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SALT A brief, big history From an age-old food preserver and table mainstay to a gourmet ingredient, salt has always had a major influence on our kitchens and our lives By Colleen Thompson


t’s the simplest of substances. It has provoked wars, established trade routes, amassed fortunes and created entire empires. A staple of kitchens everywhere, this unassuming mineral has profoundly influenced our lives. Salt, a seeminglyobscure substance, has been pivotal in defining much of history, and we rarely stop to think about its complexity when we say, “pass the salt.” Salt has shaped our civilization from the very beginning, and its storied past is inextricably intertwined across cultures. Earning itself the nickname “white gold,” it was as valuable as oil and gas is today, due to its labour-intensive collection methods and scarce availability. Mark Kurlansky, in his mammoth book, A World History of Salt, tells us, “salt is so common, so easy to obtain and so inexpensive that we have forgotten that from the beginning of civilization until about 100 years ago, salt was one of the most sought-after commodities in human history.” It was used by ancient Egyptians in religious ceremonies, as they would embalm their mummies in it; it was traded by Phoenicians who built an entire empire because of it; early Romans salted their leafy greens, which was where we get the word “salad. “Salus” became the Roman goddess of health and prosperity. Roman soldiers were known as “salarium argentum,” which is where the word “salary” comes from. The ancient Greeks traded slaves for salt, giving rise to the expression, “not worth his salt.”




Profile for ReFINEd Magazine

ReFINEd spring 2019  

ReFINEd spring 2019