Salt of the Earth

An open letter from Chef Macik to his students

“Vos estis sal terrae quod si sal evanuerit in quo sallietur ad nihilum valet ultra nisi ut mittatur foras et conculcetur ab hominibus.”

(Matthew 5:13)

In this verse from the Gospel of Matthew, Christ says to the multitudes, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing anymore but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men.” 

The last two years of cooking at Saint Martin’s Academy have given me ample time to reflect on this passage; I use salt at least three times a day. Salt, varying in quantity, is present in every dish that comes out of the kitchen. It is the most common, as well as the most priceless spice. The latin verb “sallire” has three seperate meanings which illustrate all of the uses of salt.

The first meaning of “sallire” is to salt; it is the act of sprinkling that transforms the bland food into savory dishes. A simple pasta of olive oil and garlic can be transformed by adding 15 grams of salt per liter of pasta water. 

The second meaning is to preserve. Add a little salt to shredded cabbage and you have sauerkraut within the week. Add a mixture of salt and brown sugar to a pork belly and you get bacon. Cure an egg yolk with salt and you create a great substitute for Parmesan cheese. The ability to preserve is salt’s greatest quality. Not only does it preserve, but the flavor is better than anything you can get from the store. 

The final meaning of “sallire” is to offer salt as a sacrifice; salt was used by worshipers to sprinkle over the fire, the offerings, and/or the sacrificial knife.

“And when thou shalt have made an end of the expiation thereof, thou shalt offer a calf of the herd without blemish, and a ram of the flock without blemish. And thou shalt offer them in the sight of the Lord, and the priests shall put salt upon them, and shall offer them a holocaust to the Lord.” (Ezikiel 43:23-24)

Dear students of St. Martin’s: during this uncertain time, it is vital to remember that “you are the salt of the earth”; you and all that you do are a sacrifice to the Lord. Bring what you have learned back home; teach your family songs and poems and stories. Preserve them with the good you have received. Brighten the bland parts of daily life with the songs you have memorized. Do not forget that you are the salt of the earth, lest you are thrown out and trampled under the feet of men.