Pass the salt? But you haven’t even tasted the food!

We all know that person who, before even tasting their food, automatically reaches for the salt shaker. Whether by taste or necessity, salt is a mineral that has been with humans for centuries, influencing history in surprising ways. 

sal breve historia
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Different salt types are defined by their extraction

As a substance composed mainly of sodium and chlorine (hence its chemical name sodium chloride, NaCl), salt is naturally present in different environments and named for its method of extraction. Sea salt, for example, is obtained by evaporating seawater; pink Himalayan salt, on the other hand, comes from a pulverized rock found in the mountains of Pakistan; and vegetable salt is obtained by boiling certain plants, specifically grasses.

sal breve historia
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Salt has had different functions through history

Although its most common use is as a condiment for food, historically it has had other functions. Ancient civilizations, such as the Romans*, Egyptians, and even Mesoamerican cultures, used salt to pay soldiers and public officials, as a currency for trade, or as a gift for offering tributes. This prized mineral has also played a key role in geopolitics; its high demand could be leveraged and exploited among salt producers and populations seeking to obtain it.

sal breve historia
Foto: ©LoggaWiggler

Salt has helped preserve certain foods and enhance flavors

Today, salt carries the stigma of negative health effects due to our often excessive consumption. However, over centuries this valuable product has benefited us in the practice of cooking by improving preservation techniques and enhancing flavors.

That said, one last word of advice, taste the food before adding salt!

*Fun fact:  the word salary comes from the Latin salarium, which itself comes from the word for salt.

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