Last week, New York state assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) introduced a bill to ban the use of all salt in restaurant cooking and impose a fine of up to $1,000 on violators. Like all legislators who introduce absolutely insane legislation, he says he is trying to "make sure that we bring awareness."
Oddly, Ortiz seems to be raising awareness about someone else's bill. In an interview on Fox News today, he described the bill as offering consumers the choice "to ask the waitress and chef to don't put any additive sodium in their items." He further explained that "the bill clearly state that the consumer will have the right to ask whether that item is being prepared with sodium and also to either minimize or maximize [and] will allow the chef and the consumer to have a conversation about what we can add or no add."
That is not what his bill says. It says:
That's no salt, anywhere in the preparation of the food. Period.
Consumers already have the right to ask about salt content and make requests of the chef (and chefs have the right to tell them to get lost). This bill doesn't open up conversations, it closes them down.
Ortiz is right when he says that the bill doesn't prevent customers from adding salt after the fact. But any serious cook will tell you that sprinkling on salt at the end of the process isn't the same as using it in cooking. Pasta water must be salted, for instance, to flavor the noodles themselves. Salting onions at the right moment is key to successfully caramelizing them. Salting eggplant before cooking reduces bitterness in the final dish. And then there's brining and pickling, not to mention the vital importance of salt in the science of baking.
In the interview, Ortiz also says his father had a heart attack five or six weeks ago, so we'll assume he doesn't remember what's in the bill because he introduced it in the grip of strong emotion and he is rattled by family tragedy. All the more reason not to take the bill seriously.
Here's the video: