Salt and pepper are almost everywhere we go. They finish a food. They set off flavour. We tend to use them automatically whether what we are about to eat requires them or not.
It isn't until they aren't where expected that I realized I am grateful for them.
We were in Cuba in 2010, a land of very plain, bland cooking, at least for the tourists.
Salt would do wonders for the food, but it wasn't always available.
Pepper was even rarer.
When we did get a small bit of salt it was usually a victim of the humidity.
This rarity reminded me how these common condiments are taken for granted.
About 20 years ago my doctor found I had borderline high blood pressure. The wisdom of the day was to cut back on salt.
I tried an experiment wherein I didn't add any salt to the food on my plate. I did this for two weeks. It went well at first as I found foods like onion gave good flavour.
But one day I had cramps. As I enjoyed them I had the idea it was due to needing salt. I had nothing to go on leading me to this conclusion beyond it was the only thing different in my life.
I ate some salt.
The pain disappeared
I went back to using salt.
The alleged borderline blood pressure left of its own accord.
As for pepper, it varies. I've gone without it from time to time based solely on what I felt like at the time.
Currently I use fresh ground. It sets off a simple fried egg beautifully and among its flavouring uses it enhances ginger in gingerbread.
Salt and pepper.
So simple, so ubiquitous in most of North America, and so important, yet rarely considered. For them I am grateful.