Salt is a Good Thing

Culinary school has forever changed my view of salt.

Here's a common scene from class: I'm flustered as I make my consomme. For the past hour I've been trying to cut my vegetables perfectly while making sure my consomme is crystal clear. The bowls are piping hot as I barely make deadline to bring my consomme to the chefs. "Vegetables are cooked well, knife skills are pretty good, presentation is nice," says Chef Phil. "But more salt. Everything is lacking salt."

It's a criticism almost all culinary students hear time and again during their training. Our chefs tell us it's often one of the biggest hurdles students have to overcome as they develop their palates.

In a recent wine tasting class, we learned that because most diners drink before, during and after eating, the food needs to be seasoned well or else the flavors fall flat. The alcohol can "dilute" what a person tastes.

But that's only one reason food should be well salted. For some cultures, salt acts as a preservative of food. This isn't so much a concern today since many people have access to refrigerators and freezers.

One question that pops up, however, is how healthy can all that salt be? We've all heard how salt can increase the risk for things such as high-blood pressure. Our chef's reply is that everything should be in moderation (i.e. - eat the salty fries but not the whole basket and not every day). Fair enough, I say.

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