How do you feel about salt and pepper shakers being on the table? When you go to a restaurant do you expect them to be there?
In response to John Kessler’s recent open letter to Atlanta chefs, many commenters wrote about seasoning levels:
Malika: I would add that chefs need to go easy on the salt.That is my biggest complaint about restaurants overall. So, many dishes are ruined because they taste like they had a box of salt poured on top of them.
Wendy: Salt seems to be the go-to ingredient lately to mask lesser quality and freshness.
itpdude: Though a lot of these guys could learn a thing or two about salt. If we want more salt, we can add it.
These comments refer to over seasoning. I’ve also had several recent experiences where dishes were under seasoned. It seems like more and more often I reach for the shakers only to discover their absence. My first thought is “Wow. This chef is confident. The food will be seasoned properly.”
But what if you like more salt than I do? What’s the “correct” seasoning level? Is there such a thing?
In his newest book, “Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes,” Harold McGee says, “Salt is an essential seasoning for nearly all foods… Different people often experience the same level of salt differently. This can be a matter of perception, not just preference. Someone who likes a lot of salt may not be able to taste it as well as other people.”
When I cook, I’m not offended if guests add more salt or pepper. But, I might prefer if they tasted a dish before seasoning it.
Rumor has it that Henry Ford used the “salt test” before hiring candidates. He would invite them for dinner and observe. If applicants salted their food prior to tasting it, they were thought to make rash, uninformed decisions and would be disqualified from consideration.
If you’re a chef, are you offended if people add their own seasoning? If you cook at home, do you put the shakers on the table? Do you expect to find them on restaurant tables?
Food for thought…
–by Jenny Turknett, Food & More blog
– Jenny Turknett writes about Southern and Neighborhood Fare for the AJC Dining Team. She also publishes her own blog, Going Low Carb.