A Pinch of This. A Dash of That

I’m not so great at measuring.

This drives my husband crazy.

It may drive you crazy, too.

I try to give measurements of most ingredients, but some are just hard to do. Especially salt and pepper. There’s a ton of research out there on the use of salt. And I’m not going to get in to it. I’ll say that we use sea salt, that iodized table salt hasn’t crossed my threshhold in at least ten years, and that I don’t like it. It’s astringent and doesn’t taste good. Though I’ll add salt to most things I cook (and so will husband) five or six times, we rarely go through more than four or five ounces in a month. And we eat almost exclusively at home, we bake almost all of our bread, cakes, and cookies ourselves, and we eat a lot of popcorn.

Horribly constructed sentences aside, it may seem like we use quite a lot of salt, and that the high quality sea salt we purchase must cost us a pretty penny, it really doesn’t. Plus, the salt we use adds to the flavor of our food.

And that flavor is the most important part. So, when I add salt, it’s usually a pinch here and a pinch there and sometimes just a dash. The same thing goes for pepper, dried herbs, and other spices like cardamom and cumin. I know what I like, I know what my family likes, and I know how to manipulate the flavors I put in to food to come out to something delectable at the end. A large part of this is practice. Get in there and give it a whirl! Taste along the way, be a little bit fearless, and taste again. Do remember that you can’t take out what you’ve put in, you can always add a little bit more, and that if you never add, you’ll never know.

I want to repeat that last bit.

Do remember that you can’t take out what you’ve put in, you can always add a little bit more, and that if you never add, you’ll never know.

Salt does magical things to food when it’s added as the food is cooking. It releases flavor into the dish as a whole by breaking down cell walls and mingling the flavors of all the elements of the dish. Something cooked with salt and something cooked without will taste completely different, even if the dish cooked without salt has the same amount added after it’s cooked. Go ahead and try it some time. I dare you.

The point of all of this rambling? Cooking is a learning process. Learning how you like food, how your friends and family like food, and learning to prepare it that way takes time, patience, and experimentation. A potato will help absorb an over-salted dish. A bit of yoghurt or sour cream will alleviate too much spice. And, perhaps best of all, as you learn to use more than a measuring spoon to measure ingredients, you start a relationship with the bits of things that make up your food, and it comes out perfect every time.

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