Anyone who has recently purchased my new album, The Things We Gave Up, may have noticed the inscription inside the front cover. I thank my family and tell them, "I love you as meat loves salt". I was recently asked if that was some funny little thing that I made up! I realized that I should explain the story behind it. It's been my family's way of telling each other how great our love is since I was a little kid! My mom has a cutting board and a pottery bowl that I made with the same inscription on the bottom. I can't remember where we read the story, but I have found several versions! I'm going to tell it how I remember it:
I Love You as Meat Loves Salt
Once there was a rich king with three lovely daughters. The oldest two daughters loved gowns, jewelry, and other fine things. The youngest loved books, animals, and playing outside. One day, the king asked each of his daughters how much they loved him. The daughter with the best answer would go on to inherit the throne.
The first daughter was brought to the throne room and threw her arms around the kings neck, "Oh Papa! I love you more than silks and brocade, more than all of my dresses!"
The second daughter flounced into the throne room and said, "My darling father! I do love you more than all of my diamonds and gold!"
The third daughter quietly entered the room, kissed her father on the cheek and said, "Papa, I love you as meat loves salt." The king was momentarily stunned into silence. "What is the meaning of this?? You disgrace me! Leave the castle at once!"
The young princess was cast out with nothing but the clothes on her back and spent several sleepless nights in the streets. She found that if she wore rags and disguised her fine clothing that she wouldn't be taunted by the other young beggars. Eventually she was so tired and hungry that she returned to the castle and asked at the kitchen for some food and shelter. In exchange for a bowl of broth she washed dishes that night. The cook took pity on her and gave her a job. The young princess chopped vegetables, washed dishes, and scrubbed floors. Soon all of the kitchen staff loved her for her quiet kindness and cheerful disposition. (I imagine she was a good singer too and won them over with her lovely songs. There might have been singing mice too, who knows.)
When she was working in the kitchen for several weeks, there was suddenly a flurry of activity. "We must prepare a feast! Go to the market and get the finest lamb, goat, and beef that you can!" The head cook was beside herself.
"What is going on?" asked the little princess.
"Why, the king is holding a feast and dance to find suitable husbands for his two daughters! We must prepare!" The little princess thought very hard and then asked if she could help prepare the food. The cook agreed but asked why she was suddenly so interested in cooking when she was clearly an outdoors girl who had better things to do. The little princess told the cook her entire story and the cook was aghast.
"What an idiot! You clearly showed your love! We will cook the entire feast with no salt and show your father a thing or two."
The little princess and the cook allowed no other staff in the kitchen. They prepared dish after beautiful dish of steaming food that smelled wonderful! When the cooking was done, the little princess sat down to rest. The food was placed upon the table in the great hall, but suddenly the happy sounds of the party quieted as the guests began to eat the tasteless food.
"What is the meaning of this?" bellowed the king, "Bring the cook to me immediately!" And so the little princess was brought before the king. He did not recognize her through her rags, her tangled hair, and the soot upon her face. "Why have you not salted the meat?? You will be punished!"
The little princess replied, "My lord, I did not salt the meat because I knew that you did not think that meat loves salt."
The king recognized these words and looked carefully at the little girl. Recognizing his daughter and realizing his great mistake, he called for salt to be brought to the table and seated her next to him. He began discussing matters of the realm with her over their salted meat, and he valued her wise opinion. She went on to rule the kingdom for many peaceful years.