Book Review: The Story of Salt

The Story of Salt by Mark Kurlansky and illustrated by S.D. Schindler
From Miss Melanie at Main

Who can imagine that a whole book about salt, which we sprinkle on our food every day without a thought, could be that interesting?  The author previously wrote a New York Times adult best seller, Salt: A World History, on which this children’s version is based.

Salt is the only rock eaten by humans and all other animals in order to survive; it can be found in dry salt beds on the ground, in the ocean, in underground springs, and in rocks under the earth.  Salt has fascinated people, has been the object of wars and revolutions, and has preoccupied economies since before recorded history.

Like two kids who play well together but misbehave on their own, salt is made up of two natural elements—sodium (Na+), a metal so unstable that it bursts into flame, and chlorine (Cl‑), a deadly poisonous gas.  The two elements stabilize each other, and the resulting compound becomes sodium chloride which is neither explosive nor poisonous.

One of the most significant changes in history was the discovery that salt could be used to preserve food.  It meant that for the first time people could journey far from home, eating preserved food that could also be traded or sold.  Whoever controlled the salt trade was the most powerful.  The Egyptians were the first to produce salted food on a large scale and without salt, there would be no mummies.  Salt was also traded for gold.  Roman soldiers were often paid in salt-hence the saying ‘worth his salt’.

We live in a time when salt is taken for granted because it is common, and inexpensive because we have discovered that salt is distributed in huge beds throughout the planet.  But this rock has shaped the history of the world!

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