Admittedly on Twitter, I was a little harsh on Alton Brown. Like a lot of people, I consider myself a fan of Alton Brown, though his appearance in a video for Cargill is a little unsettling. It's not like Brown needs the money.
Brown's love for salt is likely sincere, but in doing a video for one of the most noteworthy and controversial food conglomerates, his credibility is severely undermined.
"Salt is a pretty amazing compound," Alton Brown, a Food Network star, gushes in a Cargill video called Salt 101. "So make sure you have plenty of salt in your kitchen at all times."
The campaign by Cargill, which both produces and uses salt, promotes salt as "life enhancing" and suggests sprinkling it on foods as varied as chocolate cookies, fresh fruit, ice cream and even coffee. "You might be surprised," Mr. Brown says, "by what foods are enhanced by its briny kiss."
If we were back in the time of Alton Brown's grandmother, where people cooked most of their meals, you could argue that Brown is correct.
However, Brown and Cargill know better. Cargill has a pretty good excuse: its goal is to make as much money as humanly, er, corporately possible.
The New York Times article goes into how food companies are trying to reduce salt without influencing the taste too much to drive away consumers. In that sense, you can feel a little sorry for them. At the same time, foods are going to taste different when salt is reduced. So consumers are going to have to get used to doing this.
At least they aren't dragging their feet in the extensive timeframe that McDonald's took to remove the trans fats from its French fries. A real tortoise would have had the speed of a hare, compared to McDonald's ultra-tortoise speed in making the conversion.
We need salt, but we get too much salt. Boy, people are making this into being more complicated. Keep some salt, reduce the excessive amount. Keep some taste, but add some salt. Find the balance of salt in processed foods.
When I cook or go eat with friends and loved ones, I see them salt foods — dishes that likely have plenty of salt. They think I'm off because I don't shake the shaker; I think they're overdoing it by shaking the shaker.
Maybe I'm the unusual one: maybe I've become used to eating less salt in and on my foods. I still probably consume too much salt, but less than the typical person.
There are so many ways to add flavor to a dish that doesn't include salt. And there are times when Alton Brown is correct — adding a little salt can make a difference.
And you can do this easier if you give up processed foods, and live like the way Brown proposes. Of course, Cargill will be furious (if a company can have feelings) if you truly live the way Brown suggests in their video.
If you live the way Brown suggests, your salt intake would almost certainly drop even if you are visibly using more salt. And the method would add salt at the right times, giving yourself more flavor. Healthier and with more flavor — we like that at the Balance of Food.
But the sacrifice would come at Cargill's profit margin since people would buy a lot fewer processed foods and therefore, Cargill's salt. Now that is Good Eats!!