I recently saw a “Helpful Hint” newspaper article devoted to salt. In addition to being worth its weight in gold for many centuries because of its medicinal, cooking and international commerce importance, it’s also recognized as an inexpensive and effective household cleaner today. For instance, to clean a grimy garbage disposal, pour 2 cups of ice into the disposal and add ½ cup of salt. Turn on the tap and run the disposal for 20 seconds. The gunk will be gone! Or if a drain is clogged, pour in a mixture of ½ cup salt and 1 cup baking soda. Let it sit for a few hours and then pour in a quart of boiling water. Swish!
Reading the short article made me smile at memories of Mom and Grandma in the kitchen. If they were cooking vegetables that tasted too salty, they added hunks of potatoes, let everything simmer, and then removed the potatoes before serving. Out on the farm, Grandma taught Mom to kept a tin can filled with salt within arm’s length of the stove, not as seasoning, but for putting out grease fires.
At our house, my mom combined equal parts of salt and baking soda in a small bowl and set it at the back of a refrigerator shelf to absorb smells, and she and Grandma could both be counted on to stir a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water to make a gargle for sore throats.
Salt is used in many expressions: Don’t rub salt in a wound: Take that advice with a grain of salt; Never throw salt on a dream; She is the salt of the earth. The last one is my favorite because when I was a child I heard it used to describe both Mom and Grandma. I knew it was a compliment about the kind of women they were, and it was always said with a smile.
Sugar is sweeter, cayenne pepper is spicier, and saffron is more exotic. But when it comes to being associated with goodness, reliability and necessity for well being, I still think of my mother and her mother as the “salt of the earth.”