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The Idle American
Salt Back in Season?...
Wednesday, August 27, 2014 • Posted August 29, 2014

Among my mental gaps are some ludicrous misunderstandings about salt. Generally, I’ve been “buffaloed” about its origin, as well as the subtlety of Morton Salt’s 100-year-old ad. Still, I’ve “soldiered on.”

During elementary school, our teacher asked if I knew where salt comes from. “We get ours at Safeway,” I answered. (I think it was the same grade when I admitted thinking that chocolate milk came from brown cows.)

Gently, our teacher explained that salt comes from the earth, and is mined therefrom. She said we’d study about where milk comes from another day….


I overheard how birds could be caught if pursuers simply poured salt on their tails. I also had noticed Morton Salt boxes with the picture of a girl holding an umbrella. “When it rains, it pours,” the label read.

It never occurred to me that if one got close enough to salt down a bird’s tail, why not simply grab it with the other hand? More interesting to me is what I considered a dumb claim. Simply stated, I doubted the part about “pouring” every time it rains.

“That’s just wrong,” I contended, “When It rains, it often sprinkles, or falls lightly from the sky. It certainly doesn’t always pour.”…


Many years later--after I’d completed graduate study, was married and had three children--a Morton Salt billboard’s message hit me right ‘tween the eyes. I’d been “buffaloed” by the “its” in the ad. For the first time, I understood that these are two different “its.”

When “it” rains--I now realize--refers to the precipitation predominant in current weather conditions. But the second “it” aims directly at the salt itself, always to be counted on to pour smoothly from the box on days when rain is occurring—and with velocity equal to that on bone dry days.

Many seasonings might throw up their grains in defeat, wilting in the face of moisture. Pepper, for example, insists on staying inside the shaker during rains. Try coaxing pepper--even from the shaker’s “filling end”--and it comes out in clumps, if it exits at all….


For me, it was an epiphany to finally understand the ad.

I spent hours in my wife’s cookbooks—during early marriage when they were regularly used--correcting recipes. If they called for “dashes of salt,” I changed “dashes” to teaspoons, or even “to taste.” Occasionally, I scribbled notes suggesting repeated tastes during cooking, adding salt as needed.

I’ve tried always to sit near the salt shaker, stealing some extra shakes when eyes were looking the other way. Try as I may, though, I’ve never been confused with “salt of the earth.”…


My cardiologist encourages limiting salt intake, so I’ve cut consumption by several grains per meal. Perhaps I’ve cut back just enough; after all, my heart is still pumping after quadruple bypass surgery and valve repair 16 years ago.

I’ve “half heard” my doctor—and “quarter heard” my wife—but, if it makes either of them feel even one lonely iota better, I admit their comments do cause occasional guilt flashes.

All this said, I sat up in my chair recently, my eyes riveted on findings of an international study. It questions long-accepted conventional wisdom that has bludgeoned some of us into submission with constant warnings about salt. Shucks, the study even concludes that too little salt may be as bad as too much….


I’m likely to use up my “amens” on this report. It recommends that it is better to focus on healthy lifestyles and overall diets instead of singling out salt.

One of the participants smoothed my feathers to a splendid sheen, saying flatly, “Most people should simply stay where they are, as far as salt is concerned.” The study doesn’t settle much, not unlike the Scopes Trial back in 1925. To this day, monkeys remain confused, not sure if they are their brothers’ keepers or their keepers’ brothers.

Let’s hope the Morton people are poring over ways to promote their product. They’re said to be developing miniature salt licks for executive desks. This might be just the incentive I need to rejoin the work force. However, be assured my wife is taking findings of the study with a grain of salt….


Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: Twitter: @donnewbury

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