The mysterious history of salt

Throughout history salt has been an important and integral element of life, not just with food consumption and preservation, but also in the economic, mythological and religious spheres.

In ancient times salt was a greatly appreciated exchange commodity, so much so that the "salt routes" were born forming a subsequent trade of worldwide network. Salt was valuable enough to be used as currency in some areas. Special salt rations were given to early Roman soldiers called "salarium argentum", the forerunner of the English word "salary". Salt was also used as a basis for population censuses and taxation, and salt monopolies were practiced in many states. Salt was sometimes implicated in the outbreak of conflict, e.g. the French Revolution and the Indian War of Independence.

Salt has played a vital part in religious ritual as well, symbolizing purity. There are more than 30 references to salt in the Bible, including the well-known expression "You are the salt of the earth". In Leonardo DaVinci's famous painting, "The Last Supper", Judas has just spilled a bowl of salt, which is known as a portent of evil and bad luck. In Buddhist tradition, salt repels evil spirits and cleanses an area, which is why it is customary to throw salt over your shoulder before entering your house.

In many cultures a traditional etiquette is to offer bread and salt to visitors as a sign of hospitality. In India, a gift of salt means a potent symbol of good luck and a reference to Mahatma Gandhi's liberation of India, which included a symbolic walk to the sea to gather tax-free salt for the nation's poor.

Undoubtedly, the precious substance we know today as "salt" has been essential to all life, leaving its indelible mark in cultures and traditions across the globe. We are fortunate, indeed, to live in an era when premium-grade salt is obtainable to season our everyday life with its fascinating history.