I used to love Boston Market. So I was a tiny bit addicted to its gravy. Sure, the chicken was healthy and the apples were rather good. But I really loved that gravy.
Boston Market made changes some time back to its gravy to make it healthier, and my interest in the restaurant dropped about 90%.
So when I heard that Boston Market was going to lower its sodium levels in its food, I wondered what they would do to the other 10% of my interest.
The salt in the food isn't the only concern. Boston Market is getting rid of the salt shakers on the tables. I haven't used a regular salt shaker at a chain restaurant since I was a child — seasoned salt has been an exception, but only on rare occasions.
Gravy has been on my mind this year between poutine and fries/gravy in my Canadian trips. Gravy combines flour (carbohydrates) and butter (fat), and who knows what else was in Boston Market's old gravy recipe to make it taste marvelous.
Gravy is completely unnecessary yet on occasion, the sauce adds to a dish. Or dominates a dish — does anybody know what the mashed potatoes at Boston Market taste like without the gravy. Maybe slightly above the quality of the potatoes at KFC.
While I can't prove that the taste difference in the gravy had anything to do with reduced salt, my taste buds would swear it's true. While not a completely reliable source, my taste buds have had a lot of experience.
Chain restaurant food is generally too salty by my taste. So the idea of reducing salt in the food is an overall good thing. Of course, you could eliminate the salt in the food and add gravy to make up for the lost salt.
The few times I indulge in McDonald's fries involves me knocking off chunks of excess salt off my fingers. My blood pressure literally goes up when I watch the employee oversalt the fries.
The company will remove salt shakers immediately, but stretch out the reduction in sodium — at least 15% by the end of 2014, and a 20% cut in signature items such as mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and rotisserie chicken over the next 6 months. Seems like that should be the other way around. Reduce the sodium, then get rid of the salt shakers.
Getting rid of the salt shakers will just provoke people to bring in their own salt. And they will. Guaranteed. Maybe the small flat to-go containers. Maybe an actual salt shaker. That will happen.
We need to get used to have reduced sodium in our food. We don't live in an era where salt is required to keep food fresh. We also need to balance that with individual choice. Instead of salt shakers, those miniature containers would demonstrate the impact of salt (even if they are terribly wasteful). But restaurants need to supply salt as an option for consumers. Pepper, too.
Salt for flavor is a wonderful thing. Salt as a way to encourage people to eat more and drink more leads down a dangerous path, not just from a health standpoint. Tricking people into consuming more is bad food preparation. Just enough salt for flavor makes food taste better, and taste should be ultimately what you are trying to accomplish.
The Boston Market gravy has less sodium but at a price. The irony is that the gravy still has salt, but not enough to taste good and too much to eat otherwise. Finding the Balance of Food requires figuring out the balance of salt.