About Salt

lots-wife-jordan.jpg
Lot’s wife, Jordan. Photo: keepcalmandwander.com

There is a chapter in the New Testament called About Salt. I learnt it by heart in Year 8 Religion.

“Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears hear to listen!” (Luke 14:34)

That year I read the bible cover to cover. I liked the Old Testament the best, wrathful God outrageously at odds with everything my Catholic Mercy high school tried to teach me. In the Hebrew bible there are thirty-five verses on salt. The New Testament has six.

“Ye are salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?” (Matthew 5:13)

I still think a lot about Lot’s wife. I think I would have turned back too. Or maybe not.

I read somewhere that women under 25 are at an elevated risk of undiagnosed high cholesterol. Sometimes when I eat junk food I can feel the fat oozing through my arteries. It sits in my heart and tells me I will die one day (and it will be my fault).

My family tree has a collective BMI of 25+. My Grandma’s house was on the beach, and the window fly screens were brittle from sea salt. I used to run my fingers down the chalky wire and give myself shivers from the weird almost-oil touch. I can still taste the salty wind that rushed up the sand dunes. It reminds me of her and home. Her father died of a heart attack. Grandma lived to 86.

We used to have happy hour at her house, every Saturday at 5pm. I used to hover at the food table laden with salt and vinegar chips, roasted nuts, dips, olives, cheese, and dry biscuits, until I was told off by a succession of family members (mother, aunts, grandmother). I’d wait five minutes and then go back again.

Some of my most vicious arguments with my mother are about food.

“Do you KNOW our family history?”
“What you eat NOW affects you LATER.”
“Have some SELF CONTROL!”

“I’m an ADULT let me make my OWN decisions”
“I HAVE a healthy diet”
“I use my OWN CONTROL”

LET. ME. ADD. MY. OWN. FUCKING. SALT.

I once got so mad after a fight that I went to McDonalds and ordered a large Big Mac meal. I went back for a second cheeseburger, and I did not feel sick.

After, it bleeds through. At the edge of every fight is: all my family has diabetes. I’ve seen the facts. They scare me, I’m scared. Don’t end up like me.

(I’m not sure I have a choice.)

I started writing this in 2015, angry after another fight that devolved into a two year old tantrum about adding salt because I wanted to. In September my aunt died from a heart attack, dialysis stress, diabetes related. She could have stoppered it, I guess. It was like watching reruns. The first thing we did after we heard the news was gather at our place so we could sit it out together. We got out the wine, and someone rustled in the cupboard for the salt and vinegar chips, roasted nuts, dips, olives, cheese, and dry biscuits. All that was missing was the taste of sea salt on my lips and the sound of seagulls in the distance. I did not hover by the food table. I sat on my hands and thought about Salt.

If salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?

They used to salt the earth around cities to curse anyone who tried to inhabit it. Salt is No Man’s Land.

Lot’s wife doesn’t even have a name. Her death merits one line.

“But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:26)

I get it, okay. It was her fault. She didn’t do anything to help herself. She was told what was coming, she knew the consequences, and she still didn’t stop.

Why did she have to die?

Salt can be life in desert heat. Salt is sweat, skin, blood, and tears. We’ve even got our own taste buds, dedicated to it. People started processing salt 8,000 years ago, when the last ice sheet had just collapsed. We have had salt longer than England has been an island. Salt has claimed cities, destroyed land, and toppled kings. Revolutions have been fought in its name.

My mother’s war against salt is just the latest in a long, long line.

She still taught me to throw a pinch over my shoulder. It’s for good luck, it keeps the demons at bay. Don’t let them in. There’s enough here already.

“Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:50)

Kate Riggs

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