“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matthew 5:13).
Some things are best when they’re dry. For example, your underarms. Diapers. The carpet. Since the invention of carpeting, no one has ever actually said, “Oooh, the carpet is really wet, hooray!” Nor does one ever glory in the dirty diaper or say, “Look at that guy’s armpit stains — bully for him!”
However, dryness in prayer or one’s spiritual life is generally to be avoided. While there are sometimes Providential reasons that God permits us to become spiritually dry, we are not usually meant to remain in this condition forever. When one is spiritually dry, the life in prayer is brittle, crumbly; there isn’t much substance, or fruitfulness at the moment.
Even if one earnestly seeks God, is engaged in devotional prayer and reading, and frequently receives the sacraments, it is still possible to wind up “walking in the desert” at times. In fact, each of us should expect this journey, and the reality of it is part of Catholic spiritual tradition. God (like a loving parent) is always fostering our own spiritual growth, which sometimes requires us to learn to live without “good feelings”. Sometimes the medicine itself is unpleasant, but nonetheless healthy.
God sometimes permits spiritual dryness, but I suspect that He — like all rational beings — cannot abide a dry turkey. A turkey should never be dry. Dry turkey is bad turkey. You can bet that if there is food in Heaven, there is no dry turkey. Conversely, dry (and flavorless) turkey is probably on every table in Hell. The answer to a dry turkey (or really, any dry flavorless meat) is essentially the same as the answer to spiritual dryness: salt.
If we are spiritually dry, we may find it difficult to follow our Lord’s command to be “the salt of the earth.” It might be possible to attend mass or persevere in prayer, but it is frustrating to see others partaking in the full richness of the Holy Banquet or getting somewhere in their prayer life while personally everything feels immobilized.
Being the salt of the earth means that the life in Christ is supposed to have flavor. When we truly live the way that Jesus wants, we are able to savor what is good, wholesome and nourishing about creation. If we try to live outside Christ’s love or if we try to walk in the desert alone — without asking God to journey with us — all of the good things that may be present to us in our life are dry and ineffective at bringing us to the joy that we know is available.
We can banish spiritual dryness, and we can add flavor to our lives (and food), by adding salt. Salt locks in the goodness of a piece of meat. It creates a chemical gradient that literally traps moisture inside the cells it inhabits. This is why when you take in too much salt, you get bloated and retain water. All of that salt in your body is holding in extra fluid, keeping you from becoming dry! When you brine a turkey, the same thing happens, making it next to impossible to dry it out during cooking.
How to make the most JUICY, FLAVORFUL THANKSGIVING TURKEY
Thanksgiving is coming up. If you’d like to exorcise dryness from your turkey this year, start the day before by making a brine:
1. Find a container big enough to hold the turkey in your refrigerator. A clean bucket will work. I have a food-grade tub with a plastic lid that I use.
2. Fill the vessel with a gallon of warm water. Dissolve at least a cup of salt and a half cup of white granulated sugar. You can add other flavors, herbs or spices (oranges, lemons, onions, garlic, apple cider, apple cider vinegar, black pepper, bay leaves, dry basil, dry oregano, dry thyme, red pepper flakes, etc.) if you like.
3. Add a gallon of cold water, or a mixture of cold water and ice.
4. Submerge the turkey (you can add a little extra water to get it completely submerged, if necessary) in the brine. Cover the vessel and refrigerate it overnight.
5. On Thanksgiving, prepare the turkey by removing it from the brine, drying it with paper towels, and roasting it the way you normally do.
This method will elevate the saddest, cheapest, lowest of the low of all frozen supermarket turkeys. You will find a turkey prepared this way almost impossible to distinguish from the finest, most expensive organic fresh free range turkeys.
Metaphorically, being salt gives spiritual and actual flavor to anything that we season. Jesus doesn’t say that He is the salt; He says that we are! We, the whole Body of Christ, through the Church, are meant to combat spiritual dryness by being “salt of the earth” to one another.
Our “salt” is the joy that we hold; it is the light that we are not meant to put under the bushel barrel. Salt is the great equalizer in our spiritual lives just as it is in cookery! Without the Christian community — without others in our life who season us and give life its flavor — we are not good for anything other than to be trampled underfoot.
So, be the salt to others, who you can support in their spiritual dryness. Ask God to send you someone salty in your times of spiritual dryness.
And, use some salt to brine your Thanksgiving turkey, so that no one needs to feel like they are walking in the desert at your holiday table!