Etiquette & superstition: salt


Two of my favorite foods are salt and butter. And by butter, I don’t mean unsalted butter. Unsalted butter is bullshit. Salt has long been used as a precious commodity, both in commerce and in religious rites, so it has a number of superstitions and points of etiquette associated with it. Today I’ll focus on salt on the table. That seems like a good place to start, doesn’t it?

ETIQUETTE: (paraphrased from Amy Vanderbilt’s New Complete Book of Etiquette, 1967 edition, Doubleday & Company, Inc.) If you want to dip an item of food into salt during your meal, treat the salt as you would any other condiment; put a pile of it on the edge of your plate. Don’t put the pile of salt on the table. If you’re at a fancy dinner and they have a salt bowl or saltcellar instead of a salt shaker, and they didn’t provide a salt spoon because they’re all worried that the salt is going to corrode their valuable silver, you can use a clean knife to take salt from the container. If everybody gets their own saltcellar at this fancy dinner, you can take pinches of salt out of the container with your thumb and index finger.

SUPERSTITION: If you want to know about your health for the coming year, put a heap of salt on the table on Christmas Eve. If it stays dry during the night, you’re going to be fine, but if it melts down or gets clumpy, you will die within a year. Also, don’t ever put salt on somebody else’s plate. “Help me to salt, help me to sorrow.” Thanks a lot for the help with the salt, jerk. If you want to undo that sorrow you just gave me with that salt pile, just give me another helping of salt and everything should be fine.

Photo by perreira on Flickr

Published in: on November 21, 2008 at 11:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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