When I was a kid, my mom and stepfather switched from salted butter to unsalted. I remember the unsalted tasted bland, like nothing. I couldn’t stand it.
Some time later—maybe weeks or months, I don’t remember—I tasted salted butter again for the first time. It tasted terrible! It was way too salty.
Of course, the amount of salt in the butter didn’t change. I did. My taste buds had adjusted to the overly salted butter and stayed that way until I stopped overly salting them. When I stopped amping up the salt, they returned to normal and found the overly salted butter overly salted.
I also remember that after tasting both, I preferred the unsalted. The salted butter only tasted like salt. The unsalted had nuances I could distinguish that the salt overwhelmed.
Fast forward to today. Not eating fast or packaged “food” and rarely eating out, I’m confident I eat significantly less salt than the average American or westerner—a low standard.
Since my famous vegetable stews taste so amazing, with all the complexity, subtlety and nuance from the vegetables, adding no sugar or oil, how food tastes has become my primary consideration. I’m getting to where any added sweetener or oil overwhelms the flavor, as the salt in the butter did in my childhood.
I wonder if adding less salt could make my food more delicious as it did with the childhood butter. That experience required me to endure a period of adjustment when food tasted bland.
I didn’t have motivation to overcome such a period—that is, until now. The first motivation came from my experience with sugar and fat. Both tasted great to me for nearly my whole life. I was loathe to remove them and their tastes until avoiding packaged food led me to. Since I changed my diet to avoid polluting, not for flavor, what started as a side effect became the main effect: my food is more delicious than ever.
And I get to eat more quantity of food, feeling more satisfied, saving money, increasing convenience, inviting friends over more, and better by all of my measures of food.
Regarding sugar, food tastes sweeter than ever. When I ate a lot of Ben and Jerry’s, ice cream tasted sweet and apples didn’t. Apples had flavor, but not that much.
Now that I haven’t eaten ice cream in years, apples taste to me sweeter than I remember Ben and Jerry’s tasting, My childhood butter experience tells me I taste subtlety and nuance I couldn’t before, which means a richer flavor profile that I read as more flavor. That is: I have more sweetness in my life and less sugar. More sweetness and less sugar mean I eat more food that I find more delicious.
I thought I ate a healthy amount of salt and found it’s salt level delicious. I’d heard too much salt was unhealthy but figured with the world’s salty oceans taking up most of the planet, that living with an abundance of salt would have led our ancestors to evolve handling large variations. We can drink huge variations of water over the necessary minimum, for example. Plus, I’d heard that studies showed that humans could eat a range of salt.
This video and the peer-reviewed evidence in it suggest otherwise.
I’ve watched a lot of Michael Greger’s NutritionFacts.org videos. So far I find him credible (I welcome evidence to the contrary, since I’m taking his advice).
He did a bunch of videos on salt. Here’s another.
I’m not going to choose healthier if it means losing delicious. I prioritize taste over healthiness in food.
I can’t taste healthy but I can taste delicious. I like the taste of how much salt in my famous vegetable stews, though some friends have commented I put in more than they like.
Enter this video, also by Dr. Greger, which echoes my childhood butter experience.
The video reminded me that I probably only have to endure a couple weeks of food tasting bland before finding it more delicious.
Here’s another video reinforcing the idea:
What do I have to lose in cutting how much salt I add for a few weeks? At worst my food would taste bland for that time and I’d go back to salting as I did before. At best my food would become yet more delicious, I’d feel more satisfied, and I’d cut out another source of food packaging and cost. I’m at the stage where a salt container contributes a large part of my waste.
Last week began my experiment. I’m adding nearly no salt to what I cook at home. I added salt once or twice and didn’t notice it tasting much better. I added salty soy sauce to something and a small amount added a lot more flavor than I expected.
In the meantime, I find my food so far missing flavor, as expected. The question is if it will return, hence the experiment.
I’ll write again after a couple weeks.
Read my weekly newsletter
Subscribe for a weekly update of musings on leadership, the environment, and burpees.