Friday, June 4, 2010

What's in your cellar?

I love salt.  My preference these days is for Maldon sea salt, the chef's darling, a gorgeously flaky substance that adds real pizazz to a finished dish.  And it's sparkly and pretty so what's not to love?  I have a salt pig by the stove full of a Mediterranean fine sea salt that I use for my pasta water and as a cooking ingredient.  It's relatively inexpensive compared with the Maldon, which, in my eye, is akin to finishing a dish with an exquisite olive oil.  And, apparently, I'm contributing to the demise of my loved ones.

The hot topic in food these days is how to "fix" the American diet.  With obesity on the rise across the board (not just in children) it is now time again to pick an ingredient and beat it to death and find some way to regulate it until something else comes along to take its place.  The villain these days is salt. Table salt, curing salt, sea salt, the American diet is apparently busting at the seams with salt.  This of course is contributing to high blood pressure, hypertension, you name it.  So let's regulate it.  Let's take personal responsibility away from people and tell them how to eat.  You know, like we did when we made everything low-fat  Look how much good that did!

Yeah, look how much good that did.  America only got fatter.

And why is this?  Not because the food is loaded with salt or fat or sugar or secret ingredient #5.  It is because the mind-set of so many people is, it tastes good, I want more, I'm going to eat more, and you're not going to stop me.  And there, in my opinion, lies the problem.  The same problem I always find in these "let's tell people what to do" arguments.  Laziness and lack of personal responsibility. Anyone of average intelligence can read a label and think, yeah, that's a wee bit salty, and put it back on the shelf.  That same person could just as easily choose to live off those foods and develop some serious health issues.  And see a doctor.  And be told to go on a low-sodium diet.  And either ignore the doctor and suffer or listen and learn and live.

I'm not perfect.  I just know how and what to cook because I care about what we eat and I want us to stay healthy.  And I always have Goldfish on hand because I have two kids.  It's called survival.  How hard is it to read a label, really?  If your doctor tells you to lay off the salt, read the damn label. Prepare a meal from scratch.  See a nutritionist if you don't want to do it by yourself.  An R.D. can follow your eating habits, help you narrow down what you should and shouldn't be eating, and plan menus for you. Can't get much easier than that.  Stay away from the drive-thru.  Have hot dogs or some really good salami once a week instead of every day. Seriously, where is the difficulty in this?

My other question is why is it the responsibility of the food companies to fix the American diet? Nola sent me an excellent article from the Times that you can read here.  It's long and will take some time to get through but it's one of the best I've read thus far, and far more coherent than what I've presented here.  It's also fascinating from a scientific and industry perspective.

The path to better health starts in the kitchen.  With real food, prepared properly, eaten with joy.  Ideally, there will be pie.


Quilting Mama said...

Thank you oh Goddess of the Kitchen! The reason your family will be healthy with everything you feed them - because you COOK!
If people stopped looking to someone else to prepare and serve all their meals then perhaps they would be healthier.

Ahhhh - I'm feeling much better.

The Caked Crusader said...

I know we're not meant to admit it - but I LOVE salt too!

Lisa said...

@Mama: I can't fathom living without basic cooking skills. If you can read, you can cook, simple as that.

@CC: Could you imagine how utterly tasteless baked goods would be without a pinch of salt? Ghastly.

Nola said...

Excellent post Lisa. I'd really like to co-host this post for you here (like a guest post) so to speak. Basically, I'll write a little pre-amble intorducing you, then run your post word for word, with links back to your blog. I think an Australian audience would really appreciate this as well. What do you think? Tweet me...