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no salt and pepper shakers on tables [moved from General Topics board]

Okay, this may be a controversial topic but who knows. What do you think about restos that don't provide salt and pepper shakers on their tables?

If you are a cook and someone eats at your place, do you get insulted when diners shake salt onto their food before tasting it?

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  1. I don't have a problem with a restaurant not providing salt and pepper shakers as long as the food is properly seasoned. I do dislike restaurants that offer to pepper your salad when you haven't even gotten a chance to taste it.

    As far as for my home I always put salt and pepper on the table and encourage guests to season to their taste. I do however feel insulted when someone seasons without tasting...that is in very poor 'taste' in my opinion.

    5 Replies
    1. re: iLoveFood

      I don't put out salt and pepper at home and don't expect to see it in restaurants. But I don't understand why others are insulted that people season their food before tasting it. I can overlook that pretty easily, it's a behavior that they're never thought through and they don't have well developed palates. But if someone were to season my food after tasting it, then I would be really insulted. They'd tasted it and found it lacking. I'm not saying that I would want them to suffer through a poorly seasoned meal, just that it would be clear that they'd assessed my food and concluded that it was not well prepared!!

      1. re: Kater

        I guess I'd rather they salted after tasting - that rather than assuming that my meal was poorly seasoned, they tasted it and the seasoning was not to their liking - ie. not salty enough. I've concluded that some people just like food saltier than others.

        1. re: MMRuth

          I have a friend who salts "Sea-Salt Fries." It's a habit. Nothing can ever be salty enough. As soo as the food gets to the table, out comes the salt! Salsa, chips, everything gets salted.


          1. re: TexasToast

            I once saw an entire family (4 kids and 2 adults) hijak salt shakers from other tables at a Mexican restaurant so they could individually salt every tortilla chip they ate.

            1. re: TexasToast

              Well, my friend's a little more civilized and asks for separate chip bowls and salt!


      2. I see people S&P (heavy on the pepper most of the time) their food all the time without tasting it first. It always makes me think of the scene in Mrs. Doubtfire where Robin Williams adds a huge amount of pepper to Pierce Brosnan's food, making him gag and then choke. I wonder if any chefs use white pepper, less visible--maybe--than regular/black or other kinds of pepper?

        I also put S&P shakers on the table, and yes, do feel insulted if they season without tasting first.

        1. After posting earlier I started thinking about this and it made me realize that if I'm at someone's house and there is no S&P on the table I NEVER ask for it (even if I feel that the food needs it).

          1. Actually, as a (home) cook, I do get a little insulted - especially at my idiot brother who immediately salts his entire plate heavily before tasting a thing - for him, I'm thinking of getting a trough and a salt lick and feeding him in the back yard.

            1 Reply
            1. re: wayne keyser

              Next time he comes over you should oversalt his plate before serving him and then let him salt it as usual...it might teach him a lesson

            2. Henry Ford, inventor of the Assembly Line, would invite potential new hires to his house for dinner. If anyone salted his food before tasting, he would not be hired. Its called pre-judging.

              (This story is told to new Ford Employees and is part of the inital display the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan)

              1 Reply
              1. re: Cathy

                It could also, though, be called knowing thyself. My Uncle Peter likes his food really, really, really salty. Far more salty than almost anyone else he's ever met. So he pretty much salts food by default - because food that makes him happy would be considered by almost anyone else to be a major cooking error. For him to taste it first would imply 'Well, maybe this is a crappy cook who oversalted the food, I guess I should check.'

              2. For people who add salt to their food before tasting it, I think it is a reflect reaction. If there is no shaker on the table, they would probably bite their nails.
                As a guest, if there is salt on the table, I would not hesitate to use it if I think if the food needs it. If there no salt on the table, I would never ask for it.
                I think restaurant should have salt on the table. Pepper is not necessary because it is a seasoning for the kitchen. I rarely need to add salt in restaurants and if I do, it is because the kitchen has completely forgotting it. Then I would have no problem asking for it.

                1. I am not so arrogant to think my food is perfect for every palate and a little more S&P for some is fine with me. I'd rather everyone at the table enjoy the meal to the utmost and the idea that i would be insulted or refuse to give S&P is, well insulting.

                  The company is the focus of the meal, and the food is the guiding path. To those who think the food trumps the company I would ask them to re-prioritize what's important.

                  1. Some people with chronic allergies and congestion will not taste things well without a bit of amplification, usually with salt and/or pepper. It's not an insult to the cook; taste is truly subjective and not all customers can taste the way the cook does.

                    In our culture, salt and pepper are placed at the table as a basic gesture of fine hospitality, for centuries; seating arrangements revolved around them! Omit it at the risk of being seen as inhospitable.

                    1. I think many people salt automatically as a kind of pre eating ritual, shake, shake, shake. Altough I don't put salt on the table because that would mean ahem, buying a salt shaker, I'm in no way insulted if people ask for it. People have diffrent palates, I like salty and sour, my brother doesn't.
                      I think if restaurants don't put salt shakers on the table that's fine, just make sure the food is seasoned and be prepared to provide salt to the diners if requested.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mbe

                        Actually, if you want to be formal, you provide a salt cellar or salt dish rather than a shaker....

                      2. this changes the topic slightly, but isn't worth a different thread:

                        How does anyone feel when one person at the table wants to salt the food everyone is sharing.

                        Have you ever watched someone at your table reach over and salt the tortilla chips or the guacamole that everyone is sharing? I have. It makes my nuts.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: PaulF

                          Or catsup! I don't like catsup on my french fries (or on much of anything else either, for that matter.) I'm a malt vinegar girl myself. Most ask, but it's surprising how many just assume no one would consider eating a french fry that wasn't somthered in catsup.

                          And just to keep OT, I never put salt and pepper on the dining table (except for a formal dinner when I do use a salt cellar and individual shaker; but that's just me being a bit pretentious and because I have such beautiful silver/enamel ones that my father made for me.) I do sometimes, though, put hot sauce on the table if I've seriously toned down the gumbo for instance to accommodate a delicate palate and know that others would prefer the heat turned up.

                        2. The only time I would miss S&P at the table is at breakfast. Usually add both to eggs & potatoes. Can't recall the last time I've salted anything non-breakfast in a restarurant. Fresh ground pepper is a nice addition sometimes but it would be nice to have the peppermill left at the table.

                          1. I have never noticed whether the better restaurants provide S & P or not. There are other idiosyncratic things that people do when eating that out are more off putting to me than asking for S&P and using S&P. At home I don't provide shakers but it is more a habit having cooked for my family who has high blood pressure. As for seasoning before tasting, over time I've become desensitized to this issue, I know someone who adores lemon pepper and will actually rummage through cupboards to find it should they know you have it on hand. I gave up passing judgement or cringing after he added lemon pepper to chicken paprika.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                              My out-laws do not season their food because my father-in-law has high blood pressure and my mother-in-law is not familiar with any season apart from sodium. They eat tremendous quantities of prepared foods and my father-in-law is consuming HUGE quantities of sodium during the course of the day but when we dine at their house, the food is prepared with no salt. I do not correct them on their failure to understand that excercise, weight loss and omitting restaurant meals and prepared foods are far more important steps to combat high blood pressure than eating chicken without any seasoning on the rare occasion that you cook a meal at home. But I do wish that they would put out a salt shaker for their unfortunate guests!!!!

                              Because my mother-in-law proudly exclaims that they do not use salt, I haven't got the heart to ask for some of my own!

                            2. Being a salt freak myself: Please taste first. I don't mind if you add salt--I undersalt to my taste when cooking for others. I do object to not having salt on the table. Black pepper I very seldom use and have come to think it is a very odd addition to most food. The more I learn about the physiology of taste the more I'm amazed we agree on anything.

                              1. A refusal to provide salt and pepper seems an arrogant position given individual preferences in taste. I happen to like my food much more peppery than my wife does. When I cook at home, I know to put only a small amount of pepper in the food and I then add more to my plate at the table. We are each pleased with the outcome and no one is offended.

                                As for fresh-ground pepper, I can recall a hilarious Saturday Night Live sketch from the early '90s in which an eager new restaurant employee offers to grind pepper over everything, including chocolate mousse. Of course, my problem is usually the opposite: I have tasted my food and believe it would benefit from added pepper; however, the server is taking care of other tables and I can't get his or her attention until I am halfway done with the food.

                                What I like most therefore are restaurants that provide a pepper mill at the table. Diners get the benefits of fresh-ground pepper at the time most convenient to them.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: silverbear

                                  You can also bring your own. I always have one of those little (1.6 oz) Drogheria & Alimentari pepper mills from the supermarket in my desk and in my car's glove compartment.


                                  1. re: Karl S

                                    Oh to hell with that, just use those little sachets you get from KFC! I mean, that's where they're THERE for!


                                  2. re: silverbear

                                    There's an interesting discussion going on right now at Frank Bruni's blog. Apparently, a lot of restaurants don't like to place individual pepper mills at tables because of theft:


                                  3. I think that restaurants that offer a salt shaker (or, less common, a salt cellar or bowl) and small pepper mill are the best type. Even better, sea salt.

                                    As a chef, I don't feel that ANY CHEF is "That Good" that they can perfectly season food for everyone, every time. A few do come close, and you can tell that food is "properly seasoned / flavorful / balanced" which is of course the goal.

                                    Too often chefs are afraid to salt food, fearing someone with high blood pressure or other conditions will take one bite and keel over dead on their table.

                                    As a professional, part of customer service is to provide the customer what they want. Who cares if they want more salt, or pepper. If they want cayenne pepper, heck, if they want chocolate syrup for their mashed potatos, GIVE IT TO THEM.
                                    Chefs who are snobby and hoity-toity about their food, I try and avoid those sort of chefs.

                                    Likewise, places that have those horrible pre-ground pepper are not really good. Fresh ground pepper is about 100 times more flavorful than that grey powder that has lost its flavor months ago.
                                    I recently got a new pepper mill, my "baby" and I love it so much i've been going through peppercorns like crazy.

                                    Cost-wise, its not that much harder to provide fresh pepper and good salt, and it makes all the difference.

                                    Places that have pepper mills on the service counter but never offer, can be a peeve.