David’s #17 – Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

We would be dead without salt.  It has a unique role in nature.  Salt has been used as currency and the quest for it has led to many other discoveries.  Empires have prospered because of it, and it has been the cause of revolutions.  Salt plays a huge role in our lives today and has been integral throughout history, in economics, politics, religion, myth, and of course, the culinary arts.  

It is amazing to me how something so prevalent in our lives is so easily dismissed.  Kurlansky attempts to take this seemingly bland, commonplace substance and re-introduce it to the world in an interesting way.  He does a pretty good job of it too.  

It makes sense that something so fundamental is found all throughout history.  Kurlansky emphasized the importance of salt by taking the reader on a cultural journey during which he reveals its universal application and deep historical context.  It is not just a history book.  Kurlansky introduces the reader to numerous far-flung corners of the earth and keeps them entertained through interesting anecdotes; all linked though this seemingly basic compound.  He packs it full of interesting photos and recipes from the ages, although few of them are likely to be very useful in modern times.   

He took an odd topic and produced what seems to be an incredibly well researched, fascinating, engaging, and funny book.  It is evident that he has only scratched the surface and could have included so much more.  But I am glad that he did not.  At almost 500 pages I personally felt that it got a little bit long and I started to lose interest near the end.  I could have done with about 100 pages less.  I definitely enjoyed it but it is not for everyone.  Perfect for the history buff and food nerd.

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