Friday, August 1, 2008

Book Review - 'Salt'

I enjoy spending time on flights and while eating dinner out on the road to catch up on some reading. Though not always successful, I try to get a mixture of fiction and non-fiction into the reading... this week was a new book on 'Salt'
This is a great book on the history and usage of salt. Sounds boring right? But I learn SO MUCH from this one book. Things I thought I knew were sent packing with new information contained in this book. Not to mention a whole bunch of idioms were all based on Salt.

Who would have thought that something as unassuming as salt could provide the basis for such a fascinating tour through time? In Salt: A World History author Mark Kurlansky gives us a history of the world, from the perspective of the salt trade. Although we take our table salt completely for granted these days, in the not so distant past the ability to access salt was critical for a society's survival.

The main use was for preserving food - cod, herring, cabbage, meat. Those countries who had an ample supply of salt could equip armies, live through winters, and engage in the profitable trade of food that would otherwise spoil without salt. Empires have been built, massive fortunes have been made and lost, all to do with controlling the salt trade. Even in nature, where there are salt licks, there are animals, taking in this simple compound so necessary for physical survival.

Kurlansky starts us off in China four thousand years ago where the act of drilling was first invented to access brine from salt wells, and takes us up all the way to the present with the Morton and Cargill companies dominating salt production worldwide. The book is extremely well researched and filled with interesting detail.

A must read for any lover of history or of food.


Jill Parsons said...

Who would have thought that SALT could be so interesting. I actually would be have tempted to read the book. The problem is that I would not remember the details and you will remember them the rest of your life.

Gram said...

I am like Jill. I find the facts interesting but they don't stay in there. Some of it I knew from previous reading but it helps us understand why we nedd to be "The Salt of the Earth".