Click HERE to read the story of Cap o' Rushes--who was spurned when she told her father she loved him as "meat loves salt."

HERE to read Nikolai Nekrassov's "The Salt Song"

"Nemini fidas, nisi cum quo prius multos modios salis absumpseris," or Trust no one unless you have eaten much salt with him.
--Marcus Tullius Cicero, De Amicitia, 19, 67

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea."

"Salt is white and pure--there is something holy in salt."
--Nathaniel Hawthorne

"The precious salt, that gold of cookery!
for when its particles the palate thrill'd
The source of seasonings, charm of cookery! came."
--Hesiod, Greek poet, 8th century BC

"Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted"
--The Testament of St. Matthew 5:13

"Timon hath made his everlasting mansion
Upon the beached verge of the salt flood;
Who once a day with his embossed froth
The turbulent surge shall cover."
--Shakespeare, in Timon of Athens, V.i.220

"Being kissed by a man who didn't wax his moustache was--like eating an egg without salt."
--Rudyard Kipling, in The Gadsbys

"Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt."
--Colossians 4:6

"You shall find out how salt is the taste of another man's bread, and how hard is the way up and down another man's stairs."
--Dante, in The Paradiso,xvii.58

"But [Lot's] wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt"
--Genesis 19:26

This salt
in the saltcellar
I once saw in the salt mines.
I know
you won't
believe me,
it sings,
salt sings, the skin
of the salt mines
with a mouth smothered
by the earth.
I shivered in those
when I heard
the voice
the salt
in the desert.
Near Antofagasta
the nitrous
a mournful song.

In its caves
the salt moans, mountain
of buried light,
translucent cathedral,
crystal of the sea, oblivion
of the waves.
And then on every table
in the world,
we see your piquant
vital light
our food.
of the ancient
holds of ships,
the high seas,
of the unknown, shifting
byways of the foam.
Dust of the sea, in you
the tongue receives a kiss
from ocean night:
taste imparts to every seasoned
dish your ocean essence;
the smallest,
wave from the saltcellar
reveals to us
more than domestic whiteness;
in it, we taste infinitude.
--Pablo Neruda's "Ode to Salt," translated by M.S. Peden from "Oda La Sal"

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(Sodium Chloride)

Sodium chloride--a mineral which crystallizes in small transparent cubes, melts at 803 degrees centigrade, is soluble in both hot and cold water, and conducts a current of electricity-- was the first salt to be discovered by man.

It is found most everywhere in nature. The sea. The land. Even in the urine and perspiration of included. Sea water is evaporated, and rock salt is mined--so important is salt for the flavor of food, the needs of the diet, and even digestion (by increasing the hydrochloric acid content of digestive fluids). Animals have worn ineradicable trails in their quest for salt licks. Men of primitive tribes have reportedly sold their wives and children into slavery for it.

Salt is the only rock directly consumed by man. It corrodes but preserves, dessicates but is wrested from the water. It has fascinated man for thousands of years not only as a substance he prized and was willing to labour to obtain, but also as a generator of poetic and mythic meaning. The contradictions it embodies only intensify its power and its links with experience of the sacred. --Margaret Visser
Arab traders carved great salt trading routes around the known world from earliest times. Its trans-Saharan trade, for example, began on the Mediterranean coast, where salt was dried in salt pans, and went by caravan, oasis to oasis, along the Sahara desert to southern forests--returning with gold dust, ivory, goat skins, and slaves.

The two kinds of salt are sea salt and rock salt. Sea salt is the only mineral condiment that man adds to food--and vegetarians need more of it than carnivores. This is true of animals as well as man: herbivorous animals crave salt while carnivorous ones ignore it. Complete abstinence from salt has, apparently, not been found possible, even in the most austere monastic orders.

For the purposes of cooking, salts are graded as follows:

  • Rock salt, which is unrefined, is grey in color and rife with impurities. Some of them quite important. Its arsenic, for example, is a valuable mineral in such small quantities--encouraging one to use it for cooking, though not for the table.
  • Table salt, which is ground and refined rock salt--and can fortified with iodine and treated with magnesium carbonate (lime) to prevent clumping.
  • Sea salt, which is evaporated or distilled from sea water. Unrefined, it is called sel gris, or gray salt. In Finisterre Brittany, one can buy small expensive packets of "Les Algues D'Ouessant" that combine sea salt with a variety of sea algaes--and that immediately transport the diner in spirit to the seaside.
  • Kosher salt, which is course refined rock salt with the lime.
  • Curing salt, which is 94% salt and 6% sodium nitrate--usually dyed pink to differentiate it from regular salt. It's used for charcuterie items, especially those being cold smoked. Sometimes potassium nitrate is used--that's the infamous saltpeter, folks!

A Philosophical Chinese Story about the Discovery of Salt
(from "Tell Me a Story")

Everyone in China knows that the phoenix, or feng-huang, as it is known, is a beautiful bird, with its tail as bright as a peacock's and its scarlet head and breast and back. The feng-huang's wings are huge and colorful, and its eyes are as blue as the sea. The feng-huang is not only beautiful; it is also a noble and wise creature. It seldom appears, but everyone knows that when it does, it hovers over treasures, bringing fortune to those who see it.

One day a poor, hardworking peasant walked to his marshy fields long day's work. Suddenly he stopped and his eyes opened wide, for of him, half-hidden among the reeds, stood the fabulous feng-huang.

The peasant quickly ran toward the marsh, but as he reached the spot where the creature stood, it soared into the sky. The peasant watched it disappear, and then he turned to the spot where the feng-huang had been sitting. He smiled. "There must be treasure buried here," he said, and he began to dig as fast as he could.

He dug and dug, but he turned up only dirt and mud. At long last, he picked up a piece of earth and pondered. "This dirt must be the treasure," he said, and gazed up to the heavens. "The feng-huang promises treasure, " he said softly. And so he wrapped the piece of earth in cloth and hurried home.

When he ran through the door, he called to his wife, ''I have found treasure," and he sat down and told her his tale.

The two stared in wonder at the piece of earth.

"Dear husband," his wife said after a while, "you know you must take this to the Emperor. "

The man nodded, for he knew, like everyone else in his country, that anyone who found a treasure must report it to the Emperor. The peasant dressed in his work clothes, for these were the only clothes he owned. His wife carefully wrapped the piece of earth and placed it in a willow basket. Then the peasant took the basket in his hand and walked all the way to the capital city. There he announced his wish to present a treasure to the Emperor .

When the Emperor asked to see the gift, the peasant bowed low, reached into his basket and held out the earth. He told the Emperor the tale of the magical phoenix.

The Emperor frowned. "You are trying to make a fool of me, " he cried. "This is no treasure. Guards, take this man to the dungeon and put him to death. No one tries to trick the Emperor!"

The Emperor's guards obeyed their master. As for the basket of dirt, one of the servants placed it upon a shelf in the royal kitchen, and there everyone soon forgot all about it.

Some time later, one of the cooks was carrying a bowl of soup into the royal dining hall. As he walked, he passed beneath the basket, and a small clod of earth splashed into the soup. The cook was horrified, but just then the Emperor boomed, "Bring me my soup!"

The cook quickly carried the bowl to the table and placed it before the Emperor. His hands trembled and sweat poured from his brow as the Emperor dipped his spoon into the soup. The Emperor took one taste and smiled. "Delicious, " he said. this is the best soup I have ever tasted! What did you add to it?"

Still the cook trembled. "Your majesty," he began, ''I did nothing special, but a bit of dirt from the peasant's basket fell into the soup. As he spoke, he turned as pale as the clouds.

The Emperor was amazed. "Bring me that basket," he called to his servants, for he remembered the peasant's tale of the feng-huang. When the basket sat before him, the Emperor reached in and sifted the earth through his hands. As he did, tiny white crystals clung to his palms.

"This is a treasure, " the Emperor said. "It is a gift from the phoenix. From this day on, we shall add these crystals to all of our dishes."

He sent his men to dig in the earth where the peasant had first spied the phoenix. And that was how the people of China discovered salt and all its wonders.

The Emperor wept for the peasant he had punished with death. He sent for the man's wife and son. He placed the peasant's son in charge of all the lands where the white crystal gleamed in the soil. The young man became rich and comfortable, and he cared well for his family.

And so the peasant, honored through his son, rested in peace, and the feng-huang brought salt to China.