A really good chef, or anyone who knows anything about food, will tell you salt is the single most important ingredient when it comes to cooking. Salt is varied in shape and size, in texture, and in the complex ways it can bring nuance to a whole array of flavors.
And yet salt is so often seen as a threat. “Sushi face” is what it is — a description of a puffy, bloated face in the morning — because of salt, after all.
For one of our editors, Katy, food in general was not only a threat but also repulsive. In this newsletter, she explains her struggle from one point in her disordered eating journey to where she is now, a place where she can share a salty recipe of her own below: sake and leek risotto.
In Aleah Dye’s poem, salt is not necessarily the source of harm as much as it is a lump lodged in the throat of self-suppression and inhibition, urging us to ask who, or what, the danger really is.
A note for July: As we dissolve the theme of salt, we’d like to announce that the newsletter theme for July will be “Can I ask you a personal question?” You can submit your work — of any medium, up to 1,500 words — to email@example.com until July 31. We encourage your own interpretation of this theme and would especially love to see more creative nonfiction and short stories.
By Aleah Dye
I don't understand why I keep sawing off my fingers for friends and tearing out my hair for men who don't know what to do with my heart, let alone my stick-straight strands. I don't understand why I cup my candle with my aching hands, blocking my natural glow for those with artificial, flashlight shine.
These people don't deserve pieces of me when they cannot grasp the whole.
I don't understand why I shut my eyes to the bright and blinding abuse. I don't understand why I curl up until I'm a pinpoint prick on a map nonexistent. I don't understand why I swallow salt to stop my voice calling.
I don't deserve my pieces if I cannot protect the whole.
Recipe: Sake and Leek Risotto
By Kathryn Cardin
I’m going to do the thing people hate and write an intro for a recipe.
*Eating Disorder Trigger Warning*
For a long time I did not eat. Or I ate and immediately threw up. Even if it was a carrot. I took illegal diet pills and went to the gym before and after school, sometimes a third time before bed. I starved myself for days on end and ran until I fainted. I hated food. Despite my many methods to conceal this behavior for years, I was eventually found out by people who cared about me. I entered ED therapy and received medical treatment. A few years and many sessions later I stopped acting on my ED, but it by no means went away. I still struggle, fourteen years after it all started, to find happiness with the way I look — that’s a whole other intro to a whole other recipe... All of this is to say, what really helped me lock up this monster was developing a love for cooking. At first, I would cook for other people and not even eat it. I would pickle things and make sauces from scratch. I’d sculpt veggie burgers in an attempt to make my peers vegetarian (LOL). My dad was a good cook and grew his own produce in the garden, so I always admired the process even if the end product, presented to me as a tray of bottomless calories, was scary. But I was pretty good. I got a ton of compliments. And all the effort I put into cooking started making eating the food feel like I deserved it (NOT HEALTHY, just the way my 20-year-old sick brain worked).
I tried things and failed. I felt guilty about cooking with butter (you should always cook with butter, it makes everything better). But now, when people ask me about myself, one of the first things I tell them is that I cook. I have a tattoo of a chef’s knife and garlic for christ’s sake. I love growing, making, plating anything. I love the panic of “how am I going to sauté this and quick pickle that and take this out of the oven at the same time while I also chop those.” I love the look on people’s faces when I give them a perfectly thought-out plate of food. And even though it still makes me uncomfortable sometimes, I love food. I know this is not everyone’s journey, it’s not even a typical one. But it’s mine and I own it because I’m a fucking good cook.
This is an accidental, perfectly salty recipe from my archive. I ran out of wine, and saw sake on the table, so I thought “sure, whatever.” It was incredible — subtle but just enough of that specific flavor to make it different and elevated. Leeks go well with risotto because they are earthy and contrast with the salty, buttery, cheesy rice. Good vegetables to use instead of leeks are mushrooms, asparagus, or beets (beets make pink risotto!) Cook time is dependent on your dedication. It’s not a particularly easy or quick meal but it will be worth it.
· salt and pepper
· 4 tbsp olive oil
· 4 tbsp salted butter
· 5 sprigs fresh thyme
· 1 handful fresh parsley
· 1 large shallot
· 5 cloves garlic
· ¾ cup dry sake (a cheap version is fine)
· 6 cups vegetable broth (homemade or store bought, unsalted is better so you can season to taste)
· 2 large leeks
· 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
· ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1. Rinse all of your vegetables and rice (separately) in a strainer. Thinly slice the shallot, mince the garlic, chop the parsley, and pick the thyme. Mis en place!
2. Pour the vegetable broth into a saucepan and warm it over low heat. Do not let it simmer or boil. If it does, turn it down until it’s *safe*.
3. Thinly slice the white and light green parts of the leeks. Save the darker green ends for stocks or sauces, or discard. In a large skillet (you can use a soup pot instead), add 1 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of butter and melt over medium heat (I have a gas stove and it tends to run hotter, but if you need to turn up the heat to get a good sauté, by all means). Add the sliced leeks and sauté until tender, about ten minutes. Remove the contents from the pan and place in a bowl to the side. You don’t need to keep them warm.
4. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the remaining olive oil to the skillet. Add the shallots, garlic, and thyme and cook until fragrant. Do not let the garlic burn; you will be fucked.
5. Add the rice, stirring until it is coated with oil for about a minute. Pour in the sake. Continuously stir the rice until the sake is completely absorbed.
6. With a ladle or measuring cup, add a portion of the heated vegetable broth to the rice at a time, constantly stirring in between until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Don’t cook on too-high heat or the rice won’t fully cook. Once you’ve added all the broth, the rice should appear fairly creamy, but not mushy.
7. Remove the skillet from the heat and add in the leeks, parmesan, and remaining butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Once it is all incorporated, top with the chopped fresh parsley. Serve hot!
8.(If you have leftovers, refrigerate it and make arancini later).
About the Artists
Aleah Dye (she/her) primarily writes poetry, tending towards topics of morbidity, love, social justice, and philosophy. She is dreadfully afraid of imperfection and spiders, in no particular order. She has a one-eyed cat named Ivy and a one-track-minded (food!) cat named Rosebud. Aleah hopes to make hearts grow three sizes with her words. Read her latest work via publications like Mythic Picnic, Rejection Letters, and dreams walking. Follow her @bearsbeetspoet on Twitter.
Kathryn Cardin lives in Brooklyn and is a freelance writer/editor, and co-publisher of Tart. Follow her on Instagram @slimkatyyy.
One last salty goody. Wear a mask, people! And pass the salt like this!