Friday, December 28, 2007


The 2nd book of our culinary book club was SALT: A World History by Mark Kurlanky. Members: Gracie, Darcy, David, Shelley, Big A & Ku.

First, the meal. Then, the book.

We start at David & Shelley's house with a multiple courses of cured meats (i.e. mini flank steak) and crudites with cocktails.

Then moving to our house for the main course - a vertical tasting of grilled pork chops brined and rubbed with different salt - kosher, sea salt and himalayan pink salt. All the pork were cooked the exactly same way and it was amazing you can really tell the different flavors of each salt and how it was brined and rubbed. Even better there were no consensus on which salt/style were the best, proving there is no one way to do things but truly what you prefer.

THE BOOK is a classic example of cultural history where there is no central storyline or thesis, the author simply loosely follows a chronological order in telling a parallel topic - how salts are made and how it affected world & human history.

The parts on historical impact was the most interesting. Tidbits includes how salt played a major part in the American Civil War (without salt you can not preserve and therefor can not feed an army), changed the fishing industry from Cape Cod to Itlay to England and how salt were once so important it was a form of a currency (the word soldier referred to paying the army in salt; or the phrase worth his salt; the word salary).

The part on how to make salt through the ages were more uneven. The best part included interesting personalities (i.e. the founders of Tabasco sauce started out as salt miners on Avery Island in Louisana - which is pure rock salt). But otherwise you can only read so many chapters about the different ways the Chinese or the Roman created new ways to evaporate brines.

Verdict: highly recommended if you're quick to skip the selected boring parts.

Note: Kurlanki has written many other notable cultural history books including titles on Cod and the Basque people. I also enjoyed his book 1968 which chronicles the student movement through out the year happening in that fateful year.


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