November 2nd, 2008, 18 Comments »
I never use salt and pepper. That sounds like an exaggeration or a boast, but it’s just a simple fact. I’m pretty ambivalent about food, and I guess nobody ever taught me how to assess whether something was appropriately seasoned.
I was thinking about seasoning the other day. It’s always struck me as a little odd. We go out and pay somebody else to make our food. On occasion, we pay a lot of money to have a highly skilled (or at least reputable) professional make our food.
Then, often before we’ve even tried it, we modify how that food tastes. In fact, there’s some kind of systemic thing going on with the pepper grinder. It’s specifically offered before we try the food. After all, there’s already pepper in there–why would we want more? And if it needs pepper, why isn’t that essential ingredient added, in full, back in the kitchen? I gather that it’s more about the customer service and the flare of delivering the pepper out of a big phallus, but it’s still peculiar.
The funny thing about salt and pepper is that we are, presumably, adding something to how the food tastes. We can’t, of course, remove salt or pepper that’s already been applied to the dish. We can only affect the front side of the bell curve of taste.
And why isn’t this constant taste adjustment an affront to the chef? The most common argument I hear is something along the lines of “I like my food saltier than the average person”. But the use of table salt is so prevalent–the average person adds salt–so that simply can’t be true. What gives?