Saturday, February 1, 2014

Salt


Still Life - Abraham van Beijeren
Still Life - Abraham van Beijeren

There is an old fairytale that tells us how important salt is in our lives.

"Once upon a time there was an old king who lived in a far away kingdom. The king had three daughters and, knowing that his life was nearing its end, wished to give his kingdom to the wisest and most loving of the three. He summoned his royal daughters and announced that the one who loves him the most will inherit the throne.

He asked his oldest daughter if she loved him. The beautiful young lady said that she loved her royal father as much as she loved the most precious jewels and could not imagine life without him. Jewels made even the most dull garments shine! The king nodded, very pleased with the answer. 

His second daughter was a cunning girl. Asked if she loved her father she compared her love the a most exquisite twelve-tier cake that gets sweeter with every bite. Sugar made even the most vicious lie sound sweet! This answer did not surprised the king who knew her predisposition to sweet talk. Very pleased the king turned to his youngest daughter and waited for the answer.

The third daughter was a quiet, pensive child who hardly played with other children. Instead one could almost certainly find her in the castle's library perusing old leather bound volumes. 

The girl looked at her father and quietly answered that she loved him as much as she loved salt. Before she could even explain why the king got up. This answer so enraged the old man that he banished her from the kingdom. He ordered his guards to immediately drag her out of the castle. She was never to return. 

Visibly aggravated with the insolence of his youngest child the king ordered the confiscation and destruction of every single grain of salt that was stored in his kingdom. He issued a royal decree by which salt was banned forever.

When his rage subsided he ordered a large banquet that was to take place the next day. Three hundred twenty cooks were to prepare a meal that was unheard of. No expenses were to be spared. Delicacies from all over the world were to be served to five hundred noble guests who arrived from all corners of his kingdom. The king wished to announce to the world which of the two young beauties would inherit his throne. 

The butchers, fishmongers, bakers, cooks, p√Ętissiers, and countless kitchen maids had to get busy right away. Together they prepared a banquet that surpassed in grandness everything the courtiers had ever seen before. Fragrant roasts were carried in and served on silver platters with exotic fruit and vegetable. Stews and sauces were followed by platters of pastry and fragrant cakes. The most exquisite wine was served. 

Among the Ohs! and Ahs! a toast was made in honor of the king and his daughters and the court musicians played sweet music to make the joyful event even more pleasurable. 

But when the king and his guests tried the food something quite unexpected happened. The  king got up and the music stopped. There was silence and consternation. Everyone was shocked and no one touched the food. Instead of prizing the dishes the enraged king shouted at the servants and demanded explanation. This was the worst food he has ever had in his entire life! He ordered an immediate  execution of all the cooks who dared to prepare such an unpalatable meal.

Horrified, the royal chamberlain fell to his knees and begged for mercy. He explained that the cooks faithfully followed the recipes as they were inscribed in the ancient royal cookbooks. The only ingredient that they omitted was salt as there was none in the entire kingdom.

How could that be!? Salt was such an insignificant ingredient! But before the enraged king could say anything at all he understood the unsurpassed wisdom and love of his youngest daughter. Salt was more precious than anything! King or commoner, no one could ever enjoy a decent meal without it. That's how important salt was..."

This story has a happy ending. As you can imagine the youngest daughter returned and became a wise ruler of the kingdom. Salt was elevated in its status and everyone lived happily ever after. And you would too if you considered that salt is not simply a useful condiment that enhances the taste of your food but rather an essential ingredient that helps us maintain healthy life. 

But the salt that is good for you has little to do with the industrially manufactured sodium chloride that you find in so many homes and restaurants.

To learn more you will have to read my next article about salt.

Dominique Allmon