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VOL. 38 | NO. 5 | Friday, January 31, 2014

Take this column with a grain of salt

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“Salty Dog.” “Salt Pork.” “Take it with a grain of salt.” “Salt of the earth.” “Have something hung up and salted.” “Salt and Peppa...” (OK, ignore the last one.)

Salt has always been an important staple of life. It’s more than just a seasoning for our food. This past Sunday, our pastor referred to salt in his sermon. In Matthew 5:13, the Bible states: “We are the salt of the earth.” As he pointed out in his sermon, why salt? I’ll come back to this question later.

If you start reading the labels on the back of food and drinks, you’ll find that salt is added to almost everything we eat or drink. Salt is not only important for making things taste better, but also for preserving.

Sodium chloride (salt) is essential for human life and, until the invention of canning and refrigeration, was the primary method of preservation of food.

One time in science class, we made the chemical sodium chloride. It was so interesting. The teacher warned us not to taste it because it was so strong and would burn.

Did I believe him? No. I’m a cook. I always taste what I’m cooking.

I caused a lot of commotion in class that day and went home with a note from the teacher to my parents and a hole in my tongue. I also walked away with more respect for chemicals.

At the beginning of this article, I quoted several clichés containing salt. Here are more, with their meanings. (These are not necessarily the opinions of the editor.)

In medieval England, salt was expensive and only affordable by the higher ranks of society. At that time, the nobility sat at the “high table” and their common servants at lower trestle tables.

Easy and Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

1 pound package of linguine
1 cup of fresh or frozen broccoli florets (can use frozen green peas)
2 tablespoons of butter
2 cloves of minced garlic
1-1/2 to 2 pounds of skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) of condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup of milk
2/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Prepare the linguine according to the package directions in a three-quart saucepan. Add the broccoli during the last four minutes of the cooking time. Drain the linguine mixture well in a colander.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and chicken and then cook until well browned and cooked through, stirring often. Stir the soup, milk, cheese, black pepper, and linguine mixture in the skillet and cook until the mixture is hot and bubbling, stirring occasionally. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.

Salt was placed in the center of the high table, and only those of rank had access to it. Those less favored, on the lower tables, were “below (or beneath) the salt.”

Our word “salary” derives from the Latin word salarium. Sal is Latin for salt.

To take a statement with “a grain of salt” or “a pinch of salt” means to accept it but to maintain a degree of skepticism about its truth.

To be “worth one’s salt” is to be effective and efficient, deserving of one’s pay, or someone that deserves respect.

In Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper, Judas has knocked the salt cellar over with his elbow. Thanks to Judas Iscariot, spilled salt is associated with treachery and lies.

If you spill salt, a pinch thrown over your left shoulder is supposed to blind the devil waiting there.

To “rub salt into the wound” is to make a difficult situation even worse for someone.

To “salt away something,” or to “salt something away,” is to save something, especially money, for use at a later time.

Derived from Matthew 5:13 in the King James version of the Bible, the phrase “the salt of the earth” referred to the best people. Farmers were described as the best, the salt of the earth, particularly when their products were needed to feed the army.

To eat someone’s salt is to be someone’s guest.

To go back to the salt mines is to return to one’s work.

To have something hung up and salted is to know everything about something: “The historian sure had Louisiana history hung up and salted.”

After listening to the pastor’s sermon and exploring some of these clichés, I think being “the salt of the earth” is a pretty big deal.

All plants, animals, and humans need salt, which regulates the amount of water needed to sustain our lives. Likewise, Jesus used salt to describe how Christians are needed to bring balance and hope to an otherwise dying world.

As I said before, salt is also a needed seasoning in our food. Above is a great recipe I found and want to share. Don’t forget the salt.