I Love You Like Salt

My informant is the daughter of immigrants from Bangladesh. She told me about a phrase that her mother would often text to her as a gesture of affection:

লবণের মতো আমি তোমাকে ভালোবাসি

Labaṇēra matō āmi tōmākē bhālōbāsi

The phrase translates into “I love you like salt”. This phrase references the fact that food is flavorless and drastically less appetizing without salt, meaning that the recipient brings joy and meaning (aka “flavor”) to the expresser’s life. This phrase actually originates from an old Bengali folk tale, which my informant described to me:

“There is a pretty popular folk tale in Bengali tradition, and from that folktale this phrase, um, ‘I love you like salt/āmi tōmākē bhālōbāsi’. And it comes from this tale where, um, a king didn’t appreciate his daughter enough and his daughter always cooked his food for him. So, his daughter stopped putting salt into his food. And then he realized, ‘Oh God, why is my food not tasting good anymore? What is this?’ and she was like ‘I took away the salt’ and her dad was like ‘You did what now, my daughter?’ and she was like ‘you haven’t appreciated me enough so I can’t- I’m not putting in enough effort into seasoning your food correctly.’ *laughs* And he said ‘I’m sorry. I love you… um… I hope we can reconciliate[sic]’ and then she started putting salt back into his food, and they lived happily ever after *laughs*”

I personally find this expression to be rather beautiful and I love that it comes attached to a narrative.