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Salt: A World History Paperback – January 28, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Only Kurlansky, winner of the James Beard Award for Excellence in Food Writing for Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, could woo readers toward such an off-beat topic. Yet salt, Kurlansky asserts, has "shaped civilization." Although now taken for granted, these square crystals are not only of practical use, but over the ages have symbolized fertility (it is, after all, the root of the word "salacious") and lasting covenants, and have been used in magical charms. Called a "divine substance" by Homer, salt is an essential part of the human body, was one of the first international commodities and was often used as currency throughout the developing world. Kurlansky traces the history of salt's influences from prehistoric China and ancient Africa (in Egypt they made mummies using salt) to Europe (in 12th-century Provence, France, salt merchants built "a system of solar evaporation ponds") and the Americas, through chapters with intriguing titles like "A Discourse on Salt, Cadavers and Pungent Sauces." The book is populated with characters as diverse as frozen-food giant Clarence Birdseye; Gandhi, who broke the British salt law that forbade salt production in India because it outdid the British salt trade; and New York City's sturgeon king, Barney Greengrass. Throughout his engaging, well-researched history, Kurlansky sprinkles witty asides and amusing anecdotes. A piquant blend of the historic, political, commercial, scientific and culinary, the book is sure to entertain as well as educate. Pierre Laszlo's Salt: Grain of Life (Forecasts, Aug. 6) got to the finish line first but doesn't compare to this artful narrative. 15 recipes, 4o illus., 7 maps.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
In his latest work, Kurlansky (Cod, The Basque History of the World) is in command of every facet of his topic, and he conveys his knowledge in a readable, easy style. Deftly leading readers around the world and across cultures and centuries, he takes an inexpensive, mundane item and shows how it has influenced and affected wars, cultures, governments, religions, societies, economies, cooking (there are a few recipes), and foods. In addition, he provides information on the chemistry, geology, mining, refining, and production of salt, again across cultures, continents, and time periods. The 26 chapters flow in chronological order, and the cast of characters includes fishermen, kings, Native Americans, and even Gandhi. An entertaining, informative read, this is highly recommended for all collections. [For another book on the topic, see Pierre Laszlo's more esoteric Salt: Grain of Life, LJ 7/01; other recent micro-histories include Joseph Amato's Dust, Mort Rosenblum's Olive, and Tom Vanderbilt's The Sneaker Book. Ed.] Michael D. Cramer, Raleigh, N.
- Michael D. Cramer, Raleigh, NC
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
This book is so full of historical fact and anecdote that I had to read it slowly, slow enough so as to not miss anything....every page produced yet something new to me!
This book is now a few years old but Congratulations again Mr Kurlansky....fabulous read!
I was most attracted to this book when I read in the book's description that salt is the only rock humans eat. I was expecting perhaps a book with pieces of trivia and assorted facts, but discovered this was more of a book on world history.
The scope of this book goes well beyond salt, and its many uses. I found myself highlighting passage after passage of details I wanted to learn more about. It was to easy to get sidetracked looking up other historical facts while reading this book on my Kindle. For example, I spent hours reading about the ancient Chinese bamboo natural gas pipes. The book is full of interesting chapters on different cultures and traditions and the author found a way to tie everthjng together with a simple chloride. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning new and unusual facts about history.
The writing style of this book is almost conversational. I sometimes felt as if I were listening to a fascinating lecture. I highly recommend.
I particularly liked the description of salt markets and politics/production in the colonial, and post revolutionary war americas.
Most recent customer reviews
One of the best books I have read in years.