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Open letter to my children: This is why we love salt
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Amy Choate-Nieslen points to her family history to explain why several of her family members like salt. - photo by Amy Choate-Nielsen
Dear Kids,

I dont usually get to answer your questions before you ask them.

Your brains are so fascinating to me. You have such brilliant ideas and questions and Im not talking about the times when you ask me, Mom, can I have a treat? or Mommy, can I watch TV? or Mama, can I have some candy? 1 million times before breakfast. Im talking about the other questions you ask me, like the other day when we drove past a Five Guys restaurant and you, daughter, asked me, Mom, what is a five guy?

Its a burger place where you can eat, I answered.

Why is it called Five Guys? you asked.

I dont know, maybe they thought it sounded nice, I said (lame answer, I know).

Well, why dont they have any restaurants named after girls? Why dont they have a Five Girls restaurant? Are girls even allowed to eat there? Why dont they like girls? you said.

You have a way of asking questions that I just dont know how to answer sometimes. And I know you really thought about those questions about Five Guys because about two weeks later, we heard a commercial for Carls Jr. on the radio and you exclaimed, Finally! A restaurant named for girls! from the back of the van.

It broke my heart to tell you it was Carls Jr., not Girls Jr., but you took it pretty well. And I dont often get to answer your questions before you think to ask them, but Im going to do that right now, so watch out, because it could blow your mind.

Theres a reason you love to eat salt.

The other night at dinner, you loved salt so much you shook it all over the table like a thin covering of snow so thick I couldnt just brush it off with my hand. And the night before that, you wanted salt on your broccoli, salt on your lasagna and salt on your apples, and Dad shouted, Stop eating so much salt! Why do you love salt so much?

I know the answer. Or at least, I have a theory.

You see, I too have a love of sodium. I love it so much I have a hard time eating in a place where salt is not a free-use commodity and its rude to ask. I like to salt my eggs and my tomatoes and my soup. And I never actually ate salt by the pinchful from the salt bowl like you do, son, but I do salt my watermelon a trick I learned from your granddaddy.

My family gave me some flak for liking salt they said it was bad for me but I noticed that my grandmother Lenore also had a hankering for salt. My mothers mother is your great-grandmother, and she salted just about everything except her morning coffee, and maybe even that, too, when she felt like it.

Your great-grandmother Lenore was a wonderful cook, and as much as she loved salt, nothing she made was ever too salty to eat. She made wonderful mashed potatoes and flavorful gravy, juicy turkey and savory tomato aspic that stood on its own. I loved to eat her food.

When I felt like Lenore and I didnt have much in common, I would think about the fact that I was the grandchild who inherited her taste buds. We shared that. And it was a pass that I used with my parents when they objected to me adding a little more NaCl to my plate. Grandma did it and so could I, I reasoned.

So, you come by it honestly. You love salt because its part of your genetic makeup, because you are related to me, to Lenore and to whomever gave Lenore her taste for sodium. You each have that in common.

And, go figure, I have a habit of asking a lot of questions, too.
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