The number one most emailed story on the New York Times website thus far this Memorial Day weekend is In Defense of Salt: “The Hard Sell on Salt.” Food Network star Alton Brown, the nerdy one for the smart demographic, gets the first word, and gets to the point. “Salt is a pretty amazing compound,” he insists. “So make sure you have plenty of salt in your kitchen at all times.” Like Eliot Spitzer redeeming his image post-hooker, salt is on the PR offensive, post-heart disease. Cargill, a large food company, is leading the charm campaign, and their motives are pretty clear. They just want everything to taste really good.
The campaign by Cargill, which both produces and uses salt, promotes salt as “life enhancing” and suggests sprinkling it on foods as varied as chocolate cookies, fresh fruit, ice cream and even coffee.
Life is better with salt in coffee. But at the same time, “Government health experts estimate that deep cuts in salt consumption could save 150,000 lives a year.”
And so the food companies “delay and divert,” hoping not to lose profits. In turn, they blame the consumer, who can just not get enough salt. America’s love affair with hedonistic health habits and the cheapest, best tasting garbage at all times will not be interrupted because of any pesky high blood pressure. Plus, without salt, all food would taste like shit because it’s processed to hell:
Beyond its own taste, salt also masks bitter flavors and counters a side effect of processed food production called “warmed-over flavor,” which, the scientists said, can make meat taste like “cardboard” or “damp dog hair.”
This Sunday front-page story is not to be missed, primarily for the case study of Cheez-Its, but also as an illustration of America’s willful ignorance, in which we ignore facts and transparent corporate attempts to inundate us with both lies and junk of equal nutritional value for instant pleasure and salted ice cream. Amen.
The Hard Sell on Salt [New York Times]