I love salt. Salt gets a bad rap out in the “foodie” world, especially from people who eat lots of processed foods.
I also teach at a culinary classroom, and am amazed by the “shock” when I salt my water for pasta and potatoes. A gasp usually comes from the group, and I ask – “who did that?” Usually someone will fess up, and I’ll explain the science behind salting water. Most package directions ask for about 2 tablespoons of salt for 8 quarts of water. Now, granted, that seems like a lot, but it’s not like I poured 2 tablespoons on top of cooked pasta! That would be salty!
The human adult body needs approximately 250 grams of salt to survive. We get that in food, and our excess comes from processed foods. Most babies when they are born don’t care about salt. It’s not until we start ingesting foods with lots of salt, that we become addicted to it.
I’m fortunate that my blood pressure is usually in line, and I don’t add much table salt to my food. I do love salty snacks on occasion. But back to why salt the water?
Salting water brightens the dish’s final flavor, while keeping the sodium level in check. When pasta or potatoes hit the boiling water, its starch molecules absorb only about 10% of the salt. One of the key words is “it absorbs”, meaning it gets into the food, not just shaken on the top! That’s enough to take care of your salt sensors on your tongue! A 4 oz portion of pasta will have 92 mg of sodium. Sprinkle 1/8 of a teaspoon on that pasta and you’ll consume 290 mg!
Remember; if you spill some salt throw it over your shoulder for good luck. Here’s one of the explanations – there are lots out there!
The belief of tossing a pinch of salt over your left shoulder to get rid of bad luck come from the legend that the devil is always standing behind you, and throwing salt in his eye distracts him from causing trouble. Nowadays, most people only do this after spilling salt, which is thought to be bad luck because salt, was an expensive commodity long ago and folklore linked it to unlucky omens in order to prevent wasteful behavior.