On saltiness

My grandma loves salt. I have very distinct memories of sitting next to her at the dinner table as she the doused her often already salted food before she even tasted it, “just in case” it needed it, singing the praises of this simple little seasoning and changing the definition of “moderation” shake by (hundredth) shake. And whether or or not she was intentionally trying to or not, she converted me. I never salted a thing in my life before she lived with us when I was in high school. But a few months into her stay and I suddenly found myself taking bites of food I had always liked before and saying to myself, “Hmmm, this could really use a little salt.” So salt I did, and salt I still often do, fully convinced that it really can certain dishes and that it really won’t kill you. Granted, I don’t salt to the extreme that Gigi did; I always give a dish a fair shot without the salt, then determine whether or not it needs some extra salt, and decide how much is the perfect amount. This is always a process, but it’s one that I think most humans who eat and enjoy food would agree is a worthwhile one.

Now you might be thinking, “Wow, this girl really loves salt. What does a healthy balance of salting even mean, and why does it matter? Is she ever going to stop talking about salt?” Don’t worry, I’m not that obsessed, I do think about other things, and I DO have a point. But here’s the thing- I have been thinking about salt a lot lately. Not just the seasoning, but even more so the way it’s used in the context of that age old qualifier that most people probably hate, “take this with a grain of salt.” I won’t lie, I use this phrase all the time, as I’m sure many of you also do, but have you ever really thought about what you’re saying when you say it? The way I hear it most often used (and use it most often myself) is, like I said above, as a qualifier, or even more so a dis-qualifierTo put this phrase in front of a statement is to presuppose for yourself and whoever you’re talking to that you might not know what you’re talking about but you’re gonna go for it anyway and maybe it’s good, maybe it’s not, so you’re really, really sorry if it’s dumb, but don’t worry it’s salted so either way it’ll still go down easy! Let’s think about this in the context of a practical analogy. This is where my grandma story from before ties in. (told you there was point) In the same way that I described her salting her food before she even tasted it “just in case” it tasted bad, slapping “take this with a grain of salt” to the front of a statement is like disqualifying what you said before anyone even has a chance to judge it. This is not a good, healthy and balanced use of salt, and this is not a good, healthy use of your thoughts.

But here’s the thing- despite it’s overuse, salt still has an important place in the world of food seasoning. And likewise, I think those qualifying “grains of salt” still have an important place in our world. Because reality is, we’re human and we sometimes say ignorant or misguided or immature or just downright dumb things that often need a little salt to be swallowed by those around us. This is where the healthy balance I referenced earlier comes in. In the same way that we’ve had to learn when something needs a lot of salt, a little, or even none at all, I think we have to learn the right amount of qualifying salt to give our thoughts and ideas. How big of a “grain” are we going to douse each one with before presenting it to the world around us?

I am 21 years old. I just graduated college, and with that diploma I received a physical confirmation that I have a specific set of skills and ideas to offer to the waiting world. But I am still only 21 years old. And although age doesn’t always = wisdom, it can sure help. No matter how legitimate my degrees look, I still only have 21 years of a very specific set of life experiences’, so I know that I can only truly and confidently, from those experiences, from the education I have, etc., speak to so much. So does this mean I should stop speaking after I’ve exhausted this storehouse of experience and education? Should I never share an opinion unless I’m fully confident that I am 100% right about it? Well, should every cook who’s ever made a dish that needs a little extra salt to taste better just stop cooking all together? Definitely not. Lots of people, myself included, would be pretty hungry. Likewise, lots of people might be pretty hungry for the thoughts and ideas you have to offer if you back down from saying them out of fear of being wrong.

A brief disclaimer here: this is not me presenting a free pass for arrogance and pride. The type of honesty and boldness that I’m talking about is one that is acutely aware that it might need a little salt, and humbly prepared to graciously receive it in order to temper the taste and improve the overall quality of the “dish.”

This, then, is my hope for this blog. That it would be a space of thinking, processing, and sharing thoughts and insights about the ever-shifting pieces of the world around me, around us. But that these thoughts would all be tempered with those 21-year old grains of salt and graciously ready to receive a shake (or a hundred) of them when necessary. Because we could almost always benefit from a little salt and a lot of grace.

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2 thoughts on “On saltiness

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