I’ve been thinking a lot about a stew my father used to make when I was a kid. Actually, stew is not the right word. It would more aptly be called a goulash—a ghoulish cauldron of bubbling evil I’m sure was made from bits of wayward aliens and rancid dragon toes. (Forgive the excessive use of adjectives; describing it requires modifiers in abundance.) I don’t know where he got the ingredients, but my father is quite the resourceful man.

Now, I had a love-type-thing for Julia Child and Julia taught me to “season to taste.” This magical technique was always done with salt. Beauteous, glistening as it floated downward and into the pot like finely milled diamonds. “Salt!” I thought. My father’s goulash needed it. According to Julia, seasoning made everything better.

One night, after we’d all pretended to eat our bowls of ghoulish goulash, my father chuckled and promised there’d be leftovers enough for the following night. =Yeesh= Something had to be done. As the family adjourned to the den to watch television (and likely to hurl into various potted plants) I crept into the kitchen, opened the lid and peered into the cauldron.

Must. Have. Salt.

Pulling the cabinet open, quick and quietly, I grabbed a hold of the tubular box of Morton’s and sprinkled. Stirred. Tasted. Not bad.

“More salt!” I decreed aloud. Oops. My hand slapped over my mouth in my fear of discovery… I waited. No one had heard. This time I whispered with glee. “More salt.” A fiendish light burned behind my eyes. I salted, stirred and tasted. Salted, stirred and tasted. Better, but not quite right. One more sprinkle and… =Bleh= Disgusting. The goulash was all—  you know, salty, and junk.

Lid down. Refrigerator open. Shove. Close. Hide.

Enhancing a story is a lot like salting a stew. The right balance of ingredients and seasoning is a wonderful thing, but if any one element is overdone… =Bleh=. Some stews require more pepper than salt, others work better with fresh herbs. Whatever the mix, it is important that storytellers follow Julia’s rule and “season to taste.”

You’re probably wondering what happened with that particular goulash. Well, my father heated it up for dinner the following evening, tasted it and tossed the entire mess down the sink.

Shirin: 01, Dad: Zip.

Note: Under normal circumstances my father is a good cook. True story.

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