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Salt vs. black pepper - is it just me?

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I don't add salt to plated food, and only rarely when cooking. I can tell salt when it's on fries, popcorn, in Asian food, etc. But when food has a lot of black pepper, my palate gets confused. I can tell that there is too much of something, but can't identify whether it is too much salt, too much pepper, or both. Traditional advice to people wanting to reduce their salt intake is to use more black pepper, lemon, and other herbs/spices so I am wondering if black pepper fools everyone's taste buds or if it's my own peculiar defect.

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  1. How funny. No, I've never had that problem.

    1. I don't add salt before tasting but I always add pepper because nobody want as much of it as I do. And I don't think I confuse the salt/pepper thing, but years back James Beard was looking for an alternative to salt in his diet and suggested ground pepper and lemon juice on baked potatoes, which I love to death. No salt needed, is that what you're getting at? There are lots of things I don't think that technique would work for, but it does (to me) work with the spuds with lemon and pepper.

      1. I've taken to cayenne pepper as a salt substitute; started about 5 years ago and I'm addicted. About the only think I can stand salt on now is popcorn.
        Bob

        1. I am a black pepper freak. I just plain love it. For me I put on anything light in color such as clam chowder or corn or white gravy..etc. Pepper and garlic are my two fav. flavor inhancers.

          2 Replies
          1. re: sd4life

            Here is a pepper for you to try. Wynant, comes in a linen sack with a cryopac of the pepper inside. They have black or white, black better. They are Indian Tellicherry entirely and allowed to ripen on vine so the berries are huge, well were huge when they came out, somewhat smaller now. Puts pepper in an entirely new light.

            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

              Sounds good...we have a great Asian foods market here in San Diego, I will look for it. I just recently bought a mini grinder and been wanting to use it.

          2. I've had this happen with my mom's filet mignon. She sears it with a crust of freshly ground black pepper. I've had it loads of times and finally asked her what the hell she was putting on it, to which she replied: "Just pepper." I asked because it seemed to get saltier and saltier every time I tasted it. Apparently there is no salt; she just has been adding more and more pepper.

            I'm on an uber high-sodium diet ordered by the doctor (imagine that!) so have had to put extra salt on everything I eat for the last two years. It took some getting used to, as I added salt very sparingly to my cooking (with exception of baked potatoes). Now, I give my salt grinder a good 3-4 twists with every savory meal... enough to turn heads at the dinner table! Needless to say, I have no idea why I confuse that pepper-and-salt thing with the filet. That's the only food I notice it with.

            1 Reply
            1. re: nothingswrong

              If I had to go on a special diet, that would be about the only possible one I would be ecstatic about. I adore salt.
              As for pepper, I like it a lot more than my husband does and have to hold back when seasoning food.
              I particularly like a brand that comes in a blue and cream cellophane package that says "Black pepper" on it but is identified in Chinese as coming from Hainan Island. It's spicy and fruity, very nice (and cheap).
              Another one that's great but I haven't seen in a long time comes from Pohnpei Island (formerly known as Ponape) in Micronesia. If ever you see it, pounce.

            2. A couple of issues here. I'm going to guess that what confuses you about salt and pepper is that when there's too much there's a physical sensation (irritation) as well as a taste sensation.

              Second, the reason that people are told to add more pepper or lemon is to make unsalted food less bland. BUT...

              I heard Thomas Keller interviewed a few weeks ago and he said that salt and acid are the two most important seasonings. The other seasonings just add flavor, but salt and acid are chemically reactive and they actually change flavors and create new flavors when combined with other ingredients. Thus, while pepper won't replace salt, adding more acid in the form of lemon will help in developing some flavors the way salt would (although not exactly the same flavors).

              2 Replies
              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Marcella Hazan wrote somewhere that she told her husband that food smelled different once the salt went in and he thought she was crazy until she showed him. You can. Must have to do with the chemistry releasing different scents.

                1. re: buttertart

                  Yup. It's not some crazy woo-woo stuff. It's chemistry. Salts and acids are highly reactive chemical compounds. A scent is nothing more than molecules of a vaporized chemical. Change the chemical(s), change the scent.