In Spain they have excellent table manners. Meaning that at the start of any meal you always get offered: salt, pepper, vinager and olive oil. Usually from a very good quality. At least as far as we are concerned. But of course we’re no real aficionados if it comes to these table annexes.
We never add salt or pepper to our food. Not at home and not in a restaurant. If we don’t forget, we also always ask to prepare our food without salt or pepper. Mostly this is no problem. Sometimes food has been prepared in advance, and yes, in those cases there is always far too much salt and pepper in the food.
The only proper use of salt is not to use it at all (this is the more true for pepper and for obvious reasons). Most cooks are totally unaware of this rule. Why does this rule exists? Reason number one: all natural foods contain salt, so the use of salt is totally redundant and ruins the original taste of the food. Reason number two: the addition of any salt is very unhealthy (and please read it correctly: “any salt”!). Reason number three: added salt in food is addictive.
For people that do not care about their food and for most cooks, as is the case in every addiction, this third reason is too difficult to understand. So let me explain. Once upon a time, in Russia, lived one of the first psychologists: Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936). Pavlov had a little dog with which he experimented. Each time he gave the dog a cookie, he rang a bell. After a while he stopped giving the dog a cookie when he rang the bell. Every time the dog heard the bell it started drooling. This is called classical conditioning.
So the lesson is: when you always add salt to your food, as they do here in Spain, you start drooling. This means that you think that you’re food tastes good, as in fact the salt only rang the bell in your head saying: this is how proper food tastes. Because it’s the way you always eat your food. Try it, stop adding salt to your food and after a while you start to taste food properly.
On the combination between food and smoking I will come back in the near future.