Hey, kids. Okay, so this week, democratic Assemblyman from Brooklyn (unfortunately), Felix Ortiz, proposed legislation that would ban salt in restaurant cooking in New York. Chefs are fighting this proposed legislation and calling it absurd. Full article HERE.
According to a Nation’s Restaurant News report, Ortiz said, “In this way, consumers have more control over the amount of sodium they intake, and are given the option to exercise healthier diets and healthier lifestyles.”
Really, Mr. Ortiz? People also have the option to stay home and control their intake of everything. No one is putting a gun to anyone’s head to eat out in restaurants.
This is really not the same thing as the trans-fat ban of a couple of years ago. No one benefits from trans-fat and everyone suffers. Salt is a different matter. Yes, there are people who have high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health issues that require them to cut down on salt. But that is something that people with such issues need to deal with themselves. You can’t expect the dining experience of every person in New York State to be altered because a few can’t have salt. A person with salt issues needs to tell their servers to tell the cooks to hold the salt. If the dish is pre-made and salt is already in it, then the patron must choose something else or go somewhere else.
I’m not saying that good food can’t be made without salt. I know plenty of people who do it. But a little salt goes a long way. A little is necessary to make food taste good. Seriously, without salt, restaurants might as well throw a piece of wet cardboard at their customers.
Restaurants are not obligated to accommodate special dietary needs. Mind you, I’m not saying that they shouldn’t. On the contrary, they absolutely should. After all, if you make a patron happy, they’ll keep coming back. (To those chefs who refuse to alter a dish at a patron’s request because you think that you’ve created the most spectacular dish that is so perfect that it must be served as is, I say, get off your high horse and give your customer what she/he wants. Everyone’s taste is different and you’re running a business. If you piss off your customers, they won’t come back to your establishment. And guess what? You’re making food, not squeezing gold nuggets out of your butt.)
And I’m not unsympathetic to people with special needs. I think it’s awesome that restaurants are now offering menus that include gluten-free , lo-cal, , lo-fat, lo-carb options. That’s the way you get and keep business. My point is that they are not obligated to do so. I know people who have wheat allergies. Do they expect restaurants to use nothing but wheat-free products? Of course not. If they go somewhere where wheat-free isn’t an option, they bring (when possible) their own wheat-free buns, tortillas, etc. Should people with Celiac disease go around telling Italian restaurants that they can’t use breadcrumbs in their meatballs? Should people with shellfish allergies tell Southeast Asian restaurants to stop using fish sauce? It is up to the individual to make choices about their own meals and their own intake.
This legislation would fine restaurants $1,000 for each violation. Perhaps our society would be better served if people took control of their own eating habits (and those of their children) and lived healthier lifestyles instead of penalizing restaurants. This is akin to blaming McDonald’s for serving french fries. Maybe they should start going after manufacturers of food products that use high-fructose corn syrup, or hormones, or adulterated ingredients. Why don’t they put more effort into that instead of telling restaurants that they can’t use a natural product that has been used for thousands of years?
By the way, National Geographic News reported on March 17, 2009, that a study has linked salt to happiness. In the article, “Is Salt Nature’s Antidepressant?”, author Helen Fields poses the question, “Could Salt be the Solution to a Sad, Empty Life?” Possibly. The study showed that sodium-deprived rats take less pleasure in daily activities (“they can’t be bothered to drag themselves across the cage to push a bar that releases a dose of sugar water”) but when they’re given back their salt, “they’re all happy,” physiologist Alan Johnson of the University of Iowa said. And “very low sodium in rats, humans, and other land animals may induce something similar to depression,” he added. The study also linked a healthy salt intake to reduced symptoms for chronic fatigue sufferers. (Article HERE.)
So, as someone with Epstein-Barr syndrome (a fatigue-inducing illness similar to Chronic Fatigue) who’s prone to bouts of depression, I insist that restaurants continue to use salt!!
So, there you have it. This week’s political stupidity (we never seem to run out, do we?) Have a great week, everyone.