Salt A World History

[PDF / Epub] ☂ Salt A World History Author Mark Kurlansky – From the Bestselling Author of Cod and The Basue History of the WorldIn his fifth work of nonfiction Mark Kurlansky turns his attention to a common household item with a long and intriguing history sa From the Bestselling Author of Cod and The Basue History of the WorldIn his fifth work of nonfiction Mark Kurlansky turns his attention to a common household item with a long and intriguing history salt The only rock we eat salt has shaped civilization from the Salt A PDF or very beginning and its story is a glittering often surprising part of the history of humankind A substance so valuable it served as currency salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities provoked and financed wars secured empires and inspired revolutions  Populated by colorful characters and filled with an unending series of fascinating details Salt by Mark Kurlansky is a supremely entertaining multi layered masterpieceMark Kurlansky is the author of many books including Cod The Basue History of the World and The Big Oyster His newest book is Birdseye.Salt A World History

Mark Kurlansky has written edited or contributed to twenty books which have been translated into twenty five languages and won numerous prizes His previous books Cod Salt and The Food of a Younger Land were all New York Times best sellers.

Salt A World History Epub ✓ Salt A  PDF or
  • Paperback
  • 484 pages
  • Salt A World History
  • Mark Kurlansky
  • English
  • 21 January 2016
  • 9780142001615

10 thoughts on “Salt A World History

  1. says:

    Chris Lavers started his review of this book for the Guardian with speculation on how an author can get released from publisher’s contract The publisher receives priority by including a “first refusal” clause on a second book You merely present your publisher with stunningly unappealing material If they choose not to publish then you are free to go elsewhere A history of salt should workMostly a foodie history with emphasis on the historical importance of salt for food preservation There is some discussion of industrial uses like embalming in Egypt and other parts of Africa The sections about cod and Basue fishing were familiar from reading Cod A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World and The Basue History of the World The Story of a Nation Until the first invention by a Paris cook Nicolas Appert the “Father of Canning” most food preservation was salt The Vitamin C in sauerkraut made it possible for early sailors to avoid scurvy Appert canning jarMore sophisticated canning of fish and vegetables followed Cold preservation and Clarence Birdseye founder of the frozen food industry were not far behind In 1928 Birdseye found a buyer for his company and fast freezing method it became General Foods But until these relatively recent events salt was a vital part of the economy There were salt laws salt taxes and salt merchantsI learned a lot about the magical properties of salt well the beliefs and customs in its magic Salt protects against the evil eye according to both Jews and Muslims Remember rubbing the newborn infants with salt from the Book of Ezekial 164 Sprinkle salt on the stage in traditional Japanese theater to protect against evil Anglo Saxon farmers used salt on the plow when invoking the earth goddess for a good harvest Romans called a man in love salax in a salted state the origin of the word salacious In the Pyrenees bridal couples went to church with salt in their left pockets to guard against impotence In some parts of France only the groom carried salt in others only the bride In Germany the bride’s shoes were sprinkled with salt An 1157 Paris engraving titled Women Salting Their Husbands demonstrated how to make your man virile The last line of an accompanying poem reads “With salting front and back At last strong natures they will not lack” Bibliothèue NationaleFrom early history the West African silent barter reported by Herodotus and the ancient salt well of Shaanxi and Sichuan to the 1901 salt dome drilling of Spindletop which redefined the terms drill rig and well to mean oil not salt It's all here not too briny just savory sampleA crowd gathers to watch a side gusher on Spindletop hill in Beaumont Texas which was the site of the first Texas oil gusher 10 January 1901 Photo by the Texas Energy MuseumNewsmakers by 1902

  2. says:

    I read several chapters of this It was mind numbingly boring Lists lists lists of everything that has ever been done with salt What different countries cultures and times have done with salt The word salt in many different languages That old thing about salary being the precious salt that the Romans paid their military in right I was praying for a relief from the tedium of this book But all I got was the odd not at all interesting anecdote I don't know how the rest of the book progressed but I don't care either This was about as interesting as reading the long list of all the ingredients in a box of Twinkies where you can't pronounce half of them have never heard of the rest and are only reading it because there isn't anything else to read Like you do cereal boxes or the ketchup bottle That said the book Twinkie Deconstructed My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown Mined Yes Mined and Manipulated Into What America Eats was actually very interesting If Steve Ettlinger could make that interesting I don't see why Kurlansky failed so utterly with Salt But he did at least for me A lot of Kurlansky's other books sound very appealing but I'm wary now

  3. says:

    Let them eat salt Literally let everyone do so as we all need a moderate dose of it Such is one of the early discoveries in Mark Kurlansky’s biography of salt and how it shaped the world Kurlansky uses his attention to detail and ability to entertain the curious reader in this book that explores much of how salt came to be found on most tables around the world as well as some of the key customs and traditions that have lasted for centuries if not millennia The book places salt’s importance in three distinct categories throughout history which Kurlansky develops effectively Salt is most easily seen as a part of foodcooking but also an important business over time and finally a key political commodity throughout documented history By viewing salt through these three lenses the reader can better understand and respect how powerful and integral those small grains or large rocks have been to shaping the world in which we live Interested and open minded readers will enjoy this highly educational biography on what might seem a random and somewhat bland topic pun intended I challenge anyone who has the time to step outside the box and see if it’s to your tasteIt is worth mentioning that while Kurlansky does make mention of many forms of salt through the narrative the significant portion of the book relates to sodium chloride NaCl common table salt This product is surely both a uintessential part of human function but also found in most foods either in core ingredients or added in preparation Kurlansky discusses how the Chinese were some of the first to document their use of salt to create new staples in the country namely soy sauce which involves a fermentation process that salt helps spark Salt has the sensational ability to pull moisture from items and create a brine that cures them in new and exciting ways thinking of such things as picked cucumbers meats or even eggs Salt as a preserving agent proved to be central to the success of permitting foods to be kept for longer periods be it meats hunted to last throughout the winter or fish caught on the far side of the world to endure the journey back Kurlansky briefly explores the importance that salt and cod played as teammates to bring the fish from the seaside communities to the islands and across the Atlantic which is extrapolated in his book about the history of cod another good read thereby feeding the masses who could not fish themselves Salt’s preserving ability also serve the rich well in keeping their wines before the discovery of bottling corks where a sprinkling in the wine not only kept it fresh but added an interesting flavour Kurlansky mentions throughout that salt’s addition to items to keep them edible led to numerous accidental creations that we take for granted now Sauerkraut long deemed by me at least to be a Germanic invention has some of its earliest documented findings in China where packing cabbage in brine within barrels that previously held fermented items led to this delicacy that the likes of Marie Antoinette could not get enough of up to the day of her death I also came to learn that corned beef has nothing to do with corn but embedded salt a corned substance being one that has bits of another item embedded within it that seeps in and creates an interesting flavour That humans need salt is not in uestion though Kurlansky does admit that salt intake is much higher now than in times of old and that sodium levels far exceed the recommended amount I suppose we’re well preserved for years to come allowing us to work well into old ageWhile there is no doubt that salt helped feed the masses it had to come from somewhere to make it onto tables or into the foods that were consumed Salt was surely a lucrative and profit rich business according to Kurlansky and anyone could do it on a small scale However large salt deposits could be handled in various ways by different companies The first and most profitable type of business was brine ponds used primarily for medicinal purposes Those seeking to cure what ails them could turn to a soak in one of these ponds usual naturally warm and find much success Those areas of the world able to procure the development of these ponds and keep them from drying out would see significant profits There were other areas that used larger bodies of salt water to procure the salt needed for preserving food or making its way to the table By creating man made smaller basins and using the sun as a means of evaporating the water large salt deposits remained which could then be sold on the market New England and parts of the Nordic countries were able to profit significantly through this method which was sometimes paired with their cod stocks to create salted cod to sell on the world market providing financial stability for the region As Kurlansky discusses throughout the book various groups were able to perfect the salt extraction method long before large machines or complex piping entered the scene He does stress in the latter portion of the book that the lost art of salt retrieval once passed from generation to generation is all but lost in an era where massive factories can produce and sell salt at a discounted rate The selling or trading of salt on the open market promised to be just as lucrative Supply and demand would surely enter the discussion here as would regions able to boost their economic situations by exporting salt to those in need Kurlansky does have an interesting take on this which I will discuss below but there is no doubt that profits played a huge part in the salt business Of note salt was a significant factor in influencing Joseph Smith and Brigham Young in where they might choose to settle away from the eyes of the majority of the American population in the mid 19th century Looking for fertile and self sustaining land Young found a spot close to yep a ‘salt lake’ where he developed the Mormon Church and eventually helped forge Utah’s Salt Lake City Food and business and even religious settlements help pave the way to a discussion of the politics of saltAs with most things in life if there is a crack left open or space between crystals in this case politics will seep in The politics of salt are far reaching and have significant impact since documented history began Kurlansky discusses the Chinese in the millennia before the Common Era not only capitalising on salt in the region but regulating its use and distribution across the empire Perhaps a sign of things to come rulers and governments sought to control who could have what when and how much though there was no sense of euality Far be it from me to inject economic terms here but regulation most certainly led to a dilution of the free market economies of these areas where the capable could profit based on their vested time and interest Eually interesting there is a discussion of the British suppressing their Indian subjects prior to the country’s independence Mahatma Gandhi fought the British ban on local procuring and selling of salt feeling that the people had a right to work for themselves without being suppressed It worked though not until after much struggle and bloodshed Kurlansky makes an interesting observation throughout the book that one could always predict that war was on the horizon when militaries began procuring large amounts of salt Campaigns of any length would reuire forethought and planning as it was not always possible to predict the plentifulness of energy rich foods Salting products for long term use was the key way of doing so which took not only ingenuity but also access to salt In one example Kurlansky uses the US Civil War where some were sure Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Army was surely doomed having no known salt reserves from which to pull Salt as a political weapon albeit one that cannot make you bleed but definitely could cause one to suirm if it got into the wound no? The political side of salt also served to create a significant have and have not duality such that portions of the population or states facing one another were able to elevate prices and uantities to suit their own needs As with many products there is no way to completely balance distribution though one can presume that it is greed that led to as much disparity on the world market even with something as basic as salt Put labour into the mix and politics cannot stay away begging to regulate or comment on working conditions hours and rates of pay Kurlansky stirs the pot throughout by sprinkling commentaries on these and many other political topics throughout the book sure to keep the reader thinkingThis is my third food related biography by Kurlansky and I have not read one that has not completely floored me The subject matter might seem bland or even off putting but take the time to explore what Kurlansky has to say and few will drift off from boredom The detail Kurlansky takes in his writing seeks to educate and entertain in eual measure while not drowning the reader in minutiae Adding historical references and some anecdotes the reader is taken on this journey and the points being made are further solidified as being fundamental Kurlansky also shows an interesting habit that becomes apparent to those who have read many of his biographical pieces pulling on pieces of research at just enough depth to make his point but expounding on them in another tome One can see this with his pieces on salt cod and milk three that I have recently had the pleasure to devour This interchange of ideas only furthers the hypothesis that everything is interconnected on some level part of the larger lifeblood of the world in which we live As with his other pieces Kurlansky also brings the point home with related recipes embedded in the larger narrative This personalises the subject matter and for most permits the reader to become actively involved in the topic at hand Kurlansky’s books would not be complete without random pieces of knowledge what I like to call ‘dinner party fodder’ I had no idea of salt’s presumed trait as a fertility agent or aphrodisiac I suppose men of a advanced age in centuries past would turn to a handful of salt rather than their coloured pill to boost their ‘shaker’ though much like the modern pill too much can lead to heart issues Still there is no end to the funny information I learn when Mark Kurlansky is in the driver’s seat Take a whirl and spice up your lifeKudos Mr Kurlansky for never ceasing to amaze me I know so much now than I ever thought I could have about common table salt What may seem so simplistic is shown to be so very exciting with your lighthearted writing I look forward to reading of your work in short orderLovehate the review? An ever growing collection of others appears at Book for All Seasons a different sort of Book Challenge

  4. says:

    This book changed my life I picked it up because fiction novels were all looking the same to me and because it was thick enough to last the long train ride from Dusseldorf to Maastricht School textbooks were the only non fiction I'd ever read and they had not prepared me for the vibrant and engaging writing found in Salt Since reading this book I have become a devoted fan of non fiction writing which has exposed me to a whole new world of literature

  5. says:

    This was the first so called commodity history that I've read and I'm sorry to say it might have turned me completely off the damn things I'm not entirely sure why this book is so popular and so widely read since it strikes me as simply a series of stories by Mark Kurlansky that uickly settle into the same basic mantra which is 1 Here is this culture; 2 Like the twenty other cultures I have just introduced to you salt was also important to this culture; 3 These are the ways they gathered salt; 4 Here is a random sprinkling of recipes involving salt Done Move on to next storyThe different stories are not even interwoven so that halfway through the book I still didn't really know what Kurlansky's point is unless to underscore his initial point that all animals need salt to live But I already knew this before I cracked open the book and I don't think Kurlansky's additional 450 pages underscoring the subject really added anything useful to my life Moreover how can this guy write one book about how Cod changed the world aptly titled Cod A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World and then turn right around and write another about how salt changed the world? One wonders if his gimmick isn't getting a bit old And in any case can't you name pretty much anything out there and weave a story about how it changed the world? Shoelaces rubber pencils ziplock bags The one thing about the book that was interesting was how it printed all these old school recipes involving salt salting and brining The recipes are incredible because of the sheer amount of labor and preparation that they describe It's both fascinating and horrifying No wonder a woman's place used to be in the kitchen if cooking and eating took so damn longHere is one of the simpler recipes this one for salted cucumbers SOLENYE OGURTSY SALTED CUCUMBERDry out very clean river sand and pass it through a fine sieve Spread a layer of this sand the thickness of your palm on the bottom of a barrel Add a layer of clean black currant leaves dill and horseradish cut into pieces followed by a layer of cucumbers Cover the cucumbers with another layer of leaves dill and horseradish topped with a layer of sand Continue in this manner until the barrel is full The last layer over the cucumbers must be currant leaves with sand on the very top Prepare the brine as follows For one pail of water use one and a half pounds of salt Bring to a boil cool and cover the cucumbers completely with the brine Replenish the brine as it evaporates Before any kind of salting cucumbers must be soaked for 12 15 hours in ice water Elena Molokhovets A Gift to Young HousewivesADDENDUM IOkay I am about three uarters through the book now I was probably only about halfway through when I wrote the first portion of this review and it's getting a lot better Maybe it was just the very long Part II about salting cadavers and the preservation of fish that got me so down on the book before I'd even finished the damn thing I was initially tempted to uit and put the book down but I have done that so rarely with books that I decided to just push on and thankfully the arc of the story shifted and started getting a lot betterADDENDUM IIOkay the book got a lot better towards the end It's still not a book that I would read again with any relish or recommend to anyone who is not already gung ho about commodity histories but I don't feel like I am wasting my eyes and mental energy with it any Two stars

  6. says:

    What a disappointment this was Kurlansky clearly has searched complete encyclopaedias on the word 'salt' and has poured it all down in this book with no connecting narrative or analysis Facts myths and stories are mixed almost randomly And okay you do get the impression that salt has played a very important role throughout history and even all around the world but in the end you're stuck with a dizzying amount of unreliable facts Kurlansky even has the annoying habit of adding all kinds of other non salt related information; unfortunately for him he regularly makes big mistakes and he repeats himself constantly This is certainly not the way that World History should go

  7. says:

    Well I'll be pickled We say we'll take something with a grain of salt as if it's nothing but much of the history of the world is tied up in the uest for salt It's not nothing We're fortunate to have it in such abundance that we can take it for granted and worry about getting too much of it in our diets For most of human existence that was not the case The material here is thorough and often fascinating but you must have a strong interest in history if you hope to get through it Had I tried to read it in print rather than listening to the audio book I may not have stayed with it It's uite thoroughly thorough right down to ancient and modern recipes for salty foods that sound mighty revolting The uality and style of presentation in the book is similar to Bill Bryson's but without the humor It's hard to believe this was written by the same guy that put together that goofy book made up of nothing but uestions

  8. says:

    I very much enjoyed this book on world history roled like a ball of yarn around the role salt played in this history I think that different readers will enjoy different aspects of the book There is something for everyone I particularly enjoyed the sections on Chinese ancient history on French salt production on Noirmoutier and Ile de Ré and also the perspective of how French salt taxes gabelle influenced the French revolution This was interesting becuase other books stress the role of the price of bread rather than these salt taxes Other people may be interested in the role salt played in the American Revoltion Morton Salt Company German and Austrian salt mines how a lack of Scandinavian salt influenced the Vikings hydraulic drilling and gas deposits or the numerous old recipes provided the original ketchup tomato ketchup the difference betwwen the Swedish herring surströmming versus sill I believe there is something here for everyone The author makes the information so interesting that it fastens in your head Well hopefully at least for awhile

  9. says:

    Mark Kurlansky is a historical writer who does what one reviewer referred to as the “little big” style of writing that is to say he takes something little and often overlooked and from it he spins out larger truths about society and the world To say that he does this well would be an understatementSalt A World History his fascinating history of this overlooked cooking seasoning makes a couple very good points in its introduction Because of its current cheapness and easy availability we nowadays tend to forget that wars were fought empires rose and fell and fortunes were made and lost all on the basis of salt Entire buildings have been constructed of salt methods of transportation have been begun for moving salt religious rituals around the world make use of salt and it is the only rock we eatNearly everyone I’ve mentioned the book too gives me the same look A book about salt? that look says How could that possibly be interesting?A much drier history could be written that was cohesive if you wished to focus on one specific element such as the development of salt procurement technologies replete with graphs and tables Instead Kurlansky has written a lively book that moves about with rapidity and brio never bogging down in any areaWhile at times the author seems to suggest a little too freely that salt was the main ingredient in important historical revolutions the American the French Ghandi’s in India he does at least add this element so lacking in most other stories If his partisanship as a salt historian has him shaking his salt cellar a little too aggressively over world events consider it a corrective Where he might have spent a little time near the book’s conclusion is the environmental impacts of road salt and the increasing salinization of fresh water sources from this and due to rising sea water levelsMost of the ancient practices for salt collection such as filling a clay jar with brine then letting the water evaporate out then refilling with brine until the accumulated salt filled the jar then smashing the jar open persisted for thousands of years The oldest human remnants in North America are such jar shards On a large scale this was done with a series of artificial ponds brine pumped into one set to evaporate for several months then that water pumped into another lake to be replaced with fresh brine and so on There are also all over the world brine springs and large pure veins of salt in the earthThis early form of salt irregular and large chunky crystals impurities in the supply leading to discolorations prone to clumping as well as oozing brine in humidity was prized nonetheless It often served as a means of trade and was bartered for other goodsNear Salzburg “Salt Town” a collapse of a mountain in the middle ages uncovered a well preserved salt miner dating back to 400 BC completely preserved even down to his leather pouch and brightly colored fabrics Three miners were found in total these were known to the Romans as Gauls “Salt people” These celtic types spread out as far as possible going as far as being found perfectly preserved in Asian salt minesThe Roman Empire after defeating the Gauls and absorbing all their salt technology their salted meat recipes among other things was the first peoples to declare common salt that is salt as a right belonging to all citizens Most Italian cities were founded along nearby salt works The first great Roman road the Via Saleria has a name that might give it a clue as to what was behind its constructionSalt was such an important part of Roman culture that two rather popular words in English still used today date from their original usage The etymology of the word “salary” comes from the Romans paying their men in salt To pay the large Roman army on the nearly continual German campaigns generals would often set up salt evaporation ponds Roman salt works lasted for centuries some of them being taken over by the French monarchy and used in the 1300sLikewise the origin of the word “salad” is from the Roman habit of salting their green vegetables to moderate the bitter taste the word meaning “salted” That one still buys canned green beans among other vegetables with salt already added is a testament to our tastes having long rootsLater Venetian city state power was built on salt Merchants there realized that selling and trading salt was actually profitable than salt harvesting and thus outsourced the salt production to Indians and Chinese and others All imported salt supplied by Venice had to pass through the government for regulation taxation etc As the money came rolling in the Venetians had to expand their buying and their navy sailed farther and farther afield The Venetian navy doubled as a military force and would police the Mediterranean seizing ships and searching them for illegal salt transportation Perhaps their most famous traveler would be Marco Polo who traveled along the Silk Road and met Kubla KhanFish itself became a Friday food because of the Catholic Church’s expansion of “fast days” on which one was also supposed to abstain from sex Red meat was seen as a “hot meat” and thus had sexual connotations while auatic meat were considered “cool” and thus unlikely to provoke salacious thinking The legal penalty for eating meat on Friday in England was hanging and this law stood on the books until King Henry VIII broke with the Catholic ChurchIn the American Revolution salt would come to play am important role With the supply of Liverpool salt obviously cut off the very first patent issued in the United States was for a refinement on salt production Several battles engaged in by George Washington were to secure and hold the American salt production locales and supplies Several measures were passed by the Continental Congress advocating salt production in each colony Pamphlets were published and distributed freely among the colonists for bay salt production Exemptions were offered to salt works letting their workers out of military service; New Jersey would allow each facility to exempt up to ten menThis importance extended itself in history through the American Civil War as well Secession exposed the South’s desperate lack of salt works The Union blockade from England was designed to prevent the importation of Liverpool salt through the port of New Orleans An army essentially could not subsist without salted meat which prevented spoilage and allowed for long marches Wherever they marched Union armies attacked Confederate salt works and when captured they destroyed them When the Confederates captured or retook a salt works they celebrated This shortage of salt is best demonstrated when Lee surrendered to Grant As part of terms he asked the conuering general for food stating that his soldiers hadn’t eaten in two daysPrior to the Civil War and just after the American Revolution the Erie Canal’s backers and the surveyor who pushed the idea presenting it first to President Thomas Jefferson then later to New York business interests after Jefferson denied them were salt manufacturers It was eventually built and one of its main products shipped was salt The Trans Ohio Canal from the Ohio River to Cleveland carried nothing but saltNearby a ten mile stretch of the Kanawha River through what is now West Virginia managed to set up the best salt works in America giving the earlier established Onedega salt works in New York a run for its money Cincinnati grew as a city grew from salt pork due to Ohio grown hogs and Kanawha salt Eventually the Kanawha salt makers were crushed by the New York Onedega salt works’ friends in government who passed laws making it harder for the Virginia firm to competeBack overseas The British East India Company’s salt policy featuring the usual bad elements such as high taxes and a brutal enforcement policy prohibitions on salt production at one point when the Indian salt works produces cheaper salt than Liverpool and a deaf ear to poverty eventually got noticed by a small fellow named Ghandi His salt campaign was launched through the India National Congress He marched to the Indian Ocean with 78 followers the number rising to thousands and after a ritual purification he waded to the shore and scooped up a large crystal of salt thus breaking the British laws All over India people began scooping up salt making salt mining salt In that single moment that single act the British lost their colony for all timeSalt has always been a part of our history Without it health suffers; with too much of it health suffers How much is good for you and how much is bad for you seems very particular based on where you live your activity level and your genetics Kurlansky addresses this in closing but it’s just circles The exact formula can probably never be argued with certainty due to any number of factors playing a role but what is without uestion is that salt that simple little rock so common today as to be given away freely at restaurants is still important and will always be importantIn the way the world works circularly the various colored irregular salt crystals of the past which were spurned when whiter purer salt was regularized and when consistency of shape and size was prized are now seen as artisanal salts They have now become the expensive style salt whereas they used to be cheaper salt eaten by the poor The coloration of the salt is merely an indication of differing kinds of dirt in the product Pure regular white salt crystals are now the salt of the poor What comes around goes around

  10. says:

    While certainly an interesting and often entertaining read with many historic details I had never heard before this book is seriously flawed in several waysIt has a bibliography but no footnotes or endnotes Given that on those subjects that I had detailed pre knowledge I found details that were misinterpreted glossed over or just plain wrong I can only assume the same is true for the subjects I didn't know about before reading this book But without detailed endnotes which a book of this sort really ought to have I would have to guess which of the many books in the bibliography is the source of any given fact or factoid Plus there's every reason to believe some were pieced together by the author from multiple sources or pieced together of whole clothThe book lacks a general organizing principle Are we traveling through time era by era? Through the globe region by region? Or perhaps it's time for a grossly oversimplified and sometimes flat out wrong chemistry lesson? It never uite decides Nor can it decide what its theme or focus should be History? Politics? Geography? Certainly not chemistry Maybe cooking?3 stars means I liked it and that's about right Mostly I did But that's despite its myriad flaws certainly not because of them

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