Salt; a World History

Originally Reviewed 12/31/2015 – revised on 3/19/2016


Salt; a World History by Mark Kurlansky


Last book of 2015 and just barely finished in time. This is one that I was simultaneously fascinated by and also ready to finish. 449 pages of densely packed stories about the production, transportation, usage and the cultural impacts of something we regard as common and cheap.


In the 1980s movie ‘Top Secret’, a spy is shown a desalination machine is shown to Val Killer’s character and he observes, “That is great – now the world’s poorest people can afford salt.’ To modern ears, this ridiculous, because salt is cheap and clean water is precious. But throughout history, salt was a very valuable commodity, on part with clean water. Humanity developed beer, wine, coffee, etc in an attempt to make water safe to drink. Humans also sought out many ways to produce useable salt to preserve food, depending on the salt reservoirs available to them.


As explained in the book, salting foods for overseas sale was not just about food, but also transporting salt. The development of many foods follows the kind of salts which were available at the time. And the idea of too much salt being detrimental to health goes back at least 2000 years in China, and yet it is critical that humans have some of it.


Learn a little more about the Salt of the earth by reading this book.