If you ever wondered where your salary comes from… Well, at least the Romans did; the Latin word salarium, whence we get our word “salary,” shows that there was a solid link in place between employment, salt, and soldiers, although the link is no longer as clear as it seemed earlier.
Be that as it may, salt has been a critical commodity since the beginning of human history, whenever that was. Æons ago, I read a lovely story to my children, which was since republished by Nina Jaffe and Louise August as “The Way Meat Loves Salt: A Cinderella Tale from the Jewish Tradition“.
Many years ago in Poland, there lived a rabbi who had a wife and three daughters. One day, the rabbi asks his children a powerful question: “How much do you love me?” His older daughters profess their love in gold and diamonds, but his youngest daughter, Mireleh, declares she loves her father the way meat loves salt. For this remark, she is banished from her father’s home.
As the Rabbi comes to learn, Mireleh’s declaration was the most powerful of all.
Salt is essential for life. We can’t live without it; salt is composed of sodium and chlorine, and absent sodium in the diet, hyponatremia can cause coma or even death. Notice that doctors put blood pressure patients on low sodium diets, but not no sodium diets; some is always required to keep the body’s functions balanced. Add to that the valuable nature of salt as a preservative, and you can see why it’s been sought after since the dawn of time. In fact, if you want to read a charming science fiction short story about the discovery of salt as a cooking spice, read “First” by Anthony Boucher.
Have you ever wondered where our nation’s salt supplies come from? Thanks to the Salt Institute, here a map of North America’s major salt deposits and production facilities (click for expanded view):
Salt production has been central to the area around the Great Salt Lake since the arrival of Mormon pioneers in 1847, and continues today, although Morton now has a near monopoly on salt production in the area.
Salt was so essential to human life that many proverbs sprang up around its use; the following list was located at Seventh Wave:
- “Give neither counsel nor salt till you are asked for it” English Proverb
- “A kiss without a beard is like an egg without salt” Dutch Proverb
- “The fish requires salt” Latin Proverb
- “Without salt the feast is spoiled” Polish Proverb
- “Bread and salt never quarrel” Russian Proverb
- “Don’t buy the salt if you haven’t licked it yet” Congolese Proverb
- “Don’t slaughter more pigs than you can salt” French Proverb
- “If I peddle salt, it rains; if I peddle flour, the wind blows” Japanese Proverb
- “What is salt to tasteless food what is a word to a foolish head” Turkish proverb
- “Manage with bread and salted butter until God brings something to eat with it” Moroccan Proverb
- “As a daughter grows up she is like smuggled salt” Chinese Proverb
- “The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea” Swedish Proverb
- “Better a salt herring on your own table, than a fresh pike on another man’s” Danish Proverb
- “With fortune on your side you can sow salt and harvest grass” Kurdish Proverb
- “Eternity makes room for a salty cucumber” Russian proverb
- “The lucky eagle kills a mouse that has eaten salt” Ugandan Proverb
- “By bread and salt we are united” Moroccan Proverb
The Salty Old Wolf has spoken.