Here’s a little tale about salt. And love.

Salt, or Reflections on Finding Love in the Modern World

Steven would pour salt into the palm of his left hand, then sprinkle it onto his food with the fingers of his right.

Luke would build a tiny white mountain at the edge of his plate, bite the crisp end of each chip and dip the fluffy flesh into the salty peak.

Terry had a glass salt shaker with a white plastic lid, stolen from a Harvester in 1998. He would begin with thirteen shakes of salt, eat half of his food, then flavour again with thirteen more.

Adrian insisted that salt should be added in the kitchen and in the kitchen alone. Table salt was an aberration, the democratisation of food a step too far. I used to give him Salt ‘n’ Shake crisps and watch the colour rise in his face.

Neil used table salt with pride. The skittle-shaped plastic tub stayed permanently on the kitchen table, like the photograph of his mother on the mantelpiece or the dark red stain on his living room floor.

Seb preferred sea salt, lumpy crystals in a small stoneware dish, to be sprinkled delicately from the fingers. I thought of peanuts in a bowl on a bar and chose not to salt my food.

Tony collected the blue-black bags from Salt ‘n’ Shake crisps. He would eat the crisps plain then open the salt and dip a spitty finger in, like sherbet. I would steal his bags to give to Adrian.

Tim ground his salt like pepper. The grinder made a sound like an old man coughing. Tim talked too much.

Michael had sachets of salt in a resealable bag at the back of his cutlery drawer. He took them from hotels, from bars, from fast food joints. He matched his salt sachets to the meals he made. I only saw him once.

John tried to harvest salt from seawater and contracted a gastric disease. He lost three months and half his lower intestine in a hospital in Kent.

Peter believed that salt was specific to situations. He would sprinkle sea salt on a boiled egg but ground salt on a fried one and no salt at all if his eggs were scrambled. I disappointed him each time I broke the rules.

Jake believed that salt would kill him in the end so stayed away from it. His heart stopped when he was thirty-three. Ironic smiles filled his funeral, like flowers.

Josh believed that skipping salt had killed his brother Jake. He was liberal with the salt and died aged thirty-five from the same congenital heart defect that had killed his brother.

Leon had a cupboard of chilli salt, garlic salt, rosemary salt. Everything he cooked tasted of something else.

Martin kept salt for special occasions – birthdays, Christmas, our anniversary. Scarcity made it more attractive. We stayed together longer than we should.

George liked to rub salt into joints of meat before he cooked them. When we had sex, all I could think of were his big salty hands and a pre-warmed oven.

Toby spent so long in John Lewis choosing a new salt shaker that we didn’t have time for dinner. I didn’t see him again.

Mark sometimes had salt and sometimes didn’t. He was hard to trust.

Sam combined a pile of salt with just enough vinegar to make it mushy, then dabbed his forefinger in and licked it clean. It was the tastiest thing he’d ever eaten, he said. I liked Sam. He was honest.

Jack cast salt around like a farmer scattering seeds. The plate, the table, the floor: everything dusted with salty snow.

Gordon sprinkled sea salt from a bowl, just like Seb, but slowly, like he was counting out each crystal, watching it fall to a melting death.

Lee shakes salt from a white ceramic shaker. Three shakes of salt, whatever the meal. I like Lee.


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