Spilling salt is unlucky, said Grandma, tossing a few grains over her left shoulder to ward off the devil.
The condiment we consider an everyday feature of the kitchen table was not always as accessible as it is today.
Coast-dwellers enjoyed an abundance while mountain folk were less fortunate. Indeed, its scarcity made it valuable. Trade in this life-preserving mineral shaped the modern world, forming commercial routes across seas, deserts and continents.
In preservation of food and hides, the making of ceramics, pharmacology and chemistry, NaCl has contributed to civilisation for millennia. It played a role in warfare, religion, socio-geographical development and mythology.
Many features of our language derive from the precious nature of those sodium chloride crystals. Merchants bartered with salt as a form of currency, referring to it as white gold. Roman soldiers were paid part of their earnings in salt, resulting in today’s word ‘salary’.
Not only in language, but other cultural manifestations demonstrate its worth. In art, the salt shaker stands for prosperity in still life works across the ages. France’s gabelle or salt tax was a significant contributor to the French Revolution.
Humans need salt to survive. It maintains the system’s health, assists nerve and cell transmissions, affects muscle movement and digestive ability. As an electrolyte, it controls sensory functions such as taste, smell and touch.
It’s everywhere: seasoning, binding agent, colour and texture improver, or asset in fermentation and preservation. Consuming too much or too little is unhealthy, but the body’s natural communication network will remind you of its needs.
So where better to add tiny amounts of food fortification than in an everyday flavour enhancer?
At the heart of my SALT of the EARTH novel is a centuries-old affliction, a scientific solution and the struggle to convince both experts and laymen to adopt the remedy.
FUN FACT: This tiny salt and pepper set came with a meal on Turkish Airlines. I loved it, took it home, washed and refilled it. Now I carry it everywhere for seasoning emergencies. If only they did a mini-vinegar version for my fish and chips.
SALT of the EARTH comes out on 6 October 2023 as ebook and paperback. Preorder here: https://geni.us/AMZ_Salt_of_the_Earth
Images courtesy of Chris Arthur Collins, Maksym Sirman & Timo Volz on Unsplash. Condiments my own. Cover design by JD Smith Design.