Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Salt & Pepper - What's your Opinion?

Should restaurants put it on the table or not?

picture photograph image  salt and pepper 2007 copyright of sam breach http://becksposhnosh.blogspot.com/

What do you think of restaurants where the Chefs resist allowing diners the chance to season their own food by not offering salt or pepper, at the table? I have a favourite restaurant where you have to ask if you need seasoning and it makes me feel uncomfortable. Uncomfortable that on rare occasions I should have to speak out because I think their food needs more salt. Uncomfortable at having to ask for it. Uncomfortable at having to wait for it. Uncomfortable as my food starts to get cold whilst I am waiting. Uncomfortable about sending a signal to the kitchen, when I could have subtly righted the problem myself, had the condiments been available for me to do so. Uncomfortable that they might think I am one of those people who gratuitously adds salt and pepper to my food without giving it a second thought. Uncomfortable that they might not get that I am actually not one of those people. Uncomfortable that the restaurant will restrict their customers from seasoning a dish to their own taste, but will allow a busboy , wielding a grinder almost as tall as himself, to randomly crack pepper all over a dish instead (perhaps this is the customer's punishment?)

I can empathise with the chefs' way of thinking on this subject , in theory. I appreciate that they want their creations to be eaten exactly the way that was intended. But realistically, not everyone has the same taste buds and unfortunately sometimes the kitchen simply makes a mistake and doesn't add enough salt to one of their dishes. And then the onus is on the customer to get the problem sorted out. If salt and pepper is on the table already, customers can overcome this problem with a minimum of fuss. Without it, they have to ask.

Well, it could be worse. Having to ask for salt is a slightly less embarrassing than having to send the dish back to the kitchen because it is too salty. I'll be grateful for small mercies.

In the meantime - I'd love for you to chime in with your opinion, especially if you're a Chef. Speak up from the other side of the fence, please. I think I can understand the other point of view, after all I do live with someone who likes to put mustard on just about anything I cook...




PS - Please spare a thought for everyone in Southern California today. I am keeping my fingers crossed, especially for my good friend Alice, who I met through our mutual love of food and blogging. My thoughts are with you, Alice.

Archives
2006 | Marmite Danger
2005 | Ugly Souffle
2004 | Even Uglier duckling

© 2007 Sam Breach
Salt & Pepper - What's your Opinion?

71 Comments:

  • At 23/10/07 21:54, Blogger Lisa the Waitress said…

    Must. Have. Salt. I work in a restaurant where we don't have salt and pepper on the restaurant, and it drives me crazy. I am a salt-aholic, and I'll admit it. I have take to keeping a tiny little jar of sea salt in my purse, because you just never know.

    The worst is when you get something with a poached egg on it. Egg yolks (which are in my top 10 favorite foods) need salt, and the only way to give it to them is to salt the newly-opened yolk.

    I just really think that taste is subjective, and it's pretty silly for a chef to think he's so amazing that he can season everything perfectly for everyone's tastes.

     
  • At 23/10/07 22:02, Blogger Jennifer Maiser said…

    I really balk when I don't have salt and pepper available. And I'm not good at speaking up when I need it, so sometimes I go without and enjoy it less had I been given the salt as a default on the table. Or instead of thoroughly enjoying my food or my company, I am considering whether I should ask for salt.

    I know this speaks to bigger issues -- that I need to be less shy and speak up, but I'd rather just be given salt and pepper on the table instead of redesigning my character. :)

    And I certainly don't season things on the fly -- only do it after I decide that it needs it.

     
  • At 23/10/07 22:19, Blogger david hayes said…

    I support it. If a chef is exacting enough that she won't allow you to screw with her seasoning, she's probably pretty good.

    If she's not, I don't have to return.

    Plus it saves me from having too much sodium in my diet, something every American can benefit from.

     
  • At 23/10/07 22:21, Blogger Cali said…

    I vote in favor of salt and pepper on tables, and I would ideally like the pepper to be in a grinder. I don't want dry, old pepper. I want freshly ground!

     
  • At 23/10/07 22:59, Blogger Catherine said…

    Absolutely, salt and pepper have to be on the table. Please don't try to save me from my salt-loving self, chefs. I don't want to be saved. And I don't want to be shamed for wanting it. I'm thinking I have one more item to add to my purse (see lisa's comment).

     
  • At 23/10/07 23:17, Blogger Stefania said…

    There is nothing worse than eating a dish that is just ever-so- slightly undersalted--where you know just a dash would truly bring it to life--and there is no salt on the table.

    Everyone's palates *are* different which is precisely why there should be salt and pepper on the table. I think it's presumptuous when it's not there. I set out salt and pepper for my dinner guests, restaurants should do the same for their guests.

     
  • At 23/10/07 23:43, Blogger theotherbear said…

    There should be salt and a pepper grinder. The only person who should be able to tell me not to have too much salt is my mother.

     
  • At 24/10/07 00:01, Blogger McAuliflower said…

    should should should!

    besides- table salt is not where excess sodium likely comes from...

     
  • At 24/10/07 00:05, Blogger ChrisB said…

    There should be salt and pepper readily available. As others have said it's down to individual choice. I know we have to watch our salt intake and I use very little salt in cooking now. However some things just need it and in a restaurant the choice should be left with the those who are dining.

     
  • At 24/10/07 01:37, Anonymous ZaZa said…

    Can you say egotistical control freak? And I don't mean you.

    As someone who salts very little in their cooking, if at all, I would never even contemplate not providing salt and pepper on the table. I may think the way I prepared something is the perfect balance. As you so rightly point out, that's my taste buds.

    I'm with lisa the waitress. I carry a small, lidded salt shaker and a tiny pepper grinder in my purse, mostly because I like a particular type of salt and have a favorite combination of peppercorns. But, do other, less picky folks have to resort to this, too, just to be able to enjoy a meal which I am sure was on the high end of the price scale.

    Huh. Funny when you think about it, but the chains where things are often too salty, would never consider not providing salt and pepper for their customers.

    Nah. That's just plain old ego.

     
  • At 24/10/07 02:13, Blogger Babeth said…

    Salt and pepper on the table! Taste is something so personal, yes a good chef can introduce us to some tastes band flavors but eating is a private matter.

     
  • At 24/10/07 04:07, Blogger Deborah said…

    I think chefs who make such a mandate just lack experience. Most top chefs realize that although a customers taste might not suit the food best (i.e. well done fillet, cream in the carbonara etc.) ultimately it is the customer who is paying the bill and their salaries. Chefs who don't get this won't be in the business long. As much as it may pain a chef, he cannot dictate to his customers, indeed it should be the other way around. I love Gordon Ramsay's take on this and particularly enjoy his "Kitchen Nightmares" where he constantly encounters chefs like these who are too arrogant to admit that it's causing their business to fail.

    But like some of your other comments I always carry a bit of salt in the handbag... never know when you'll need it!

     
  • At 24/10/07 04:14, Blogger Caffienated Cowgirl said…

    I am all for having salt and pepper on the table. Always have been.

    One intriguing thing though...while living in England, we stopped at a service area on the motorway to get lunch for our son. We went to Burger King. When the meal came, there was NO salt on the fries...and it was at this point we noticed the sign saying that due to people's varying dietary regulations, they stopped salting fries and are letting the customers do it themselves. Intriguing...

     
  • At 24/10/07 04:48, Anonymous jerry said…

    I'm not a chef, but as someone who lives on a low sodium intake, my tastes have adjusted. I can taste salt more easily than others, because I've trained myself to notice it. I always have it available to others when they are over.

    For restaurant to not offer salt or pepper at the table is, to me, a bit presumptuous. I can understand not putting ketchup or other condiments out. (I mean really, somebody would use it!) But salt and pepper levels in a dish are personal choices that vary wildly between individuals.

     
  • At 24/10/07 04:57, Anonymous B said…

    Whats wrong with needing salt?!?!?
    I refuse to feel ashamed.
    Those chefs, like so many, are uptight a******s!

    B
    Hand to Mouth

     
  • At 24/10/07 05:11, Blogger Dagny said…

    I don't really like salt that much and tend to use it sparingly in my cooking. My family knows this well and so they have learned to add salt when they think it needs more. They would be very upset if there was not salt easily available.

    Also, I tend to taste things before adding anything. It does drive me nuts when folks add seasoning without first tasting the food.

     
  • At 24/10/07 05:21, Anonymous ann said…

    Absolutely must be on the table. Even if the dish is perfectly salted, sometimes just a wee pinch more can heighten the flavor or bring out nuances.

    And while we're on the topic, can we talk about restaurants that ask you to choose if you want pepper on your meal before you've even tried it?! Ugh, makes me super cranky.

    Freedom of seasoning is absolutely something I consider when making my dining choices, "Well I could go back to restaurant A, but I'd have to ask for the salt and decided about pepper and they're slow about bringing the salt, so I think I'll go to restaurant B where I have freedom instead."

     
  • At 24/10/07 05:39, Blogger KimberlyDi said…

    As a cook but not a chef, I always err on the side of caution when salting. I don't like a ton of salt while my husband likes to generously salt everything.

    Salt and pepper should be readily available.

     
  • At 24/10/07 07:33, Blogger Anita said…

    I agree with you entirely. Unless the chef is personally tasting each plate that leaves her kitchen, there should be salt on the table.

    Oh, and the L.A. Times agrees:
    http://www.latimes.com/features/printedition/food/la-fo-rights24oct24,1,3541590.story

     
  • At 24/10/07 07:40, Blogger Almost Vegetarian said…

    Everyone's palate is different. So even if the chef thinks it is perfect, to you, it might not be. In my home, the rule is, taste it first, then if you want to doctor, then doctor away. Who am I to tell people how their food should taste to them?

    Cheers!

     
  • At 24/10/07 08:35, Anonymous Silverbrow said…

    The concept of not having S&P on the table is ridiculously arrogant. Give your customers the choice and if you are so fantastic, they won't need to use them anyway.

     
  • At 24/10/07 08:47, Blogger Curt McAdams said…

    I agree with ZaZa... Egotistical control freaks. I think it's ego that a chef says his palette is superior to mine. His tastes may be very different. I don't use a lot of salt, but on some things, I want them to be almost salty. And whether you gratuitously salt and pepper or not, that's your right; you're the one paying the bill.

    I do competition barbecue, and I had to get over the fact that I don't like to drown everything in sauce; when I turn in entries, I want the judges to think my bbq is great, not wonder why there's no sauce. If that's what the customer (judge) wants, I give it to them. And I do the best I can knowing what they want, not what I think they should want.

     
  • At 24/10/07 08:55, Blogger Trig said…

    I have a much lower tolerance to salt than most people, mainly because my family never used much when I was growing up. For us it was black pepper on everything. At college I often found that I generally underseasoned with salt and overseasoned with pepper compared to most peoples' tastes because of my natural inclination. It got me in trouble a good few times! Then I started having to add more salt to food that I would personally be happy with, which is just soul-crushing. I think salt and pepper at the table is a must. Especially because my tastes differ so much to that of most people, I always need to add more black pepper at the table.

     
  • At 24/10/07 09:50, Blogger nicole said…

    I think it's fine to have it on the table ... I hardly ever use it, but sometimes I would really like the option and if it's not there it's a bit of a bummer (and I never ask for it, probably because I too am shy). When I cook, I try not to use too much salt, so I expect whoever eats it to put salt on it later, at his/her discretion -- and I would imagine this could hold for professionals as well?

    Also, my bf puts hot sauce on nearly everything I cook, which used to drive me crazy, but now I just think it's funny and don't take it personally anymore :)

     
  • At 24/10/07 10:17, Blogger Jim said…

    Absolutely. Not allowing patrons to season the food to their particular taste is a bad sign.

    Excuse me, but, um, the customer is PAYING for the meal. The chef works FOR the customer. A restaurant is not a personal artistic endeavor on the part of the chef. It's a business.

    When a chef doesn't understand that fundamental concept, I've found they don't stay in that business very long.

     
  • At 24/10/07 10:19, Blogger Becky Rose said…

    Well, as someone who lives in LA, where pretentiousness is the norm and not the exception, I find that I have to ask not only for salt and pepper, but also sugar, napkins, place settings, etc. I have a theory that it might have something to do with the asthetics of the restraunt. They want it to look clean and modern inside. Having the condiments on the table, is too "diner-eque", which annoys the crap out of me! I'll be so glad to get back to Portland, OR where the food speaks for itself!

     
  • At 24/10/07 10:24, Anonymous Jeff said…

    Let them eat salt!

     
  • At 24/10/07 12:20, Blogger the chocolate lady מרת שאקאלאד said…

    Does this post need another comment? Well, I'll say it anyway. yes, there should be salt on the table, yes, different people have widely differing salt needs, and yes they should get the salt now and not later. Thanks Sam, for putting all of this so very clearly.

    Has anyone ever had the experience of asking for salt in one of these places and getting an argument? I don't recall being denied salt, but I was once at a tea place nearby, and when I requested milk and my companion requested sugar the waiter told us that we would enjoy the tea better without and we were obliged to insist that we had tried the tea and really wanted milk and sugar. It was mortifying.

     
  • At 24/10/07 13:52, Anonymous Squeat Mungry said…

    Absolutely. I always check right away, and if it isn't on the table, I ask for it right away.

     
  • At 24/10/07 13:55, Anonymous Hannah said…

    I'm incredibly interested by the fact that it seems all the comments here have been about salt - while for me, the reason I'd prefer it if restaurants provided s&p is for the pepper. Maybe the salt thing is particularly American? (I'm Australian.)I get really uncomfortable by waiters brandishing massive pepper grinders, and I always feel embarrassed about them standing there grinding away so I always say 'enough' when I'd really like more!

     
  • At 24/10/07 14:41, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I carry 2 inch high salt and pepper shakers in my handbag with me. Just pop some sticky tape over the holes, no waiting.

    Although, I would much prefer fresh ground pepper I'm yet to find an inch high grinder.

     
  • At 24/10/07 14:51, Blogger Del4yo said…

    There is already a lot of better written comments than mine, but I would like to add something:

    Perception of taste is like perception of colors.
    Everybody doesn't have the same!! One out of a thousand people has a perfect perception of colors. Plus you have to work hard to learn how to make the difference between subtle hues. I guess it's the same for salt and pepper...Sugar and ...and...every taste on Hearth.

    Plus. The perception of salty and sweet changes when you grow up. tests were done proving the perception of sugar and salt were not good for toddlers (they don't love sugar that much. They need a lot to perceive it), and I guess it changes as getting older and older.

    So I find chefs pretty arrogant to say that their perception of the day is good for everybody. It's a bit like saying that everybody should wear a size four, too bad if you are a ten,shame shame shame.


    I miss the Italian tables. With half a pound of already freshly gratted Parmegiano Reggiano to spoil your spaghetti if you like it.

     
  • At 24/10/07 15:04, Anonymous Erin of SpiceDish said…

    Everyone's palate is so different while the chef may have expertly seasoned the dish it may not taste that way say to my old college roommate who had an extremely limited sense of smell...and therefore taste. Totally extreme case? Sure, but some days I just want more damn pepper!

     
  • At 24/10/07 15:07, Blogger Tea said…

    I was in Whole Foods buying deli items once (I don't usually shop there) and they had these small packets of Fleur de sel, the size of a sugar packet. I grabbed an extra one or two and have them in my bag as backup. But how sad if I actually had to use them.

     
  • At 24/10/07 15:17, Blogger Farmer de Ville said…

    Not giving guests salt, at least, comes from culinary arrogance.

    I have no patience for chefs or restaurateurs who hold their patrons hostage to their own definition of "properly seasoned" food.

    Don't inconvenience guests by making them ask for salt - it is rude, selfish, and ultimately, benefits no one.

     
  • At 24/10/07 15:31, Blogger Keith said…

    I think salt should be available on the table. I like my butter salted and I hate having to ask and wait for the salt. I know good food and I always feel a little insulted that I can't be trusted to salt my own food.

     
  • At 24/10/07 16:59, Blogger Kevin said…

    Sam,
    Not offering salt is pure, unalloyed arrogance. It presumes that everyone has the same taste buds the obviously brain-dead chef has.

    I always undersalt when I cook because my mother is hyper-sensitive to salt and she taught me to cook. But at the table I add more salt freely to my own food. And when she tells me (or my father) you don't need that salt my response is always, "Yes I do." After all, no one knows my taste buds better than I do.

     
  • At 24/10/07 17:09, Anonymous haddock said…

    Put the fucking salt and pepper on the table. We're in the business of feeding people and making them feel good, not feeding our egos and making patrons feel uncomfortable.

     
  • At 24/10/07 17:11, Blogger Chubbypanda said…

    It used to be that chefs would slightly underseason their creations, and that the salt and pepper at the table were provided to allow diners to bring the seasonings up to their preferred levels. While I appreciate the more aggressive flavorings used nowadays, I also wonder what happened to the common courtesy of allowing guests to adjust dishes to suit their taste buds. When did the ego of the chefs begin to supersede the preferences of diners, their paying customers.

     
  • At 24/10/07 19:24, Blogger Christina said…

    I think of the chef as an artist, and as such, he or she has no control over the art as soon as it leaves his or her hands. Just as readers' collections of experiences and cultural understandings shape the way readers read, giving writers little control over readers' reading experiences, so do eaters' food experiences. A chef cannot control HOW an eater eats any more than a writer can control HOW a reader reads. Those who do try to control how eaters eat, by withholding salt and pepper, for example, do not seem to understand that the same rules that apply for art also apply to culinary creations.

     
  • At 24/10/07 22:24, Blogger Sam said…

    I just wanted to stop by and than everyone for all the comments - keep them coming - it really is fascinating to see how different people feel so strongly about this subject.

    I am clearly doing things wrong by not carrying around my own personal supply in my handbag! I like the idea, too, of making it clear up front, before you have even ordered any food, that you would like some salt and a pepper grinder on the table.

    Like some of the people who have commented - I admit to having a kind of brainless black pepper addiction which I try suppress when dining out. Yes - I really love black pepper all over everything but I don't actually think it is a good idea and so I usually refrain when dining out these days unless pizza or pasta or some creamy white soup or something along those lines..

    But with salt - it is only something I would add after tasting the food. SO I gues, like most of you, I would like to have that choice available to me without having to make too much of a scene.

     
  • At 25/10/07 01:22, Blogger Beccy said…

    I totally agree with you Sam, everyone should have the choice. Of course as someone who hates pepper I wish chefs didn't season and let the costumer choose as many meals have been spoilt for me with too much pepper.

     
  • At 25/10/07 06:25, Blogger Chef Eric said…

    Great question!!
    I am a chef who does not allow salt and pepper on the table. The reason is I an excellent palate and can season the dish almost to the grain in the amount of salt needed. When salting a dish, one does not want to taste the salt. Salt's job is bring up the flavors already present in the dish. I always add salt to the point where more will only make the dish salty. Plus, salt added at the table does not blend in and one gets a rough salt taste instead of a more rounded out salty that comes from adding it during the cooking process. I spend to much time and effort seasoning dishes to exactly where they need to be to see someone pick up a shaker and add more. It is really an insult.

    As to pepper. If a dish needs pepper I will add it. By adding pepper when it is not necessary causes more harm to the purity of the dish than good.

    Just my two cents worth. I really enjoy reading your blog. Keep up the good work.

     
  • At 25/10/07 06:30, Anonymous enidd said…

    as you said, we all have different palates, and tolerance levels from what we normally eat.

     
  • At 25/10/07 07:01, Blogger Zoomie said…

    If we all had the same taste buds and the same tastes, it would be fine to remove the salt and pepper from the table but we don't. I live with a pepper guy - he never uses salt but always uses liberal pepper - a chacun son gout, n'est-ce pas?

     
  • At 25/10/07 07:31, Anonymous Christina at Ramble Magazine said…

    No reason for the chef to be snotty about salt & pepper as long as you taste the food first. I, personally, have issues when I cook and the people I feed dump salt on the dish without having a clue how it tastes. But, like you said, taste buds are different and explaining taste is as weird as explaining a color. Deep-red -- how does that look like?

    Then again, speaking up is not my best thing. You recognize the situation when the waiter comes and asks how the food is? I say, "Great." although seconds ago I fussed about the steak that is tough like an old cowboy boot.

     
  • At 25/10/07 08:20, Blogger Sally Lomax said…

    I had a friend once, who always salted before she tasted. And that was insulting really, even for an ordinary household cook like myself.

    So I can see where chefs are coming from.....

    However, I really do feel that it is horses for courses... pardon the pun... and that if salt is freely available on the table, no-one need know, the chef need not be insulted and everyone is happy....

    Otherwise, as one commenter said, you may not go back, and then you may be missing out on a really fine restaurant...

     
  • At 25/10/07 08:57, Anonymous Brett said…

    No brainer. Good quality salt and pepper should be on every table. I'm as annoyed as anyone else when it isn't. Pepper wielding bussers/servers are a pet peeve of mine. So inefficient. So pretentious. So wrong. And you always end up with more pepper than you wanted.

     
  • At 25/10/07 12:05, Anonymous Hillary said…

    I agree with you all the way. For one thing, I hate when my food is in front of me, but I still can't eat it until I successfully flag down the waiter, and he/she eventually brings me what I need. Salt and pepper should be a staple; and if the chef really insists you try it without first, why don't they have the waiter mention that? I'm sorry you were so uncomfortable!

     
  • At 25/10/07 12:49, Anonymous kudzu said…

    Well, I guess there are enough metrosexuals who use bags of some sort, but what's the average guy to do? Tote salt packets in his shirt pocket? I totally agree with haddock (and most other comments): allow the diner to select his/her own salinity. Odd, the emphasis on "Freshly ground pepper, Madam?" and the complete lack of choice when it comes to individual tastes in salting. Good post, Sam.

     
  • At 25/10/07 18:10, Blogger Alice Q. said…

    Sam you are too sweet. I really appreciate your concern, it's been a crazy week here in San Diego. We have been really lucky, but so many homes have burned, and sad discoveries are being made as people return to their homes.

    On the topic at hand, I emphatically believe that good quality sea salt and fresh ground pepper should be on every restaurant table. Sometimes you just need a little extra, and I hate having to ask for it.

     
  • At 26/10/07 07:35, Blogger Toffeeapple said…

    It should always be available. But in case it isn't I always have my own small lidded box of Maldon salt with me. It adds so much to the flavour of a dish if that dish is not seasoned enough for my palate.

     
  • At 26/10/07 10:53, Anonymous swirlingnotions said…

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

     
  • At 26/10/07 12:37, Anonymous Allison said…

    I'm a bonafide food freak in Sacramento (right up the street from you). I've just lucked into your blog for the first time today, and I love it. My first read was of the sticky-label disaster - hilarious! Also, you remind me so much of the lovely friends I miss from my three years in Peterborough. I miss everything about the UK but the weather, of course. Anyhoo, back to the commentary, I'm a salt & pepper freak as well, but, with rampant germs and viral fun going on all the time, one tends to lean toward the server bringing out freshly wiped S&P canisters for each new set of diners. I realize this is labor-intensive, but, it would be nice. I also read the chef's comment about "not allowing" s&p on the table. It is pretentious to think that your taste buds are right on target, and what about people who smoke, or like a lot of extra seasoning? Note: I'm not a germ-a-phobe, and do not iron my money, or cover my hands when opening doors, or any of that nonsense. Looking forward to reading and laughing some more with you all, and my condolences on the loss of your friend.

     
  • At 26/10/07 13:49, Anonymous Susan said…

    Put the salt shaker on the table. Everyone's taste for salt is different -- my own craving for salt is different on different days. The chef may have a perfect palate but it's not MY palate, and I'm paying.

    Freshly ground pepper is preferable, too, but the sad truth is that pepper grinders left on the table would probably disappear, so I understand the whole pepper grinder ritual, though I don't like it. I used to have a 2" travel pepper grinder, in its own bag. It wore out and I haven't been able to find a replacement.

     
  • At 26/10/07 16:13, Anonymous Barbara said…

    As someone who is going back into the professional kitchen as a chef, I say, put the salt and pepper on the table, dammit.

    But then, I am not an artiste--I am a cook and a chef.

    I think not putting salt and pepper on the table is the height of ego and food snobbery.

     
  • At 27/10/07 17:57, Blogger Jennifer Maiser said…

    Too bad no one has opinions on this, eh? While I'm glad he gave his opinion, rz0emind me not to go to Chef Eric's restaurant. :)

     
  • At 27/10/07 22:59, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Just my 2 cents worth:

    1.) Wow, is this a smoker's forum? Who else could have such dull tastebuds?

    2.) I've never eaten at a decent restaurant and felt the need to ask for salt. Can you imagine asking for salt at the French Laundry or Terra? Hey Thomas Keller, do you have some SALT?!!! Hurry up, my food is getting cold!

    3.) The sign of a good restaurant is that the food is well seasoned already.

    4.) When you ask for salt you are giving the kitchen a message: This food is not well seasoned.

    5.) You are telling the chef he doesn't know what he's doing.

    6.) Yes, that's an insult.

    7.) No, I'm not a chef. I'm a home cook and I don't offer guests salt at the table.

    8.) I find that most people who salt their food at the table tend to do so gratuituously--without tasting it first.

    9.) The American diet is loaded with sodium. For example, there is sodium in Gatorade, in canned tomatoes (that you use in your tomato sauce even before you salt it), and food like veggies naturally contain sodium as well. That's BEFORE you salt them.

    10.) No I'm not an anti-sodium freak. I salt and seaon my food. That's why my guests don't need to salt it.

    11.) Why stop at salt? Why not ask the chef to bring you some ketchup, soy sauce, mustard, vegemite, tapatio sauce, wasabi, anchovy paste, aioli, balsamic vinegar, fish sauce , worcestershire etc.?

    12.) If your food is not served with salt or a condiment on the side, then it's meant to be eaten the way it's served.

     
  • At 28/10/07 02:01, Blogger Eva said…

    I'm a bit puzzled at the thought of having the perfect palate and therefore knowing exactly how a certain dish is supposed to taste. If this assumption was true, then there would be no need for ever so many recipes for basically the same dish. Everyone can only make a suggestion and as a diner I feel free to disagree. Especially when it comes to the guy wielding the huge pepper grinder that never gives you the right amount of pepper on the right spot.

     
  • At 28/10/07 08:58, Blogger Sam said…

    Anonymous (why are the haters always so weaked willed that they can only speak their mind under the shadow of anonymity?)

    Please don't invite me for dinner - I don't drink gatorade and I don't eat shop-bought canned tomatoes either.

    Here at Becks and Posh, for example, we can our own tomatoes, without using any salt. At home we only eat fresh produce too. People who read this blog are more likely to be keen home cooks who eat seasonal fresh produce and shy away from the sodium-high foods bought in supermarkets. Bearing that in mind - your comments might not be appropriate to all of this particular audience.
    Thank you for making the points anyway.

     
  • At 28/10/07 14:42, Blogger Mallika said…

    Salt on the table any day. I think it's selfish not to and avoids embarrassment. To each his/her own right? Adding more salt is hardly a sign of disrespect and a signal of personal preference. Are you going to tally up the votes?

     
  • At 28/10/07 20:19, Anonymous Christine said…

    Salt levels shouldn't be forced upon you. It is a base seasoning, not a spice. I don't think people should salt before tasting, that shows disrespect for the chef, but neither then should a chef assume that his/her food is seasoned correctly all the time.

     
  • At 28/10/07 21:38, Blogger Michael said…

    Drives me up a wall. Besides seasoning the deep contents of a dish, I find that a few grains of salt on top, meeting your taste buds first, makes so many things better. And very few restaurants do that except with fried foods. I don't have to have pepper, though I like the option, but to me salt is mandatory, and at higher end places I think it should be a proper finishing sea salt, not Morton's. And I totally agree with you about the discomfort of having to ask for it.

    Michael
    The Herbivoracious Blog

     
  • At 29/10/07 06:11, Blogger Chef Eric said…

    A reply to Jennifer Maiser. Really? No matter how good the food may be you would choose not to dine a restaurant just because the don't provide salt on the table? Now that is what I call arrogance.

    On a better note, this has been such an en lighting topic for me that I have decided to start providing salt and pepper on the table. I really had no idea that so many people found it so important. As to the salt I will provide table side is a difficult question. Most likely it will be fleur de sel because it is best when sprinkled on top of food and will not interfere with the finished dish as much.

     
  • At 29/10/07 07:19, Blogger Sam said…

    Eric - that has left me speechless - I didn't realise when I wrote that post quite how many striong feelings would make themselves known. Thank you for stopping by to let us know.

    I was actually thinking of carrying salt with me in my purse after the suggestions. My favourite table salt is Maldon, but I am British and therefore biased. I like it because you can crush it between your finger tips unlike the fleur de sel.

     
  • At 29/10/07 09:44, Blogger Jennifer Maiser said…

    Chef Eric, it was actually more about your declaration of a perfect palate that knows how *I* should eat my own food than the fact that you don't provide salt.

     
  • At 29/10/07 21:58, Blogger Dagny said…

    Another thought on differing palates. I was raised by Southerners who like their food spicy. As a result, so do I. I am not likely to reach for the salt but I will quickly grab the pepper. My mother has pointed out that frequently food in California is rather on the bland side. Not always, but there is a good chance of this happening if you are used to Southern cooking. Therefore, my tableside remedy, after tasting, is black pepper. My father carries a small bottle of Tabasco with him at all times for such emergencies. This comes from the experience of eating so-called Southern dishes in restaurants around here in the past that were way too bland. If dishes like these were served in a restaurant in the South, the place would quickly go out of business. And here's a funny thought. When I eat in the South, I almost never add anything to the food.

    And so there are the palates of your patrons and the regional expectations.

     
  • At 31/10/07 10:35, Blogger A Few Reservations said…

    Bring on the S&P. I'm there to enjoy my meal, and I'm paying for it. I won't salt (or pepper) without tasting the food first, but once I have, if I want more, that's my prerogative.

     
  • At 3/11/07 14:47, Anonymous susan said…

    i don't think salt & pepper should be on the table. request it if you need it. i understand food can be underseasoned but what's up with putting pepper on every single dish? and for people that think they have a better palate than a chef what's the point of going out and eating at all? use your talents at home and make yourself a perfect meal. i agree with a previous commenter who said a good restaurant has well seasoned food.

     
  • At 26/7/08 11:32, Blogger Teresa said…

    Hello All;
    First I hope no one minds that I comment here as I am definitely new to this forum. I do have to say Sam I LOVE that you allow people to POLITELY state their views on different food topics. Though I do not find myself an expert by ANY means; I am exploring my abilities a lot more lately, and I could use all the help I could get.
    As for the actual topic; I definitely disagree with Anonymous first and foremost because if a chef's ego cannot stand up to a patron's request for salt; or a need for salt on the table; then forgive me please but; they don't belong being a chef. While they are at work; their work IS to please the patrons so they will continue to have business. If the food comes back bland or underdone; then the patron has every right to tell the chef so because they are PAYING for it; they are not supposed to be stuck with what they get for the money they pay. Quite often I remember my mother, who is now almost 78 years old; send back food she felt was prepared badly. She always is as polite as possible, but she will voice her opinion.
    Also, as others have stated previously; possibly much better than I am now; not everyone has the same apetite for salt; and it doesn't always have anything to do with smoking. I myself have not picked up a cigarette since 1994. I just prefer a good balance of seasoning in my food and as my mother has obviously taught me; since I am paying for it; I should be able to say so...

     
  • At 26/7/08 11:56, Blogger Teresa said…

    Quick note: Forgive me everyone; to be sure my comments are clear; I of course refer to the person who signed as "Anonymous" who numbered all his/her reasons for NOT wanting or needing salt on the table...

     

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