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History of salt rich in flavor
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Forsyth County News

If you’ve ever tried a diet void of salt, you know there’s pretty much one word that describes it — flavorless.

Granted, there is too much salt in just about anything packaged and most items in restaurants. But you would be hard pressed to find a really good cook who doesn’t use salt.

Health-conscious cooks often use herbs and spices to replace excessive salt, but most still use at least a little.

I use kosher or sea salt when I cook. Once you try these salts, I promise you’ll never use table salt again.

Kosher salt is easy to grab when seasoning food, and both kosher and sea salt have a cleaner, less salty taste than the traditional table variety.

Thinking about the importance of salt in cooking made me wonder about its history.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the importance of salt is notable. In fact, we know about its significance as far back as 6500 B.C.

In ancient Egypt, salt was not only used in religious offerings, it was part of trades and considered as valuable as money.

There were actually wars that resulted from salt disputes. In nearly all cultures, the production of salt was restricted by the government to protect its value.

In 2700 B.C., a published treatise about pharmacology called the Peng-Tzao-Kan-Mu contained a plethora of information about more than 40 kinds of salt and also noted methods of extracting and using it that are amazingly similar to those today.

China, like so many other cultures, realized the importance of salt and quickly imposed a salt tax. Leave it to the government, right?

In ancient Greece, salt played a critical role in the economy. The exchange of salt for slaves reportedly led to the expression of “not worth his salt.”

For the early Roman soldier, salt rations were known as “salarium argentum” and eventually became the English word “salary.”

Indeed, throughout history, salt played a crucial role with regards to trade. Explorers always carried salt for bartering

In the Bible, there are numerous references to salt, and Jesus even referred to his disciples as the “salt of the earth.”

Salt has long been considered sacred, and the wasting of it was considered bad or even evil. In Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting “The Last Supper,” Judas Escariot is portrayed as having spilt a bowl of salt, signifying evil and bad luck.

Most of us have heard about throwing a pinch of salt over our left shoulder for luck. When looking at the history of that practice, I discovered that it was actually more about warding off the devils that might be behind. But I suppose either reason is a good one.

Salt also played key roles in American history. There are references to Native Americans harvesting sea salt in the Caribbean when Europeans encountered them.

In fact, Europeans learning to salt and preserve fish likely enabled them to set out on their explorations.

Decades later, the British tried to deny salt to America and subsequently, many salt makers became heroes during the American Revolution for not letting that happen.

Salt was also involved in the Civil War. In December 1864, Union forces fought a 36-hour battle to capture Saltville, Va., which had a salt processing plant. The mere fear of a salt shortage affected morale, which was an important strategy when fighting the South.

As always, I’m amazed when I look into history. Who knew something most of us use every day, and is available for mere pennies, was once so valued that it cost people their lives?

I have a beautiful bamboo salt container that sits on the counter by my stove and contains kosher salt, and another container inside my spice cabinet that holds beautiful pink Himalayan sea salt.

I love both for seasoning, but going forward plan on appreciating them more.

 

Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at contact@adlenrobinson.com.