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Should Salt Have a Place at the Table-Room for Debate, NYTimes

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Source: Salt shakers were once as much a part of a restaurant table setting as knives and forks. Now many restaurants are doing without them. Sometimes they’re absent for health reasons, but more often chefs feel the customer doesn’t need to season the food.

Should dining tables always have salt shakers, or is it time to do without them?

Some interesting people weigh in. What say you, Chowhound?

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  1. These chefs need to get over themselves. People have different tastes. Some I know even salt their food before they taste it. I think they are idiots for doing so, but hey, it is their food and their mouths. I'm not eating it. I'm just happy that I was able to train my husband to put the catsup on the side of the fries so that I can enjoy a few (I hate catsup).

    Personally, I don't eat salt. I just don't like salty food except for pretzels. Which I eat because of the salt. If food is salted, all I taste is the salt. Ditto for sweet things. I just seem to be very sensitive to both flavors. So most of the food that comes out of a restaurant kitchen is already too salty for me. I would rather they hold back on the salt in the kitchen and let people salt to taste.

    But this notion that chefs have that their food is perfect for everyone, every single time they send it out? Nonsense. This is like Carole Greenwood, a former DC-area chef who was very intolerant of customer requests. A woman who was allergic to peanuts asked that the peanuts be left off her dessert. Greenwood refused. There were reports that Greenwood would come out of the kitchen to yell at customers who asked for changes.

    So why do they allow condiments? Why does every salad have to include a dance with an enormous pepper grinder? Isn't the salad absolute perfection the way they sent it out? Cream and sugar for the coffee? Isn't the coffee perfect the way they sent it out?

    1. I am reminded of a fairy tale where the princess tells her father, the king, she loves him as much as salt. He is insulted and banishes her from the kingdom. One day she returns and works in the king's kitchen. She prepares him a meal without salt. The King is not happy and calls out the kitchen staff. Father and daughter are reunited. Only then does he understand his daughter's love for him. Everyone lives happily ever after.

      Sadly, I rarely have a meal that is seasoned properly. One of my big pet peeves is asking for salt.

      1 Reply
      1. re: financialdistrictresident

        Thank you for sharing the joy of a good fairy tale within the context of this thread :)

        for those unfamiliar:

      2. l have been carrying a small wooden box from Bretagne for many decades with me to restaurants containing fleur de sel. While that salt is primarily used for texture, consuming iodized salt while living near the ocean is just plain silly.
        So if they do not put it on the table, ok, l wlil just use my own.

        In France at lunch today, there was a small dish of fleur de sel on the table and every table for use.

        1. Yes.

          No two people have the same sensitivity to salt; what tastes right to the chef may not to the diner.

          Who's paying, btw.

          I almost never need to salt my food, my husband always does.

          1. This is stupid, you pay for it, you put what you want on it. I'll bet the chef wouldn't come out and bitch at a big movie star or politition if they salted something. A number of these young modern chefs are full of themselves, and a bunch are a flash in the pan. Do a follow up on some of these people in a couple of years and you will find they are doing something else.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mrbigshotno.1

              I'm not as quick to dismiss the folks responding to the question posed by NYT as you are because they each underscore the differing opinions and preferences (like any of us commenting here).

              I think the conversation is very interesting.

            2. My thoughts on the subject, from a related thread:


              Short answer: salt and pepper should be made available; if not on the table, then upon request; and if I do request, provide them graciously

              3 Replies
              1. re: charmedgirl

                Thank you for adding that thread here! I couldn't find it.

                1. re: HillJ

                  You're welcome! (I almost said "no problem" but I caught myself.) Luckily I had replied to it so it was in my profile, otherwise I'm not sure I would have found it either.

                  1. re: charmedgirl

                    Ha! My standby is "my pleasure" ....seems to keep me out of the flames :)

              2. Salt shakers absent for health reasons? Ha! Every study I've ever seen about sodium consumption has clearly stated that the salt shaker gives only a small contribution to daily intake. Restaurants are well-known for their heavy-handed use of salt and fat, but since most restaurants are just boiling up stuff from Sysco, all this strikes me as false pride. Anyway I often salt and season things like potatoes. Big deal. I would never eat at a restaurant where the chef thought their food had to be eaten as it had been envisioned....not that I ever have had such an experience!

                1. Salt needs/tastes can vary in the same person -- it's not just some universal ideal, but what that body eating it has been doing that day. If I've been out gardening* on a muggy hot day and then go out to eat, I'm going to want a fair bit of salt and I'm going to be constantly wanting my water refilled. If I've been sitting at a desk on a winter day, I'll probably want very little.

                  It's like telling people they can't have their water refilled because they shouldn't be that thirsty.

                  * I remember to rehydrate/rebalance electrolytes when I've actually gone exercising, but somehow I always forget that gardening can be sweaty work.

                  1. I don't get it. Surely a chef must realize that people have differing salt sensitivities. What is "properly seasoned" for the chef may be underseasoned for me. I'm not dumping ketchup or tabasco or ranch or garlic powder on it and changing the flavor profile. I'm only using salt to bring out the flavors they provided. So by not providing salt at the table, I may go home and tell my friends or write a review or blog saying their food is bland and underseasoned. If a dash of salt allows me to enjoy my meal that much more, I would probably write about how much I enjoyed the meal and forget about my sprinkle of salt. You'd think a chef would WANT me to enjoy my meal.

                    Next time, I'll bring a shaker of Mrs. Dash and dump it all over and insist "Don't worry...it's fine. There's no salt!"

                    1. Dogpiling on to say that I like to have the option of adding salt, and pepper for that matter, to my foods. Tastes differ.

                      I often don't use the salt but like the option.

                      1. I want salt on the table. Just in case.
                        This makes me wonder about cooking shows. Recently on a top chef masters, a guest commented that she HATED a dish. One of the judges was raving about it. How can you judge something that is so subjective like taste?

                        1. I think it's well-established that different people have different sensitivities/preferences for the amount of salt. So it makes sense to allow people to adjust the amount of salt in their food. But OTOH if a chef wants to withhold that option that's his/her right... but with possible consequence that some patrons may not be happy... and hence not return/recommend etc with economic consequences to the dogmatic chef -- or maybe not, since it seems that food fads and trends are often immune to reason.

                          1. I'm perfectly happy to eat the meal just as the chef prepared it. I wouldn't mind going to a restaurant that chose not to offer condiments. Maybe because my taste buds get bored pretty quickly. If I salted it too, and everything had an overriding flavor of salt, it would get boring even faster.

                            I know I'm super sensitive to salt, and others are not. Imagine if one sprinkled rosemary on everything - it would mask the other flavors in the dish. That's what salt does to me.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: kitchengardengal

                              To my mind, your experience makes the point that the chef should add salt to match someone like you whose preference is for less salt, and allow others to add more to match their own sensitivity/preference.

                              1. re: drongo

                                That would work for me! Good idea.

                                Unfortunately, in my experience, the tradition is to oversalt in the kitchen, presumably so the food is flavorful from the get-go.

                                I had lunch at an Amish restaurant once that didn't salt anything at all. Now, that food was boring! Even I would be inclined to shake it on there.

                                I wasn't dehydrated-ly thirsty a half hour after that meal, though, like I usually am after a restaurant meal!

                                1. re: drongo

                                  I'm very sensitive to the taste of salt, probably due to years of not adding it to my food or cooking with nearly as much as I do now. I don't think I've salted anything but eggs in a restaurant more than once that I can recall, but if the food is underseasoned, it really ruins my experience of the meal, it just seems really insipid and a turnoff from the start.

                                  I eat plenty of salty stuff, and there are a few things I season pretty strongly before cooking (chicken skin, steak), so while I pretty much feel that restaurant food is about as salty as I want it, my husband pours it on... to the point that a bite of his meal is out of the question, I can't handle it. It doesn't taste that way to him, though.