Disclaimer - I had a fever for four of the days that I read this book. Having said that, I found it so completely gripping that I couldn't put it down...moreDisclaimer - I had a fever for four of the days that I read this book. Having said that, I found it so completely gripping that I couldn't put it down - who knew that a history of salt could be so utterly fascinating? I was given this book by a work colleague and launched into it without reading the cover, with little idea of what to expect. The first chapter sets the scene:
"Salt is so common, so easy to obtain, and so inexpensive that we have forgotten that from the beginning of civilization until about 100 years ago, salt was one of the most sought-after commodities in human history."
As well as providing a historical, scientific and economic narrative that stretches across virtually every continent, this book provides a fascinating culinary history, especially about food preservation in the time before refrigeration. Recipes from the Chinese, Romans, French and Egyptians simultaneously intrigue and disgust. To this contemporary palate, preserved olives and the invention of parmesan cheese sound delicious, but garum (essentially fermented fish sauce) not so much... Ultimately, this rich culinary history left me in a sense of wonder about the humble salt product and its incredible impact across different cultures.
Perhaps my favourite part of this book were the passages that had me exclaiming out loud, and then reading to my partner - who became so irritated by my utterances that I was forbidden from reading any more out loud, as he now wanted to read the book. This is one of my favourite passages:
"The Roman Army required salt for its soldiers and for its horses and livestock. At times soldiers were evn paid in salt, which was the origin of the word salary, and the expression "worth his salt" or "earning his salt". In fact the Latin word sal became the French word solde, meaning pay, which is the origin of the word, soldier."
Salt. My understanding of the world and its histories is much richer for having read this book.(less)
I've decided that launching into books without reading the covers is the best way to start reading, as that way I can't be influenced by reading any p...moreI've decided that launching into books without reading the covers is the best way to start reading, as that way I can't be influenced by reading any possible plot developments. This book came highly recommended by two friends, so I started reading it in trepidation that my reading of it might not live up to their glowing recommendations. I needdn't have feared though - as Rebecca Stead completely pulled me into Miranda's world and I could clearly picture her walk home from school every day and the apartment where she lived. Stead's storytelling is superb, clever and deeply satisfying. This is a book that I'll be recommending not only to young adults, but adult friends alike. (less)