Mary Overton's Reviews > Salt

Salt by Mark Kurlansky
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Nov 06, 11

Read in November, 2011

"In 1744, Guillaume Francois Rouelle, a member of the French Royal Academy of Sciences, wrote a definition of a salt that has endured. He said that a salt was any substance caused by the reaction of an acid and a base. For a long time, the existence of acids and bases had been known but little understood. Acids were sour tasting and had the ability to dissolve metal. Bases felt soapy. But Rouelle understood that an acid and a base have a natural affinity for each other because nature seeks completion and, as with all good couples, acids and bases make each other more complete. Acids search for an electron that they lack, and bases try to shed an extra one. Together they make a well-balanced compound, a salt. In common salt the base, or electron donor, is sodium, and the acid, or electron recipient, is chloride.
"It turned out that salt was a microcosm for one of the oldest concepts of nature and the order of the universe. From the fourth-century-B.C. Chinese belief in the forces of yin and yang, to most of the world's religions, to modern science, to the basic principles of cooking, there has always been a belief that two opposing forces find completion - one receiving a missing part and the other shedding an extra one. A salt is a small but perfect thing."
Kindle location 3810-3820

"...if they do not sweat excessively, people who eat red meat appear to derive from it all the salt they need.... But vegetable diets, rich in potassium, offer little sodium chloride. Wherever records exist of humans in different stages of development ... it is generally found that hunter tribes neither made nor traded for salt but agricultural tribes did. On every continent, once human beings began cultivating crops, they began looking for salt to add to their diet."
Kindle location 173-179
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