Alice Thomas Ellis
SEASONING IS ONE of the things that differentiates a good from a had cook; it is perhaps, the most important thing. She who fails to put salt in the water in which she cooks the vegetables will never rise to the top of her profession, nor, indeed will she long sustain any meaningful relationships with others. Her husband (I cannot bring myself to use the misnomer — partner) will seek consolation elsewhere and her children will, leave home as soon as their
wisdom teeth are through. Her friends will suggest, when she asks them to dinner, that since they cannot bear the thought of giving her too much trouble they will bring a pizza .. . and something will go wrong with her health because salt is necessary to the human frame.
Men tend to err in the other direction, after throwing salt on their dinner before having sampled it, thus annoying the good cook who will avenge herself by talking about hypertension or whatever it is that too much salt does to the system. Roman soldiers, as everyone knows, used to be paid with it (salary); rank decided whether you sat above or below it. and the salt (the container in
this case) was often an elaborate object of considerable value; herbivores will travel miles to find a salt lick and Mungo Park once observed that vegetarians are uncommonly fond of it. Miners used to put it in their beer to replace what they had lost through sweating and that's about all 1 know of the subject, except: "If the salt lose its flavour wherewith shall the salt be salted?"
What I am thinking is that anyone staying in another person's house and finishing the packet should be bound by some statute to replace it before leaving. There is no effective substitute for it, as I was forced to realise when I couldn't find any in my Welsh cottage. I have to admit that this may be because we've just had the kitchen moved and I couldn't actually find anything, since all is positioned in piles in corners under layers of brick dust. Flour and sugar were equally elusive but it didn't matters much, TS.vo family members are presently dusting the tins of soup and putting them away in the new cupboards and I have been forced to confront the fact that I have betrayed my principles.
I hate "modern kitchens", I loathe fitted cupboards and their exaggerated tidiness reminds me of those "paperfree" offices that maniacal reformers imposed on horrified journalists and publishers and were subsequently aban Boned as human nature reasserted itself. I insisted that the new kitchen should be as unmodern as possible and have ended with a kind of compromise. It looks like a 1950s American kitchen with creamy woodwork and all mod cons, tastefully concealed where they can give no offence, and it is more convenient that the old one (which is turning into a library), and when I've kicked it around a bit, it will look no worse than postwar.
I look out of the windows and sec the shy, wild life (as Rosamond Lehmann put it) scampering through the grass and brambles, and plan to buy a frilled and flowered pinny to enhance the wholesome ambience. I have decided to name the kitchen Doris Day.