The fact that there are salt and pepper dispensers on nearly every restaurant table in America leads one to believe that we all agree that our palates differ and one person may like more salt and pepper than the next. But what about those few restaurants that don’t allow you to season at will?
Sam Breach, of Becks & Posh, explains the dilemma in a blog post titled “Salt & Pepper–What’s Your Opinion?”
I have a favourite restaurant where you have to ask if you need seasoning and it makes me feel uncomfortable. Uncomfortable that on rare occasions I should have to speak out because I think their food needs more salt. Uncomfortable at having to ask for it. Uncomfortable at having to wait for it. Uncomfortable as my food starts to get cold whilst I am waiting. Uncomfortable about sending a signal to the kitchen, when I could have subtly righted the problem myself. ... Uncomfortable that they might think I am one of those people who gratuitously adds salt and pepper to my food without giving it a second thought. Uncomfortable that they might not get that I am actually not one of those people.
Sam is sympathetic to chefs who don’t want the balance of their dishes to be thrown off. “I appreciate that they want their creations to be eaten exactly the way that was intended,” she writes. “But realistically, not everyone has the same taste buds and unfortunately sometimes the kitchen simply makes a mistake and doesn’t add enough salt to one of their dishes.”
Throwing the question open to her readers (and encouraging chefs to chime in), she’s received quite a number of replies. “I work in a restaurant where we don’t have salt and pepper on the [table],” writes one waitress commenter, “and it drives me crazy. I am a salt-aholic, and I’ll admit it. I have take[n] to keeping a tiny little jar of sea salt in my purse, because you just never know.”
With 48 comments and counting (and more than one salt-toting customer) the consensus is that the freedom to salt and pepper is the inalienable right of the diner (the LA Times even mentions this in its Diner’s Bill of Rights). As one reader points out, “The concept of not having S&P on the table is ridiculously arrogant. Give your customers the choice and if you are so fantastic, they won’t need to use them anyway.”
Amen, and pass the salt shaker.