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.