Monday, January 10, 2011

We're Talking Salt and Pepper

These piggy salt and pepper shakers were won in my family's Dirty Santa game this past Christmas. Best. Gift. Ever.

More and more, I have been noticing that the new "statement" for a restaurant to make is omitting salt and pepper shakers from the table. The service tagline may go something like: "Our chef thinks that everything comes out of the kitchen already with the optimal amount of seasoning."

Fair enough, but what if the chef and I have differing opinions on what amount of seasoning is "optimal"?  Admittedly, I am a salt and pepper fiend. There was once a time when I would instinctively reach for ebony and ivory as soon as my plate hit the table and start vigorously shaking before even tasting my food. I probably would have registered as threat level orange by the National High Blood Pressure Education Program, but in recent times I have learned to curb my addiction.

The first instance I recall sitting down at a restaurant and noticing that there were no salt and pepper shakers was at The French Laundry. Instead of panicking, I said to myself: "It's Thomas freaking Keller, and he is watching the kitchen on a webcam right now. If he thinks the food is seasoned correctly, then that's fine by me."

But not every chef is Thomas Keller. I have started making a note of whether a restaurant leaves salt and pepper off the table by default, and let me tell you that list grows longer everyday. I understand that a chef believes that he knows his food better than anyone else, and henceforth his seasoning is the correct seasoning. But I also know that many cooks tend to underseason a dish because too much salt cannot be subsequently removed and any additional salt needed can be applied at the table.

So why make me go through the added effort of asking for the salt and pepper? Or is this more of a table decor issue? Salt is one of the few essential cooking elements, and while more is not necessarily always better, nothing brings out the flavor in foods like salt does.

Even in chocolate milk...


katie said...

one of my favorite modern family episodes!! I do like salt, but I'm more of a pepper picker. I recently watched some cooking show that suggested using more herbs (oregano, cumin, basil, thyme, dill) to save us from that sodium overload. But what would we do without ebony and ivory? or without "Shoop"?

frog said...

I don't have an issue with it, you can always ask for it. And if a chef is confident to leave S&P off the table, I will be inclined to trust her/his judgement. If she is wrong, I won't go back.