"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child


by Julie Tilsner on March 11, 2008

in Good Ideas Gone Bad

I finally figured out what the problem is.

I have a problem with seasonings.

Why should this be? I can’t fathom. It’s such a basic problem, and one you’d think would be fairly simple to remedy. Use more salt. And yet I continue to under-season my offerings. Truly, it baffles.

The flamenco guitarist pointed this out to me the other day, as he picked at his bland salmon and rice. “Tell me,” he began, “and don’t take this the wrong way. But do you have a thing against salt?”

I might have taken great umbrage, if I hadn’t had heard this before.

Back in the day, Luke would bring me lunch on a plate sometimes; a sandwich, surrounded by small tomatoes artfully placed around a lettuce leaf garnish. His offerings were always delicious, vastly better than mine. One day I asked him his secret, and he looked at me with great pity.

“Salt and pepper,” he said. “You can make anything taste better with salt and pepper.”  Left unsaid: “You should consider doing the same sometime.”

It’s not as if I’ve grossly over-seasoned anything (on purpose) and am now repenting for my free-salting ways with bland fare. It’s not as if I have some medical condition that requires me to watch my sodium intake. I have salt — several kinds, in fact. And pepper too. And I use them in what I feel is a fairly liberal, open-minded manner. And I have had my experiences with too-salty fare. My dwindling audience of volunteer eaters, however, is suggesting that in general, I am not seasoning aggressively enough.

Apparently, I am seasonally-challenged.

Let’s look at my track record. You’ll recall, gentle readers, that I recently over-soaked the salt cod, rendering it tasteless (which pretty much guarantees me a place in the record books for bad home cookery) and ruined any chance I had of decent cod cakes. There’s my fear of frying…perhaps I’m reticent toward any method that might infuse flavor. Sometimes I try to burn flavor into my food. Alas, this often backfires.

I am guilty as charged. I admit to an irrational fear of over-seasoning. I feel that when there is an 80/20 percent chance that a dish is not going to turn out well anyway, you don’t want to take any reckless chances. People can season their own damn food once it’s on the plate, can’t they? That’s why salt and pepper shakers were invented.

I mean, that’s my thinking.

But in the interest of bettering myself, I will read up on this topic. Perhaps M.F.K. Fisher has something to say about it. In the meantime, it’s probably best I quarantine myself and refrain from meals any more involved than opening a can. Stay tuned.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Shari March 11, 2008 at 8:42 am

I wish to hold you under my arm and give you seasonal guidance. Let me start by saying, Emeril’s original Essence in a shaker is the perfect seasoning. No msg, just salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder and I think that’s it. When you use it on salmon for instance, you know you’ve seasoned it well when you see a light dusting of orange on both sides (the paprika). Visual cues are helpful.


Elfini March 11, 2008 at 9:07 am

Visual cues are helpful! Amen.
I alway shake some salt into my palm and then pitch a bit between my fingers to salt something. I too fear over-salting.


Jtil March 11, 2008 at 11:06 am

Dang. That’s a $5 word. But I wasn’t specifically talking about you here; people meaning, you know, people. Everywhere. All of them.


AT March 11, 2008 at 10:00 am

ahem…Speaking for the “people” (me?) seasoning only at the {bitter} end of the cooking process will just put a LAYER of salt or pepper on
the ‘surface’…then there is no amalgamation into the victuals! Don’t be afraid of flavoring— still love ‘ya BHC..!


AT March 11, 2008 at 11:17 am

..chow or foodstuff would have been more apt, but I had an attack of word lust..


Seraphine March 31, 2008 at 11:03 am

I think people try too hard with seasoning. The current vogue is to make everything complicated, as if complicated equals better.
Too often, the seasonings overpower the taste of the food.
I remember a restaurant in Idaho that added large amounts of chili powder to their soups. If you closed your eyes, you couldn’t tell the chicken noodle from the split pea. It all tasted like chili.
My rule is: Not more than one complicated dish per meal. If I add garlic to the mashed potatoes, then the green beans are served plain.
It’s a meditation on balance.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: