Archive for Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Secrets of salt

May 16, 2012

Yes, it is true; there is no reason to deny it. Since my earliest years I am a “salt lover.” In fact there may be some who might even call me a “saltaholic,” at least my wife calls me a “saltaholic.” While some people taste their food and then season, I grab the salt shaker first.

I have been a salt lover for as many years as I can remember. Yes, from the time I was a young child, people have been warning me about overuse of salt. It has been a warning that I have chosen not to heed.

I might hasten to add that salt is about the only spice I use. As far as I’m concerned, pepper is too “spicy” for me. I have been asked about why I salt everything and my answer has always been: “because it tastes good.” I have never believed that it was wrong to salt watermelon or cantaloupe. If I remember correctly, my grandmother salted apples. That’s too much for me. I realize that too much salt can be bad for your health and I nave cut down a bit. Of course the real reason might be that salt isn’t always available at buffets. In fact, it seems to me that salt is losing its popularity.

Salt has played a big part in the history of the world. Empires have fallen because of a short supply of salt. In the ancient world, wars were fought over salt supplies. Salt plays a major role in many superstitions. Spilling salt was thought to bring on bad luck. In one culture, it was believed that a “good spirit” stood behind a person’s right shoulder and a “bad spirit” was looking over your left shoulder. It was believed that it you threw salt over your left shoulder you might hit the “bad spirit” in the eye and drive it off.

In ancient Rome, salt was part of the pay for soldiers and civil servants. I read that the root of the word “salary” came from the practice of paying Romans with salt. Certainly, salt was a medium of exchange in the ancient world. There were several battles over salt supplies.

Salt plays a part in our language and dates from the ancient world. A good worker, or soldier, was “worth his salt.” One of the harshest assignments for Roman slaves in the old days was working in the salt mines. Salt is mentioned numerous times in the Bible and looking back at the sinners in Sodom and Gomorrah resulted in Lot’s wife being turned into a block of salt. There are many other Biblical examples, including salt losing its savor referring to churches that had lost their zeal.

There is one theory that salt played a part in the French Revolution. It seems that the French government in the late 1700’s, were always seeking new methods of taxation. Some brilliant politician decided that a tax could be levied on salt, however the tax didn’t affect the wealthy only the common or poorer French residents. This led to protests which played a part in the start of the bloody French revolution.

Remnants of ancient salt mines have turned up in Italy, Poland, Pakistan, Ireland and England. Most of the mines are 600 to I,000 feet deep. One expert wrote that 75 percent of the salt is mined and the other 25 percent is saved for “pillars” to provide stability to the mine.

Certainly, salt has played a major role in the economy of Kansas. Over the years, Kansas has been a major supplier of salt. The first commercial operation was in nearby Osawatomie in 1865. Salt was sold for $140 per bushel and a bushel of salt weight 56 pounds. I wasn’t able to find a salt mine in Wyandotte or Leavenworth Counties, but there was one in Baldwin.

By far the best known salt operation is in Hutchinson and was started in 1888. Salt had a major effect on their culture. The Hutchinson High School sports teams are known as the “Salt Hawks.” Hutchinson has long referred to itself as the “salt capital.” Hutchinson has the only underground museum of its kind in the western hemisphere. It is located 650 feet below ground level and provides a variety of learning experiences. It was judged one of the “eight wonders of Kansas.”

Yes, salt has a very, very interesting past. It should be noted that at one time only the wealthy could afford salt. Now, of course, it is economical and readily available, although the use of salt is frowned on by many and it certainly has fallen from favor with many “salt free” products.

I remember a time when a sharp person was “salty” and a good play in sports was “salty” but that was before the time that salt was linked to high blood pressure.

As for me, I will admit that I am trying to cut back on my use of salt. At least now, Jean has persuaded me to taste food before reaching for the nearby salt shaker. However, I still carry my small salt packet in my billfold just in case I’m at a luncheon where salt isn’t available.

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