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Salt is so insignificant in price and so readily available it is difficult to realize something so seemingly minor has caused men to be sold for slavery, empires to rise and decline, crime to increase and men to become brothers.

Far-fetched, extreme statements? Not at all! In 1708 a French churchman told of peasants thrown into prison when they sought merely to get salt for their families who were sick for lack of it. By controlling the armies who guarded salt sources, rulers in the ancient world literally had life and death power over people. As recently as 1882 a traveler in East Africa was offered a slave for 4 loaves of salt. In fact, salt is so essential to life that civilizations have flourished only where it is readily available.

In Bible lands where salt was plentiful it was still a precious commodity used to preserve meat and fish and other edibles. The Lord himself commanded that all meat offerings should be seasoned with salt. (Leviticus 2:13) In this same passage is the phrase "salt of the covenant" which refers to the belief that when one person ate another man's salt he came under that man's protection. For the people of Bible times salt was the symbol of hospitality. If men ate bread and salt together they created thereby an unbreakable vow of friendship. When Jesus told his disciples how important their mission was he said: "Ye are the salt of the earth...." (Matthew 5:13) To eat the salt of the king was to owe him undying fealty*.

A Sumerian proverb from some time prior to 2000 B.C. reads: "When a poor man has died, do not try to revive him! When he had bread he had no salt; when he had salt he had no bread". For these people salt was an important item in the temple storehouses. It preserved the fish, flavored the food and cured their ills.

In Bible times the Dead Sea was called the Salt Sea and with good reason. It is the saltiest body of water in the world with a 30% concentration of salt versus about 3% for ocean water. Jericho, one of the world's oldest villages, is at the north end of the Dead Sea. There is no doubt some of it's inhabitants of long ago worked the "solar pans" around the edges of this sea. These are shallow rectangular areas on the ground surrounded by low dikes.

The salty water is let into them and permitted to evaporate until the salt is ready to scoop out. This method of making salt is at least 5,000 years old yet 40% of the salt produced today is still made the same way.

Our body requires that the salt concentration in the blood be constant. If the level falls, certain hormones reduce salt loss through excretion and perspiration. However; if no salt whatsoever is taken in and some losses-that cannot be stopped- continue through the kidneys and perspiration our body faces a dilemma. It proceeds to draw off and excrete water to keep the proper salt concentration in the blood. If the process continues the body becomes drier and drier even to the point of death.

Conversely, if insufficient water is the problem our body mechanism works in reverse. It attempts to retain all possible water. But through the uncontrollable loss of some water through evaporation the salt concentration in the blood rises to the point where this too can lead to death.

In areas of the world where meat and fish provide a large part of the diet there is enough salt in such foods to create no problem. On the other hand, if the diet is primarily vegetarian our body needs two to five grams of salt per day which must be supplied by pure salt. Interestingly, salt is habit forming. People who are accustomed to a lot of it get to the point of wanting more than their body requires.

The part salt has played in the history of man can fill a book. To give recipes is superfluous*. But you may find the following helpful.

If you're fishing, here is a secret to keep your catch fresh for 24 hours without ice. Bleed and clean the fish. Prepare mixture of one cup regular table salt to 1 tbs. black pepper. Rub well into fish. Put fish in a container and pack green leaves around it. Cover with several layers of sacking or paper. Keep latter moist but don't let it touch the fish directly. When you're ready to cook, rinse well and handle just as you would fresh fish.

Want to keep your cake icing from sugaring? Add a pinch of salt. If you whip cream or egg whites a sprinkle of salt will help the process. To keep lumps out of your gravy add salt to the flour you use for thickening. Many people add a pinch of salt to their coffee when brewing. It takes out the bitterness even if the coffee is too strong. Same for tea which salt makes smoother. In cocoa salt makes the flavor a bit richer.

When boiling eggs add a teaspoon of salt to the water and a cracked shell will not break further. If you're not sure whether an egg is fresh you can test it in a mixture of 8 ounces water with 1 teaspoon of salt. If the egg sinks it is fresh. If it floats it has begun to "turn".

Seasoned salts are popular. They are a mix of spices, herbs and salt designed as all-purpose seasoning. Many restaurants put them on the table with regular salt and pepper. Once you get used to them you'll find yourself shaking a bit in everything from meats and vegetables to sauces and dairy foods.

Let's not forget iodized salt. In 1921 scientific experiments established that iodine added to the diet of children in locations where it was not present in soil (and therefore the food) could prevent the development of goiter*. There are a number of such areas in the U.S. The largest one is around the Great Lakes.

Most people do not realize that the only spots in the U.S. where the soil and the food grown on it contain sufficient iodine are a narrow strip along the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico plus a few, isolated locales in the central western states. The only reliable, natural source of iodine is ocean fish and sea foods. But it's simple and safe to get your iodine from iodized salt.

first appeared 14th century
1 a : the fidelity of a vassal or feudal tenant to his lord
   b : the obligation of such fidelity
2 : intense fidelity

first appeared 15th century
1 a : exceeding what is sufficient or necessary :extra
   b : not needed : unnecessary
2 obsolete : marked by wastefulness : extravagant

first appeared 1625
an enlargement of the thyroid gland visible as a swelling of the front of the neck.

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