Think about every meal you’ve ever cooked. Whether it came from a recipe or straight from your brain, there are two ingredients that don’t even need to be mentioned: salt and pepper. They are in every kitchen, on every table, and in the hands of most eaters (even when it’s not necessary). Eggs, beef, carrots, whatever; salt and pepper is the essence of cooking.
But why? Why the hell are we all stocking up and programmed to use these two seasonings without fail? Sounds like a job for LSFE!
To be honest, answering the question of “why salt” is pretty easy. Besides the modern-day obsession with salty foods which has most big brands scrambling to “reduce sodium”, salt has played a role in shaping how we as human beings eat, but more importantly survive. Salt is considered one of our original preservatives. Curing with salt allowed for food to last much longer than what was typical, reducing disease and death and paving the way for the overpopulated planet we find ourselves living on today (wow, that was a bit too much cynicism, sorry about that). But the science of it is pretty fascinating stuff (at least to me). Salt draws moisture out of foods. The same moisture that is crucial for microorganisms to grow. Little to no water means little to no spoilage (see beef jerky). But at the end of the day, in our nightly cooking routines, salt isn’t preserving much. And while we do rely on its ability to draw out moisture, taste is king. Simply put, salt tastes good!
So what about pepper? Well this one was a bit harder to figure out. Because while there seems to be a lot of evidence pointing to the “wealth in spices” Europe so hotly sought after, pepper may also have grown in popularity because of that whole lack of refrigeration thing. Turns out pepper does wonders for covering up the taste of spoiled meat which I really hope isn’t the origins of pepper crusted filet! But one thing is for sure, the bite and spice we equate with balanced meals starts and ends with pepper.
So let’s talk about taste, baby! And pass the salt and pepa!