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  • For the sake of salt, Rome created a system of remuneration (from which we get the word "salary"), nomads domesticated the camel, the Low Countries revolted against their Spanish oppressors, and Gandhi marched against the tyranny of the British. Through the ages, salt has conferred status, preserved foods, and mingled in the blood, sweat, and tears of humanity. Today, chefs of haute cuisine covet it in its most exotic forms -underground salt deposits, Hawaiian black lava salt, glittery African crystals, and pink Peruvian salt from the sea carried in bricks on the backs of llamas. From proverbs to technical arguments, from anecdotes to examples of folklore, chemist and philosopher Pierre Laszlo takes us through the kingdom of "white gold." With "enthusiasm and freshness" () he mixes literary analysis, history, anthropology, biology, physics, economics, art history, political science, chemistry, ethnology, and linguistics to create a full body of knowledge about the everyday substance that rocked the world and brings zest to the ordinary. Laszlo explains the history behind Morton Salt´s slogan "When it rains, it pours!" and looks into the plight of the salt miner, as well as spectroscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance. is a tour de force about a chemical compound that is one of the very foundations of civilization.
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    Pierre Laszlo
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    Columbia University Press
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    Mary Beth Mader

Recent User Reviews

  1. joe george
    "Salt : Grain of Life"
    Pierre Laszlo's book, Salt/Grain of Life, is an interesting and well-written book. At once the reader is able to detect the author's own personal interest in the subject. It is a very well researched book. Salt/Grain of life is a virtual compendium on the subject. (Did you know, for example, that salt was used as a form of payment during the Roman Empire, and that the English word salary is based on the Roman word for salt, salarium?)

    Written in the form of a compilation of vignettes-short stories, almost-Salt is an easy and captivating book to read. This is not a cookbook per se (there are no recipes), but it will inspire you-not necessarily with an excessive use of salt, but more so with an overall appreciation of it. The book is divided into seven chapters: Salt Cured Foods, Nomads, Harvesting, Abuse of Power, Biology, Other Science Insights, and Myths. And within each chapter there are a series of short stories that carry an amazing amount of information. In the first chapter, for example-Salt Cured Foods-the author discusses the importance of salt in foods not just as a preservative prior to refrigeration, but also as an ingredient in the actual making of specific foods, such as sausages, cheeses, caviar, and salt cod. In chapter two-Nomads-he informs the reader of the importance of salt in a person's diet, and how salt, or more specifically access to it, actually dictated the routes that nomads have traveled for centuries. The remaining chapters take the reader through a myriad of information, including the harvesting (mining) of salt, the effect salt has had on past and currant civilizations (sodium chloride is a main component of vinyl, for instance, and its invention has changed modern life forever), and even the origin of the Morton Salt logo.

    If you are a culinarian with a special interest in the history and culture of foods, professional or not, Salt/Grain of life is a must read. You will no doubt find the social, historical, and anthropological information fascinating.

    Pierre Laszlo is an emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Lià¨ge, Belgium, and the à‰cole polytechnique, near Paris. Salt/Grain of life is one of six of his many published works that have been translated into English.


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