This is an appropriate day to repost a classic article, especially given this story in the Daily Mail with the headline “The town that’s banned salt.” And don’t forget our “Mandatory National Standards For Salt Content Coming To A Government Near You.”
“Hold it right there, buddy! Drop that salt and raise them hands. Slowly, now. One grain of that sodium falls into that soup and you’re in a lot of trouble.” Sergeant Grimwald of the FDA Food Patrol’s eyes were riveted on the illegal shaker.
“It’s down,” said the diner. “Now would you mind putting away that gun?”
“Don’t you worry about the gun. It won’t kill you, anyway. The bullets are covered with organically grown rubber.”
The diner shrugged. “Just who are you anyway?”
“Grimwald: FDA. I was eating here undercover—we had reports this place was a salt den. I had a feeling about you when you walked in. Something about you ain’t right.” A look of pride replaced the tense grimace on his face. “I got you right before you were able to shake!”
“You do realize that there’s nothing but salt in there,” said the diner, pointing to the shaker, which was clear glass in the shape of a finger.
“Ha! Would do you think I got you on!”
“I haven’t the slightest idea.”
“Say,” Sergeant Grimwald moved closer, nearly sniffing the air. “You some kind of foreigner or something? What’s the accent of yours?”
“I’m from Texas.”
“Well, la! We got rules in this country, buddy. You might not know it, but salt’s illegal in restaurants here.”
“Is this some kind of joke?” The Texan smiled to his dining mates, expecting them to smile back and reveal the prank. However, they stayed seated and looked confused, even a little fearful.
Grimwald holstered his weapon. “Ignorance ain’t no excuse, though. I still got you.”
The Texan, brazen as they come, picked the shaker back up and said, “You’re telling me this is illegal?”
The Sergeant’s hand moved to his hip, but he didn’t draw his weapon. His perp was a foreigner and he wasn’t sure any violence would look good on his record. He said, “Everybody knows that salt leads to high blood pressure.”
“It might. But so might the stress of having a gun pointed at your face. Anyway, it isn’t that likely that salt will actually cause hypertension. It can exacerbate it—in some cases.”
Grimwald bristled. “Don’t you try and tell me the law! I used to teach salt training. The FDA has determined that each adult gets 1,500 milligrams of salt a day. If you would have tipped some of that salt out of the shaker, you would have exceed the mandated daily allowance.”
“You’re saying that I,” said the Texan, pointing to himself (he was a very large man), “should have the same amount of salt as my wife?” He gestured to another of the diners at his table, a diminutive woman.
“Rules are rules, pal. It’s 1,500 milligrams to everybody. More is certain death. Maybe they don’t teach it down there in Tex-us, but up here we know that salt causes high blood pressure. And high blood pressure causes kidney disease or stroke. And them lead right to the morgue.”
“Nonsense. Who came up with this number, anyway?”
Grimwald hiked his pants, looking prouder than before. “Why, the Government, of course.”
“Then the ‘government’”, the Texan used finger quotes around the word, “doesn’t know what it’s doing.”
The crowd, which had been listening before, quieted instantly. Most turned their faces into their plates, pretending they hadn’t heard. A man who had been coming out of the bathroom stayed inside.
To Sergeant Grimwald, it was as if somebody had suddenly thrust him into a vacuum. There was no air in his lungs; his collar choked him. He worked his jaw muscles but he was unable to supply himself with any words.
“Besides,” continued the Texan, “if I want more salt, I’ll take it. If I suffer from it, that’s my problem, not yours.”
This was too much. “You don’t get to decide what’s good for you! O–bama, man! If everybody did that…” The thought of the ensuing chaos caused if people were forced to make their own decisions so horrified him that once more he was robbed of words.
Grimwald snatched the shaker from the table with a pair of tongs he produced from his jacket, and he dropped the shaker into an evidence bag. He sealed it and signed across the seal.
The routine work restored his equanimity. He said, “Well, you’re not from here, so you don’t know what you’re saying. But you’ll get this: there’s an even better reason than all them others not to eat salt.”
“Oh? What’s that?”
“Too much salt in your blood makes it hard to process you into soylent green.”