By: Sean Murphy
All of the nuns in our school had nicknames. The nicknames were a closely guarded secret. If the good Sisters ever found out, it would have meant an excruciating death and eternal damnation.
Sister Florence Fearsome looked like her nickname. She was reputed to have played fullback at St. Francis Xavier University. She had a massive ring like football players wore. The ring boasted a big black X for “Xavier” mounted on a large gold base. Every guy in the class had an impression of that X embedded in the top of his skull. Some of us had more than one.
Sister would cruise around the classroom until she discovered a malfeasance, and then…CRUNCH…Down would come that ring.
Sister Fearsome taught sixth grade biology. The course was mostly about health and the human body. There was a lot about cells, nutrition, brushing your teeth and washing your hands. The only thing that was never discussed was you-know-what.
Sister felt strongly about the importance of iodized salt. It protected us from the evils of iodine insufficiency and the terrors of…Goiter. Goiter scared the hell out of me. The science book had pictures of people with watermelon-sized goiters growing out of their necks. Visions of goiters swam in my head. Goiters lived under my bed. I put iodized salt on everything.
For a Mick, the iodized salt imperative was a matter of easy compliance. Salt was the only Irish seasoning.
We all know the opening chapter to the Irish cook book. “Take everything that walks, flies, or swims, across the face of the earth and boil the living bejeezuz out of it.”
Chapter two was, “Put salt on it.”
For millenniums, salting was the primary way to preserve food. Salt was so valued it was used as currency. Roman soldiers were paid with salt. The word “salary” comes from the Latin for “salt.”
Roman military units were each allotted a portion of salt based on their full complement. If a legion lost fifty men, the legion got the same amount of salt, and each warrior got an increased share. If a man was a good fighter it was said that he was “worth his salt.
Since the invention of the refrigerator salt is used primarily for seasoning.
Massive goiters and Sister Florence Fearsome notwithstanding, the first and best advice for any aspiring cook is “chuck the iodized salt” – switch to kosher. Iodized salt is much bitterer than the kosher version. Kosher salt is also more fun to flick, pinch and sprinkle.
Premium sea salts like Fleur de Sel can add amazing flavor but should be used with discretion. They vary in intensity and character and can make the end result less predictable. In Florida’s humid summers sea salts also get pasty.
Flavored salts are all the rage this week. They come in a variety of flavors and colors: chocolate salt, truffle salt, smoked salt. A good selection is available locally at the Olive Oil Outpost on Pine Avenue on Anna Maria Island.
So if you don’t use iodized salt what about the goiters?
Take some advice from Brad Pitt in Ocean’s Eleven.
Remember the scene? Brad’s character, Rusty, is recruiting Saul at the race track.
Saul is peeling an orange.
Rusty: What’s with the orange?
Saul: My doctor says I need vitamins.
Rusty: So take vitamins.
Lose the iodized salt.
Sister will never know.