Salt, or as I learned in high school chemistry class, NaCl.
As a child I watched my father salt watermelon, grapefruit and almost anything else that landed on his plate.
As a high school drill team member, I sweated under the Texas August sun rehearsing routines and chowing down on salt pills that were handed out like Halloween candy.
Then there were those giant cans of pretzel sticks my mother bought and I gobbled down.
I was a savory girl.
Maybe it was genetic? For even as a child, my daughter loved savory over sweets. Mothers would return Jen to our home after play dates commenting, "I offered her a cookie, but she said she'd rather have a cracker. I've never seen that before."
In 1975, happy to be pregnant I focused on eating well. Opening a can of my fondly remembered childhood Campbell's tomato soup for lunch, I followed the instructions exactly. It was like eating a salt lick. Or at least, what I imagined a salt lick would taste like. Ick.
It made me think as I gazed at literature about how much salt was recommended for pregnant women. It also made me wonder, what else was too salty?
My father's heart issues had led to salt-replacements and to kidney stones. At least that was the story I was told. Since my darling mother-in-law had high blood pressure and her son had so much of her, I believed one day that he might too.
So it was time to cut salt in recipes. Despite living in hot, tropical lands my cooking had less and less salt. It was fine with me. You do get accustomed to it.
Over the years, I'd indulge in salty nibbles at parties or even buy packaged chips to accompany a sandwich for lunch, but it was a slippery slope. Like keeping ice cream in the house.
Then an ear and sinus infection caused a sudden hearing loss in my left ear with accompanying tinnitus that ranges from so-so to a 747 airplane motor in my head.
I hadn't intended to eat a heavily salted meal to see if it affected my ear, I just ended up in the wrong restaurant with the wrong amount of salt that I didn't know was on my plate. Within minutes of eating a very tasty, but over salted avocado, my ear became muffled, my tinnitus turned up the volume. Guzzling water, I found the volume of my tinnitus fell as my hearing improved.
At my ENT, I shared the story of the salt. His eyes popped in recognition, as he announced his diagnosis of atypical Meniere's, an incurable inner ear disease. It has various triggers he said, salt being a very common one. Would I like a prescription for a diuretic?
It was then I decided to go as salt-free as possible. We'd been on a low salt diet for years by now, how hard could it be to go down more?
Well, very hard I learned. I knew that many brands low salt products had more salt than other brands regular products having become an obsessive label reader in the past 18 years living in America. It was a game for me, to help my husband's blood pressure.
With the internet, there must be no salt sites? Yet no matter how I googled "NO SALT" the options came back for low salt. Amazon's algorithm being one of the most unhelpful.
So it's back to DIY for me. If I want potato chips-and I do from time to time-I'll damn well make them myself. Having spent years without processed foods, I know there are workarounds.
As for flavor, if there is one thing I learned living abroad, there is an herb, spice or hot pepper for that.