The phrase derives from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “You are the salt of the earth.” (Matthew 5:13) Jesus meant that the common people he was addressing – fishermen, shepherds, laborers – were worthy and virtuous. … Back then salt was highly prized as a preservative of food – so precious that it was used as money. Roman soldiers were sometimes paid in salt, giving us the word “salary,” derived from the Latin word for salt – “sal.”
Anyone who has tasted Maldon sea salt flakes knows the value and reward of salt; and, hence its treasured metaphoric use. Oddly the historic narrative of salt – unlike its now popular usage – is a resource deriving from not added to the mix. Indeed it was that peculiarity – a bastardization such as, “It’s what you get out of life not what you put into it that counts” – which prompted me to appraise what exactly I had been given by similar percolation from the ground upon which I have walked throughout my lifetime.
Once upon a time, salt was just salt. It was the stuff in shakers and canisters, the gustatory equivalent of the treble dial. You used more, or you used less. Whether it was a little girl with an umbrella, a toss over the left shoulder to ward off bad luck, or a nontaster’s affront to the chef, it was all just salt.
Bitterman came to learn, as all chefs now have, that before salt was just salt—before it was industrialized and homogenized—it was a regional and idiosyncratic ingredient, perhaps the quintessential one, precisely because it was so universal. You could tell salts apart, prefer one to another, and pair them with different foods. You could acquire a salt vocabulary, tell salt stories. If you could be a snob about coffee, beer, butter, peppers, and pot, why not sodium chloride?
My directionless enquiry led me instantly to an appreciation of the singular particles/flakes/crystals of “salt” – that is, the people with whom I shared life’s ingredients – which have penetrated my being and insinuated my experience. It was in addition somehow compelling that these lifetime encounters were by deduction part of the sal terrae, the salt of the earth, an invigorating additive each particle of which was as indiscriminately afforded as the projections from a pinch of the best.
Thus equipped with a resourceful flavour, I set upon a hurried summary of the past; however, the view was inspired by a strengthened regard for what is commonly observed as entirely serendipitous. The transition of posture was from chance to luck; which is to say, I was lucky to have had the chance to meet the people I met and to do the things I did. In a dream-like sensation the monotony and hyperbole of life were restated as a singular though overall profit from the landscape. Time limitations naturally prevailed; people come and go; things happen; errors are made. But apart from those occasional blips of activity and indiscretion, the general themes were more regular and detailed. For example, the routine of educational, physical and spiritual development; the inquisitiveness of undergraduate studies and experiments; the precision of law school; the commitment to clients and employment.
And in the end the undeniable and superlative luxury to reminisce, to recollect, to redefine. We all I am certain have a collection of tales we either wish or choose to ignore. Not because they are especially egregious or nefarious or lascivious but because they perhaps unite too demonstrably our former reigning ambitions with less than quotable design, much of which no doubt was propelled by an internal gusto with which we have a medical connection. Essentially, “You is what you is!” It is a reminder that not one of us is above or beneath another. As importantly it fuels our personal cogency.