Pass the Salt?

11 Mar 2010, Posted by Jennifer Iannolo in food, news & buzz

First they came for the foie gras.

Now, the self-appointed police of all things have decided to attack…salt. Yes, salt. That mainstay of cooking, that critical ingredient to every baker on the planet, and flavor enhancer to every dish that comes out of a kitchen, professional or otherwise.

Brooklyn Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, potentially the most unintelligent man related to food (or government) in any form, proposes in bill A. 10129 that “No owner or operator of a restaurant in this state shall use salt in any form in the preparation of any food for consumption by customers of such restaurant, including food prepared to be consumed on the premises of such restaurant or off of such premises.”

Mr. Ortiz is single-handedly trying to destroy the restaurant industry by “acting for the public good.” I won’t even get into what he’s trying to do to our palates.

What Mr. Ortiz fails to understand is that salt is an essential component of cooking and flavor enhancement. In baking, it is a chemical necessity. But such things are irrelevant to legislators of his ilk, who are trying to save us from ourselves. Alas, this is simply the latest in the government’s attempt to tell us what we can’t do, and to regulate our health by means of being an evil Nanny.

Chefs are rightfully up in arms, but it is we, the people, who need to take action. Many will shake their heads and wonder why the government is doing such a thing, but then they’ll go back to working 60-hour weeks and forget that our lives and liberties are eroding before our very eyes, as we anxiously await the next episode of Desperate Housewives.

We have become so lazy and complacent as a culture that the government now finds it appropriate to introduce such measures, so the blame rests solidly on our shoulders. We did this. And we are the only ones who can undo it. Lest you think I’m being hyperbolic, I encourage you to brush up on American history, and pay attention to the evolution of the Nanny State.

If you are outraged by the actions of Mr. Ortiz — and I hope you are, I encourage you to start writing, start calling, and let the New York State legislature know that this bill is not only a waste of taxpayer dollars, but an infringement on our rights of the most insidious nature.

Now, some of you might say “but too much salt is unhealthy!” I have news for you: Firstly, if a chef is using that much salt, he isn’t going to be in business for long, because his guests won’t eat his food. It won’t taste good. Secondly, too much of anything is unhealthy, and that’s where we come in: We are the ones consuming, so we must pay attention to what’s going in our mouths. Eat too much salt over a lifetime and it may have adverse effects — but we are the ones holding the fork.

If the idea of the government rationing your food makes you bristle, recognize that much worse measures are not far away. Unless we act now. A coalition called My Food, My Choice has gotten together to fight such inanities — I’m signing up right this minute.

New York State Assembly (look up your assemblyman):

Felix Ortiz
E-mail contact

District Office
404 55th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11220

Albany Office
LOB 627
Albany, NY 12248

  • Yet another legislator ignorant of basic science. Except for those individuals who have medical conditions that require management of salt due to kidney issues, any adult with two functioning kidneys and access to fresh water will not have issues with salt.

    I wouldn’t bother protesting to the state assembly, though. Go find whoever is the best corporate lobbyist on staff at the McDonald’s Corporation and pass the legislation along to them. Mr. Ortiz will shortly understand the wrath of a megacorporation when his next election rival receives a gazillion dollars in campaign funding.

  • Wow serious WTF for this one. Salt? Are you kidding?

    This easily qualifies as the most ridiculous thing I’ve read all week.

  • You are so right about salt. In Japanese cuisine it is said to take ten years just to learn how to use salt. I find that is what’s wrong with most American chefs; they lack respect for salt.

    It’s absolute insanity that politicians would have anything to say about salt.

  • Un-freakin’-believable.

    Jennifer, I just watched the video from GritTV on the CMN feed. While your counterpart there made some valid points, I completely agree that our culture is in a wild tailspin when it comes to basic education and support for healthy diets, beginning at home.

    It’s a shame that we have to even entertain such laws as banning salt and soda machines in schools, but if that KFC monstrosity is any indication, our culture seems aimed at being as unhealthy as it can get away with – just for the sake of being so!

    That “sandwich” is almost like KFC’s version of “bragging rights,” telling Americans that it’s ok to be obese and unhealthy, and to not let anyone tell them to be otherwise! It’s a rather messed-up part of our culture, and unless we can find a way to educate people AWAY from that concept (to be blunt, to teach them the concept of self-respect in the form of what they put into their bodies), we will continue to challenge such inane laws as your state’s Assemblyman’s “ban on salt” (which has been around as a cooking implement since, oh, I don’t know – pre-Christ?!?).

    Bravo for going on that show and taking a stand, and thank you for sharing it with us.

  • O.k., I had to add just one more, though this might not be a bad thing!

    The county of Santa Clara in California just approved an ordinance that prevents restaurants from including toys in meals that are high in fat, sugar and calories. That’s right… they just banned the Happy Meal!

  • LS

    Take those legislators to a cooking class and teach them some food chemistry and remind them the focus should be on fresh fruits and veggies, real foods…

    The issue I think is mostly the prepared/packaged/canned products that rely too heavily on salt. Also, the fast-food industry – for example, who needs a boatload of salt in a chocolate milkshake?

    If you’re using good quality ingredients and preparing foods with health and taste as priorities, you should be fine. If you’re just cramming cheap food-like substances or things that are generally regarded as non-toxic and they can be made to appear like food and people will be tricked into believing they’re food and will buy and eat them… that’s the real problem with too much salt. You know, pulverize cardboard and add enough salt and slap a snazzy food label on it – people will be fooled into believing it’s edible, tasty and even good for them.

    THAT is the problem that needs addressing.

    There’s good cooking and then there’s just manipulation of a trusting or a “too busy to care: population of consumers. Legislators should be able to tell the difference and craft their laws accordingly.