Salt – Mark Kurlansky

29 Mar

You should see the bookmark.

When my family traveled Europe in the early 90s my mom was our tour guide.  She had read numerous books before our trip and her history of reading just about everything added to that.  Not only did Mom know why something was important to see but she knew all the other fun bits about it.  For example, that statue of the dog-thing with the two kids drinking its milk?  Yeah, that’s a she wolf and those are the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.  Or those beds are that short because people slept sitting up so that they wouldn’t suffocate in their sleep.  These kind of details made travel riveting for me and now that I pay my own credit card bills, I like to get just as much out of the places I go, too.

So that brings me to today’s book report.  Salt by Mark Kurlansky.  I’ve had this book for a long time but only when I got excited about visiting a place called Hallstat (literally “salt town” in German).  The history of this town is so connected to salt that an era was named for it the history of humans.  The town also claims to house the world’s oldest salt mine.  It seemed that I was due to pick up the book, finally, and read it.

And I did and I couldn’t stop interrupting The Mister, in the middle of whatever he happened to be doing, with interesting facts.  Or at least the kind of stuff that I find interesting.  For example, did you know that catsup/ketchup didn’t originally have tomatoes in it?  Nah, they made it with fish, people.  Did you also know that one of the main problems for American defense in the American Revolution and for the South in the Civil War was producing enough salt?  See, back in the day refrigerators were very expensive not invented yet and people needed salt to make their food last longer.  Now the main use for it in the United States is as road salt.  Yes, salt industry, Minnesota love you long time.

This book claims that it is a “world history” and it’s pretty darn true.  Although I still have no idea what Aussies were doing for their chunk of sodium.  Perhaps they ate all that ‘roo raw or put the shrimps on the barbie the moment they caught it?  That aside, the peeks into Indian and Chinese history were fascinating, as was a glimpse at Roman culture.  If you want to be a know-it-all at the party like your pal Karli then this would be the book for you.  I’d lend you my copy but, as you can see, it’s already beat to hell.

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