Sunday, July 03, 2005

Love like salt (or mint)

A king asked his three daughters, “How much do you love me?”
The eldest daughter said, “I love you like gold.”
The middle daughter said, “I love you like diamonds.”
The youngest daughter said, “I love you as meat loves salt.”
The youngest daughter’s answer enraged the king. He banished his youngest daughter from the kingdom.

Years later, the king was invited to a wedding in a neighboring kingdom. There were many guests, and the king did not see the bride and bridegroom except from afar. At the wedding feast, many delicious-smelling dishes were presented, but as the king took one bite after another, he soon discovered that something was amiss. When he realized that none of the meat dishes had any salt, he began to weep. “I banished my daughter for telling me that she loved me as meat loves salt,” he said. “I thought she was mocking me, but now I know that she loved me best of all.”

The bride, who was none other than the banished daughter herself, revealed her identity to the king. He begged for her forgiveness. She granted it.

* * * *

I grew up in a low-sodium household, which worked out well for the most part. Some dishes would have been more complex with sprinkles of salt, especially the highly-spiced meats. Sometimes, though, salt is not appropriate at all.

Bede and I keep salt in the smallest of our four ceramic canisters. The other three canisters have spelt flour, turbinado sugar and brown sugar. Of the four raw ingredients, the salt is the only substance that is white. Often, if people look for sugar without asking us where it is (they didn’t want to trouble us, they explained later), they end up salting their coffee.

Recently, I made a batch of simple syrup for mint juleps, in honor of a friend visiting from out of town. (Disclaimer: I do not claim to be an expert at making mint juleps. My dream is to have someone from Kentucky be utterly shocked by my preparations, and take me on as an apprentice.) My friend thought the mint julep was delicious, and he decided to make another one for himself. He didn’t want to bother me while I was in the midst of a conversation, so he quietly rummaged around in the kitchen for the ingredients. I heard the pounding of the mallet upon the ice, the muddling of the mint in the glass, but when a chagrined silence followed soon after, I knew without asking that my friend had salted his mint julep. To add insult to injury, he was the one who had supplied the Maker’s Mark.

You might draw a number of conclusions based on this story. In our household, the one moral is this: taste your ingredients. After the salting incident, my friend mixed up another batch of mint juleps. They were quite good. In fact, they were much better than the batch I had made.

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