Brined for a Fight

A funny entry about oversalted potato-chip chicken on the Failed Recipes LiveJournal inspired some commenters to muse about just how much of the mineral one person can take. Poster Volkerri describes her boyfriend’s reaction as he begins eating the chicken (before she’s discovered her salty slip-up):

He took his first bite … his lips curled in. His face turned red. He started gulping his drink and running to the kitchen for more. He had his head under the faucet as I rounded the corner. Still flushed, he asked what in the world did I do to that chicken.

Commenter Coercedbynutmeg is moved to ask, “Is your boyfriend a slug? I’m amazed at his reaction to the salt! Unless you used a ton, it shouldn’t have been such a big deal.”

Mr./Ms. Nutmeg has a point: Given the excessive salinity of processed foods these days—which recently led the American Medical Association to declare a war on salt—we’re supposed to have lost that kind of sensitivity. And by the way, AMA, restaurants are apparently just as guilty of oversalting: Together with processed foods, restaurant meals make up almost 80 percent of the sodium in our diet.

Of course it’s not just McDonald’s that likes to salt it up—one of the supposed marks of a true chef is that s/he isn’t scared of liberally sprinkling sodium on everything. A friend of a friend who works in the Chez Panisse kitchen once said that your own cooking will never taste like what you’d get in a restaurant unless you add way more salt than seems appropriate. This trick (along with using tons of other seasonings, and a whopping dose of butter) is what makes lots of restaurant food so delicious. I’m all for reducing the average person’s sodium intake by requiring convenience-food manufacturers to cut back on the stuff, but if the FDA ends up regulating salt content in restaurant food as well, they might just have some angry chefs (with some very flat-tasting dishes) on their hands.

Then again, if processed foods become less salty, eateries could end up cutting back sodium levels in their food to meet changed consumer tastes. Any chefs out there want to share their thoughts?

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