The Salt of Gratitude

As I have mentioned before, salt is used quite often in symbolism, especially in the biblical sense. In the Christian faith there is a phrase that is used along the message of gratitude, they start by saying a little boy once said the following:

“Salt is what spoils potatoes when it is left out” the same can be said for gratitude. “Gratitude is what spoils life when it is left out”

In the world of symbolism, salt can be used as a symbolic form of gratitude – salt is representative of life, but it is also preservation of death. The elements that make up salt – sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl) – by themselves are highly dangerous but when mixed together they are essential to life. The same can go for life experiences. Experiences on their own might be painful and can even be dangerous, the isolate event does not make sense (at first), but when mixed together with other experiences such as those that are positive, then we begin to see the whole picture and can express gratitude for the lessons learned.  

Gratitude by definition means “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” This week I have been thinking a lot about gratitude and being grateful. As a food researcher, I know very well how food can be tied to thanks. Depending on your faith, people will pray and give “thanks” over their food. In some cultures, food is use to give thanks to the ancestors by placing certain foods on alters, grave sites, or in temples. Different foods will represent different things to different cultures, therefore, giving thanks in food will look different depending on where you go or who you talk to. People make foods, such as casseroles or cookies to show they are grateful toward someone. I don’t know about you, but when I want to thank someone for a kind act I either bake them a sweet or I take them out for food and drinks – ultimately, the act of thanks can be intertwined with food. And it so happens that this week’s theme came to me while having dinner with some friends.

Last week as I was stumbling around this path of radical self-love, I noticed myself continually complaining about men. I felt my heart being jaded and overall, just fed-up with men and their actions – in fact, I began to just group all men into the same category because I was sick and tired of the disrespectful actions I had been experiencing from them. Now bear with me as I do have a point to all of this, but I must explain why this all started for you to understand the theme of gratitude – I promise it will all make sense.

Now, to give you context why I am talking about this, is because I decided to go on a date. I thought I was ready to move forward and meet someone after my intense heart break – spoiler alert, I realized I am not ready and still have much healing to do. Anyways, I met a man who seemed very nice. We had texted throughout the day and evening and one thing led to the next and he asked me out. Now dating during covid-19 is unique, so we decided to do a social distancing date in a park. I had a wonderful time, and I assumed he did too as he asked me out again. However, between date one and date two the man sent me an unsolicited picture of his dick – thankfully he at least had underwear on as most do not.  Ladies, I know I am not the only one who has gotten the infamous dick pic in my inbox – most likely if you have done online dating you have at least gotten one – am I right ladies?? Now here is the deal, men if you are reading this know that sending a dick pic without consent is not acceptable in any way! I kid you not, I have gotten a numerous amount of these inappropriate pictures; I joke that as a social scientist I could do a scientific study just on what I have received alone, most likely I could even publish a peer review article (I am laughing as I am writing this – it’s ridiculous that this even happens). Men, sending a woman a dick pic is not respecting her, in fact it is quite the opposite and the majority of women I know are getting tired of it – so please just stop. This particular fella I had gone on a date with ended up getting a talking too about his actions, he apologized and hopefully he learned.

So, some of you might be confused on how does a dick pic lead to gratitude (and now that I am reading this sentience out loud, I realized how funny it sounds). Well, as I felt violated and disrespected, my heart toward men became more jaded. I became tired and done dealing with these childish actions from men, hell I was ready to throw in my hat and become a nun. But something happened. The night after my second date with this man (which was a disaster), I had a movie night with my dear friends – they are a couple I might add. That night I was telling my friend how I felt about this date – I just kept going on about how men suck and how I am just tired of the disrespect. As her and I were talking, her partner was in the kitchen plating our dinner and pouring us wine. He kept making sure we were taken care of – even providing me words of wisdom and support as I was processing this dating experience. There was this unconditional love that he expressed toward us. Unfortunately, at that moment his kindness was taken for granted because my mind was stuck on the wrong doings of other men. Although I had thanked him and felt grateful for him in my life, it was still overshadowed by my jaded heart.

Later that night after I left, I realized something – I was forgetting to be grateful for the men in my life who were kind, caring, respectful, and loving gentlemen. I had allowed a few bad apples to spoil the bunch. I had allowed the actions of disrespectful men to cloud my vision and taint my appreciation for the men who are respectful. The funny thing is lately I have writing down 10 things I am grateful for each morning to help me appreciate the little things in life. But it goes to show you that even if you are grateful, there are areas in your life that you still need to work on to be grateful for. Each event, experience, emotion, and so forth are lessons learned about who we are in our life.

I came across this quote this morning:

 While drinking my coffee, I just pondered over that quote. What I gathered from that quote is that it is not about whether we see life half full or half empty or the positive and negative lens we see life through, it is about life as a whole. Just like salt and how the elements on their own are dangerous, when we put them together (aka the cup) it allows us to see life in a whole way. Just like radical self-love, we have to be grateful for the moments of pain as they have shown us our strength, who we are, and what we can be! Each of those individual moments can help make us who we are, but it is not the individual moment that makes us who we are, it is the collection of experiences and moments that create and make us who we are as a whole person. Therefore, we have to be thankful for all aspects of life, whether we seen them as good or bad – it is a balance it is neither half empty, or half full, it is that you have a cup that can contain it all.

Mother Teresa has a quote that I just love – “The best way to show my gratitude is to accept everything, even my problems, with joy.” Wow! A wise woman who understood a lesson that I am continually learning. Mother Teresa (1910-1997) was deemed a Saint. Mother Teresa was a nun and a missionary in the Catholic church who devoted herself to caring for the sick and poor, she felt her calling in life was to help others. Mother Teresa began her life’s calling as a nun in 1931 when she devoted herself to Christ with her First Profession of Vows, finalizing her Final Profession of Vows in 1937. There she began to teach at Saint Mary’s, later to become the school’s principle in 1944. However, in 1946 Mother Teresa felt another calling from God to take care of the poorest and sickest people. Being obedient to her life’s mission, Mother Teresa had to lobby and get official permission to leave her convent in order to follow God’s word. In 1948, she finally got approval and began basic medical training. Mother Teresa was determined; she raised donations, open the first American-based house of charity in 1971, opened Gift of Love, a home to care for people who had HIV/AIDS, and helped open 4,000 charities and 610 foundations in 123 countries around the world. Although Mother Teresa might seem perfect, she was not. Just like you and I she was human and experienced lash back for certain ideologies and actions she did, but the key is she did her best in life to help others, and lived a life of gratitude regardless of what she experienced.

We are not perfect; we have emotions and are continually learning. I learned this week that I have to be grateful for all aspects of my life – good or bad – because it is those experiences, people, and things that teach us to grow and appreciate all aspects of who we are. Life without gratitude is life without salt, unseasoned and tasteless, and in some cases bitter. It is funny because salt on its own can have a bitter taste, but when paired with other foods it can heighten their sweetness – salt in the pastry world is commonly used to enhance the other flavors – like salt, gratitude can enhance the blessings and positive outlooks we have on life – it is about balance. We know we will never have a life free of pain and hurt, but we can appreciate and honor those moments by learning the lesson and being grateful for what we have or will have. Just like I might have been jaded toward men, I realized that I am surrounded by amazing men who cherish me and show me respect. Honoring and being grateful for those men, can help remind me that not all men are bad, just like how one experience does not ruin life. When we have radical self-love, we can be grateful for all aspects of life, because we are solid in who we are and can see those experiences for lessons, not an attack on our character but a lesson that can make us stronger and better.

For now, my warriors – be loved, be kind, and know you are loved!

Until next time…

-Alyssa, the salt woman  

Published by Alyssa - the salt woman

Alyssa Sperry is a classically trained Pastry Chef, certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and Community Herbalist. After receiving her B.A. from Washington State University, where she studied anthropology and history, she began her graduate career in 2018 at the University of Oregon. She continues to pursue commodity research, focusing on food and foodways. Current research involves the history of salt production on the island of Jamaica.

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