Salt of the Earth

Photo credit: Nate Steiner
Photo credit: Nate Steiner

Salt — so basic, so ordinary, and so bloody.**

And one of the earliest trade items, and a “tool” in burials  (mummification), food preservation, and medicine (as a disinfectant).

A recent re-reading of Mark Kurlansky’s Salt: A World History (2002) reminded me of the sheer insouciance with which we consider salt.  Yet, as Kurlansky says,

The history of the Americas is one of constant warfare over salt. Whoever controlled salt was in power. This was true before the Europeans arrived and it continued to be the reality until after the American Civil War.

A few references not included in Kurlansky’s work include:

Bread and Salt: a Social and Economic History of Food and Drink in Russia, by Robert E. F. Smith (1984)

The Mexican Salt Industry, 1560 – 1980: A Study in Change, by Ursula Ewald (1985)

Salt Production Techniques in Ancient China: The Aobo Tu, translated by Y. Tora and Hans Ulrich Vogel (1992)

Salt Warriors: Insurgency on the Rio Grande, by Paul Cool (2008)

Salt of the earth, it’s a lot more than just a saying from the Bible (Matthew 5:13): “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt hath lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”

**For the next few weeks, I am going to be on a “working vacation,” so my posts will be somewhat more abbreviated. I will still provide you with something substantial to chew on, though!