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Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
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Salt: A World History

by Mark Kurlansky

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (109)  Dutch (1)  All languages (110)
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
This book provides more than you could ever want on the subject of salt, covering the global history of salt making as well as recipes involving salt. Although the book is well written and enjoyable to read, the subject is not that exciting. ( )
  M_Clark | Aug 31, 2018 |
I was really disappointed by this.

First of all, it's not a world history. Asia and Egypt are discussed briefly at the beginning, there are a few paragraphs about salt production in the Americas once the Europeans get there, but otherwise, this is a very Euro-centric history of salt.

Secondly, it is almost entirely an economic history. I was hoping for more of a cultural history, with references to art and literature and analysis of what role salt played in culture, but that is entirely absent. Instead, there is a lot of discussion of salt taxes. That's interesting in its way, but not what I was hoping to learn. There is some discussion of the technology of making salt, but the technology is never explained in any detail and is often somewhat confusing.

On top of that, it's just not a good work of history. Kurlansky jumps from one topic to another with no transitions, and often jumps centuries in confusing ways (like quoting a recipe book from the 1960s when discussing Irish salt making in the 1600s). Kurlansky never discusses or analyses his sources. He quotes a lot of recipes, but never talks about how reliable recipe books are or who wrote them and why. Other than that, there are no footnotes or references, and absolutely no discussion of where any of this information comes from.

In other words, this book is just a dry, unflavored list of statements about how salt has been used. There is no central argument to the book and no analysis of any kind. There were parts of the book that had the potential to be really interesting, but Kurlansky managed to make it all boring. ( )
1 vote Gwendydd | Jul 7, 2018 |
This book was a disappointment. Given the importance of salt to humans since forever ago, it seemed (and still seems) like a fascinating way to slice history. There was so much rich material here. Unfortunately the book feels like the author did an amazing amount of research—unearthing all kinds of interesting facts about the rock and its connections between better known historical events—and then just ordered this information roughly chronologically and published it as a book. There was no guiding narrative to make it an actual history instead of an endless onslaught of facts, factoids and tidbits about salt, things related to salt, and some things only questionably related to salt. I certainly learned new things and even gained some perspective on history I was already familiar with. It is amazing how I now take for granted some things which had such a major influence on even relatively recent events, but I didn't feel like the time it took to get through this book and the mental energy it required to stay focused on the wandering text was worth what I got out of it. ( )
  dan4mayor | Jun 28, 2018 |
A mostly very engaging history of human relationships with salt, from pre-Roman times until now. An important commodity from those early times, it was mined and traded in eastern Europe, evaporated from the sea and brine springs in many place, and stimulated interesting invention throughout. The Chinese taxed it, the British outlawed its production in India to support their own salt imports, the Union Army captured salt evaporating areas along the seacoast and mines elsewhere to deny salt to the Confederate Army. And until refrigeration was invented, salt was a necessity for preserving fish and meat.

In spite of warnings today, we consume a lot less salt than before refrigeration. Of course, we do less hard manual labor as well, sweating less of it out of our systems. But its necessity lingers in production of foodstuffs such as caviar and cured meats and fish, and wherever hunting and fishing is a local source of protein.

Aside from a few slow spots, I recommend this book as an enriching viewpoint to more traditional histories.A mostly very engaging history of human relationships with salt, from pre-Roman times until now. An important commodity from those early times, it was mined and traded in eastern Europe, evaporated from the sea and brine springs in many place, and stimulated interesting invention throughout. The Chinese taxed it, the British outlawed its production in India to support their own salt imports, the Union Army captured salt evaporating areas along the seacoast and mines elsewhere to deny salt to the Confederate Army. And until refrigeration was invented, salt was a necessity for preserving fish and meat.

In spite of warnings today, we consume a lot less salt than before refrigeration. Of course, we do less hard manual labor as well, sweating less of it out of our systems. But its necessity lingers in production of foodstuffs such as caviar and cured meats and fish, and wherever hunting and fishing is a local source of protein.

Aside from a few slow spots, I recommend this book as an enriching viewpoint to more traditional histories. ( )
  ffortsa | Jun 18, 2018 |
Not that long ago, the thought that I would one day read a book on the history of salt was an unusual thought indeed. But here we are, post-"Salt" reading. And as far as salt-based histories are concerned, "Salt" is a good one.

Covering almost the entire breadth of human history and geography, Kurlansky gives us the low down on our dependence on salt, taking in Gandhi, the salt tax and famous topiary like the Great Hedge of India, as well as how we've been preserving food with salt since Adam was a boy. ( )
  MiaCulpa | Jun 2, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
Who would have thought that musings on an edible rock could run to 450 breathless pages?

Let me hasten to add that Salt turns out to be far from boring. With infectious enthusiasm, Kurlansky leads the reader on a 5,000-year sodium chloride odyssey through China, India, Egypt, Japan, Morocco, Israel, Africa, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, England, Scandinavia, France and the US, highlighting the multifarious ways in which this unassuming chemical compound has profoundly influenced people's lives.
added by mysterymax | editThe Guardian, Chris Lavers (Feb 15, 2002)
 

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mark Kurlanskyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bekker, Jos denTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
del Rey, María JoséCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Klausner, LisaPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Liefting, SteefCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miró, CarlesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rapho/GerstenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ruggeri, F.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The real price of every thing, what every thing really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it.

—Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776
All our invention and progress seem to result in endowing material forces with intellectual life, and in stultifying human life into a material force.

—Karl Marx, speech, 1856
Dreams are not so different from deeds as some may think. All the deeds of men are only dreams at first. And in the end, their deeds dissolve into dreams.

—Theodore Herzel, Old New Land, 1902
A country is never as poor as when it seems filled with riches.

—Laozi quoted in the
Yan tie lun,
A Discourse on Salt and Iron, 81 B.C.
At the time when Pope Pius VII had to leave Rome, which had been conquered by revolutionary French, the committee of the Chamber of Commerce in London was considering the herring fishery. One member of the committee observed that, since the Pope had been forced to leave Rome, Italy was probably going to become a Prtestant country. "Heaven help us," cried another member. "What," responded the first, "would you be upset to see the number of good Protestants increase?" "No," the other answered," it isn't that, but suppose there are no more Catholics, what shall we do with our herring?"

—Alexander Dumas, Le grand dictionnaire de cuisine, 1873
Dedication
To my parents, Roslyn Solomon and Philip Mendel Kurlansky, who taught me to love books and music

and

to Talia Feiga, who opened worlds while she slept in the crook of my arm.
First words
Introduction

I bought the rock in Spanish Catalonia, in the rundown hillside mining town of Cardonia.
Chapter One
A Mandate of Salt

Once I stood on the bank of a rice paddy in rural Sichuan Province, and a lean and aging Chinese peasant, wearing a faded forty-year-old blue jacked issued by the Mao government in the early years of the Revolution, stood knee deep in water and apropos of absolutely nothing shouted defiantly at me, "We Chinese invented many things!"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Do not combine Salt: A History with The Story of Salt. The Story of Salt is a much shorter, illustrated version of Salt aimed at children.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142001619, Paperback)

From the Bestselling Author of Cod and The Basque History of the World
 
In his fifth work of nonfiction, Mark Kurlansky turns his attention to a common household item with a long and intriguing history: salt. The only rock we eat, salt has shaped civilization from the very beginning, and its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of humankind. A substance so valuable it served as currency, salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires, and inspired revolutions.  Populated by colorful characters and filled with an unending series of fascinating details, Salt by Mark Kurlansky is a supremely entertaining, multi-layered masterpiece.
 
Mark Kurlansky is the author of many books including Cod, The Basque History of the World, 1968, and The Big Oyster. His newest book is Birdseye.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:26 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Explores the role of salt in shaping history, discussing how one of the world's most sought-after commodities has influenced economics, science, politics, religion, and eating customs.

» see all 6 descriptions

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