Oh, wait, whatever sauce they used was probably the culprit, completely over seasoned. BTW, the original title of this post was 'Emeril Is A Ghoul', but given how many hits my old 'Ira Glass Is An Asshole' post still gets, for all the wrong reasons, I figured I'd go with something simple and obvious instead.

Julie said...

Or they could have sprinkled salt all over the damned thing. That's what it tasted like.

I don't remember it being over-seasoned in general. (I've encountered some of that too, like a woman I knew who felt there was no limit to how much tarragon you could put in something.) I just remember the salt. Like it would have been a perfectly good dish except for that.

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

The tarragon woman reminds me of my sister in law and rosemary. ;)