“in it we taste infinitude”~ Pablo Neruda
“You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its flavour, with what will it be salted? It is then good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trampled under the feet of men.” Matthew 5:13
[Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men~ King James’ Bible]
Salt, to my understanding, stands for Faith or the noblest qualities of an individual or group; a metaphor for honesty, wisdom, loyalty, dignity or high moral values. Once you lose these qualities, you are worthless.
A visit to the salt fields or the salterns has always been a wish. A short visit to a small salt field near the beach town Vung Tau, with its vast and shallow salt evaporating ponds, was worth its salt! I met these workers, the salt of the Earth, sweating and toiling under the hot sun.
The Sun and the Sea join hand in hand to give us the most indispensable food element. Salt as a seasoning or preservative has great significance to Man. Something very basic, a simple condiment yet so integral to humans. With every morsel we eat, we taste the essence of the ocean.
A few grains more or a few grains less of salt could make the food unpleasant. A pinch of salt in water makes the solution undrinkable, even though salt is born of water. This mineral is present in blood, sweat and tears.
“…more than domestic whiteness; in it we taste infinitude”
These profound lines are from Pablo Neruda! In a pinch of salt we taste the infinite ocean.
“Piquant powder, sprinkling vital light upon our food” (Neruda)
Learning about the many varieties of salt that people use all over the world was quite an interesting task. Besides the table salt and sea salt, there are kosher salt,celtic sea salt, fleur de sel, black salt, flake salt, Hawaiian black and red salts,smoked salt and so on!
In Vietnam people love to have their fruits with fruit salt (Muối ớt). A combination of chilli and salt. Shrimp salt is another seasoning they love.
“It sings, Salt sings,
the skin of the salt mines sings
With a mouth smothered by the earth” Neruda
There was this tale that I have heard as a child, which shows how essential salt is to Man. A king testifies the love of his three daughters. The elder ones go verbose expressing their love to their father, thus pleasing him, but the youngest says she loves her father as dear as salt.
This infuriates the king and the girl was sent to the jungle. After a few years, the king attends a young prince’s wedding banquet and was embarrassed that the food served to him was saltless. Then he realises his mistake, the worth of the salt and is elated to see that the prince is married to his youngest girl.
Later, in college I studied Shakespeare’s King Lear and realised that the childhood story is a distant version of King Lear. King and Cordelia meet with a tragic end in Shakespeare’s play is a different story.
When my dear aunt passed away last week, her warmth and love called to mind a poem in Malayalam
‘Uppu'(salt) by renowned poet ONV. In the poem, a grandmother while having hot rice porridge, tells her grand child that she and the salt that is dissolved in the porridge are alike. Even after she vanishes from the earth, her presence would remain in the child’s being.
How true are those lines! Dear people who have departed, whom we loved deeply, would never leave us. They are a part of us, like the dissolved salt in the food. Like a preservative their love and the values they have instilled in us, guard us from being contaminated or polluted by the ways of the world. They are always beside us unseen and unheard. Even after the fifteen long years of his absence, I can still feel my father’s presence; his words and his love act as my strength. We didn’t lose him to death, he is always a part of our thoughts, discussions and decisions.
Whether crystals or dust born of ocean, salt is the vital light that we sprinkle on our food. Let us pray, our good words and deeds are like salt sprinkled on the lives of our children, enhancing the flavour. Let them taste the infinitude, the vast expanse of love to go out and face the world.