Salt: A World History

16 Nov 2014


Salt is truly a world history, covering the use and production of salt throughout the world since before the common era. From ancient China, to classical Greece, and Rome, and peoples conquered by Rome, the author discusses methods of salt production, salt and it’s distribution’s effect on politics, and uses of salt such as in the Patio Process used to extract silver from ore, to the various types of fermentation and curing used in preservation of food stuffs like salted fish and cheese.

Although the book is interesting in that it touches so many regions and times through the lens of salt, the book was too dry for me, as a casual read. I gave it an honest try, abandoning the book on page 210, around 47% complete. I am loath to abandon reads, but this book is just too detailed about a topic that I find myself less interested in as I read.

Still, if you are interested in world history, and appreciate long surveys from a particular viewpoint, you may enjoy this book. Some interesting tidbits of information I gleaned from this book include:

  • Ketchup is derived from an Indonesian word, and originally was an anchovy sauce similar to garum (Vietnamese fish sauce is a kind of garum).
  • -wich at the end of an English townname means that the town used to produce salt.
  • The various towns and places named for salt in a variety of languages such as Sal island and Salzburg.
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