On Monday New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced an initiative for food manufacturers and restaurants to cut the amount of salt in packaged and restaurant foods by 25 percent over the next five years. Bloomberg’s request is replete with elaborate guidelines for different products.
As a time traveler, if you told those first American settlers who farmed, hunted, and fought the natives that future city leaders in the new colonies will create a proclamation to mandate how much seasonings cooks are entitled to use, they wouldn’t believe you. They would tell you they left England to escape that kind of laughable tyranny.
But alas, even 21st century chefs in New York City are incredulous. Noted chef David Chang, owner of the Momofuku Noodle Bar, said cooks have been using salt with food almost as long as they have been using fire. “You need salt to draw flavor out of food,” Chang said. “It’s a skill that you teach cooks. For that to be regulated by the government is just stupid and foolish.”
“I’m all for trying to make New Yorkers healthier people,” said acclaimed chef Ed Brown, owner of the restaurant eighty one on the Upper West Side. “But when it comes to him telling me how much salt to put in food, I have a problem with it.”
While most of the ingratiating and servile main stream press have lavished Bloomberg with praise on his silly salt exploits — (“He’s only trying to save our hearts”) — Robert Sietsema with the Village Voice points us to a September 2009 New York Times article that exposes the Mayor’s utter hypocrisy. “He [Bloomberg] dumps salt on almost everything, even saltine crackers. He devours burnt bacon and peanut butter sandwiches. He has a weakness for hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and fried chicken, washing them down with a glass of merlot.”
As Sietsema astutely points out: “…if the mayor were interested in a real health initiative, one that would force him to actually work for an objective rather than spout nostrums, he should go after the school lunch program. He’s made himself head of the school system, yet kids are still being served a diet of (salty) frozen pizzas and (salty) hot dogs. That’s something that he has putative control over.”
Instead of attempting to control the nature of New Yorker’s food seasonings, surly the Mayor can think of better uses of his time. More than 1.3 million New Yorkers are now forced to use food pantries, maybe some resort to discount coupons and soup kitchens, and there are almost 50 percent more in homeless shelters than when he took office. In January, says The New York Times, there were 36,961 people, including 15,727 children, sleeping in city shelters, enough to fill Madison Square Garden two times over.
Maybe he should pick up a copy of salt to change his mind.