Do human taste buds and flavor tolerances change as human beings age? Or are they just putting more salt — much, much more salt — into some foods these days?
I’m guessing it’s a little bit of both.
I’ve definitely changed my application of salt to food as the years have gone by. I used to reflexively salt things like cheeseburgers, steaks, eggs, and corn on the cob, but have long since stopped doing that. These days, I rarely put salt on anything. I’m a big fan of black pepper, and I like to apply seasonings like paprika and cayenne to give food an extra flavor kick. But salt has moved to the back of the seasoning cabinet.
But I think it’s also true that many restaurants simply are a lot more liberal with their salting. I’ve had to edit my list of restaurant foods because some orders are simply too salty to be enjoyed. I’ve long since stopped getting carryout Chinese, because most places have so much sodium in their General Tso’s chicken that you kind of wonder whether the General was some kind of pathetic salt addict. And McDonald’s fries are also at the verboten end of the salt spectrum. Lately some pizzas also seem to be edging toward the forbidden zone.
Sometimes it’s just too tempting to try that piece of pizza, but I always end up deeply regretting it. I find myself drinking glass after glass of water to make up for the salt intake, and I wake up at night feeling like every ounce of moisture has been sucked out of my body and you could use a straight razor to shave salt crystals off my tongue. And then I vow that another food item must go onto the roster of banned items.
This summer the GV Jogger generously got me a great t-shirt that says “Stay Salty.” It refers to my personality, not my taste buds.