No, Not Low Salt, No Salt

Do you have any dietary requirements, sir? I was asked that almost all the time in the cruise ship recently. At first it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. Thanks, they made me feel important, gave very special attention to my requirements. And they called me sir! In the egalitarian Australian society, no one is referred to as sir anymore unless he was an old knight. The last person knighted by the Queen was in 1986, the last of the twelve knights. And then an attempted revival of the monarchy in 2014 saw two more knighted before they were once again removed by the republican PM Malcolm Turnbull a year later. Yet on the cruise ship, I was called sir. Do you have any dietary requirements, sir? Thank you, sir. You’re very welcome, sir. When I was little, I used to call people sir. In school, with my right hand raised, I had to ask at the appropriate time, can I go to the toilet, sir? I had to wait for silence first in case I interrupted sir’s important lesson. In my dad’s shop, all customers were ma’ams and sirs. Well trained by the English colonialists, we behaved with much politeness. Was it about courtesy or subservience? I wasn’t clever enough to ask them. My dad’s shop was a dhobi shop, today it would be called a laundromat. The laundro bit I can understand but the mat bit  (from matic?) still baffles me. Totally laborious there’s nothing automatic about his business. We certainly didn’t clean anyone’s mats back then either. My dad did “dry-clean” an English lord’s Persian carpet once though. Only once. I’ll share a secret here. There’s no known technology in the 1950’s to dry clean Persian rugs. Well, if there was one, it was unknown to my dad. It took him a week to clean (with water) and dry it, not dry clean as requested. Pa and my brother had to deliver the cleaned rug to the lord, in tandem on two bicycles. After they laid the rug on its original location, Pa suddenly and inexplicably could no longer understand the lord when the English gentleman began mouthing at him. He hastily retreated from the lord’s bungalow, left his unpaid invoice on the clean rug which had gained a perfect border on the floor. The lighter shade of floor which framed the rug served as irrefutable evidence that the rug had shrunk.

There’s so much literature these days about the evils of salt and sugar in our diet. By these days, I mean the past two years, as far as my interest in the evils of salt and sugar is concerned. The evils of salt have been known for decades; sugar’s damaging properties on our health, a bit more recently. But I must admit I have reduced my salt intake markedly for just over a year now. The more salt there is in our body, the more our kidneys struggle to maintain the balance of potassium and sodium for osmosis to remove excess fluids from our bloodstream. The extra water retained causes high blood pressure and that leads to all sorts of problems for our heart, arteries, kidneys and brain.

Salt is mainly comprised of sodium with traces of iodine, potassium, magnesium and iron. Salts containing the least sodium are Celtic Sea Salt (33.8%), followed by pink Himalayan salt (36.8%). Table salt has the highest (39.1%). Our body requires salt, but no more than 2400mg a day. More than that is excessive, which leads to many health problems.

So, why is food in Europe still so salty?! Why aren’t they averse to salt? Everywhere I visited, I was made to feel special. Do you have any dietary requirements, sir? Yes, I’m on a low salt diet. Please inform your chef not to add too much salt. But, unfailingly, my food was always still on the salty side. The salt in my body must still be registering Way Too Salty on the salt meter. The meter’s arrow would still be pointed at the danger zone. I have been home for almost a week and on my usual low salt diet, yet I would not be surprised if my sodium levels are still raised. Thinking about this again, I can’t help but feel stupid. Why say low salt? How low is low to the chef? Don’t add too much salt? What’s too much?! A recipe for failure of course. Words are the greatest source of misunderstandings, sir. It was only the last meal there that I woke up to my idiocy. All along I should have said, no, not low salt, no salt please. Many ingredients were already marinated with salt, food cured or precooked, such as the prosciutto, pasta sauces and soups of the day.

Even the lobsters and Alaskan King Crab legs were salty.

The price we pay when we gain knowledge. Knowing that salt is bad for me, I have got used to a low salt regime at home. But, that means the food I look forward to on my holidays only look magical but rate rather poorly due to the relative saltiness. Urghhlings are impossible to please.

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