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Salt and Pepper

A pair of shakers filled with salt and black pepper decorates nearly every restaurant table. Salt and pepper are a famous pairing in Western cuisine, so much so that a dining experience is rarely complete without a final sprinkle to taste. Before the middle-ages, no spices were kept on the dinner table; salt, though, was as valuable as money. Literally, the word “salary” comes from the Latin word salarium, meaning salt money, highlighting the use of salt as currency. Salt was a valuable addition to the dinner table, with some cultures developing innate ceremonies for salting their food. In Italy, a trinciante, or meat carver, would sink the end of their carving knife in salt and scrape it onto the diner’s plate. Eventually, hungry eaters replaced complicated rituals with a simple shaker of finely-milled salt. We credit the particular pairing of salt and pepper to seventeenth-century French cuisine, which considered black pepper the only spice that did not overpower the taste of food. Indeed, modern cuisine understands that the culinary soulmates of salt and pepper enhance the flavour of food. In official terms, salt is a seasoning, whereas pepper is a spice; therefore, salt enhances flavour, while pepper adds flavour. In addition to being the accidental champions of the dinner table, salt and pepper have some integral health benefits for humans. Salt is necessary for nerve impulses, respiration, fluid retention, and muscle contractions. Consuming the recommended daily sodium intake (less than 5 grams) is associated with reduced blood pressure and a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart attack. The use of pepper also packs a nutritional punch. As a source of antioxidants – substances that protect from heart disease, cancer and other illnesses – pepper is a dietary wonder. Additionally, pepper is known to aid with healthy digestion by stimulating the cells of the digestive tract. So, the extra sprinkling of the fated pair is worthwhile for your taste buds and your physical health (when consumed per health recommendations and personal preference).

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