Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.
In this issue
- This week: Salt
- Virtual Snacks
- Bizarre Searches
- Joke and quotation
I had never given much thought about salt until a few years ago when I read Roy Moxham’s excellent book The Great Hedge of India. The book tells of a chance discovery, in 1995, of a reference to a gigantic 1,500-mile long hedge which the British grew across nineteenth-century India, and of the author’s efforts to find its remains. What started as a whim became an obsession, as Moxham sought to unearth remains of the hedge and to discover its original purpose.
The hedge, which Moxham had first thought merely a piece of eccentricity, was actually an instrument of oppression used to collect a salt tax set so high that the Indians suffered from salt starvation. Hence Gandhi’s famous Salt March in 1930, when he led nearly 80 men on a 240-mile trek to the coast and boiled seawater to make salt, urging his followers to do the same. “With this,” he declared, “I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire.” Within a few weeks over 60,000 of his followers had been imprisoned for making salt illegally. But the Salt March has gone down as a turning-point in India’s struggle for independence.
So why was salt so important? Simply, it is essential for life. But the number of uses it has and the history of salt is fascinating and surprising. Sodium chloride really has played a major role in human society. Salt has even been used instead of money – for instance, Roman soldiers were paid in salt, not coins. That’s where the world “salary” comes from and the saying that someone is “worth their salt”.
Anything you ever wanted to know, and more, about salt is contained in Mark Kurlansky’s excellent book, Salt – A World History. Funny to think that those white crystals on almost everyone’s dining table should have had such a profound influence on politics, economics, religion, science, and, last but not least, culinary history.
Now, of course, the UK government’s telling everybody to cut down on using it. Apparently we’re all to consume no more than 6g – about a quarter of an ounce – a day. Gordon Ramsay obviously hasn’t been listening; on a recent programme of his I saw him chucking salt into every dish as if there was no tomorrow. I wonder what his blood pressure’s like? But I’m glad he, at least, isn’t going to put up with Nanny telling him what to do.
I’m always on the lookout for interesting topics for our weekly newsletter. Believe me, you’d be hard pushed to find something more interesting than salt! Don’t take it for granted.
Do you have anything to say about this topic, or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us?
Roy Moxham’s interesting website, which contains information about his books, the hedge, and an academic article about salt starvation.
The (American based) Salt Institute is a gold mine (or should that be salt mine?) of facts and figures about salt.
And finally, a short biography on the Penguin (USA) site about Mark Kurlansky.
Penguin (USA): Mark Kurlansky
Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:
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Till next time…
British Expat Magazine
“Salt is the only rock directly consumed by man. It corrodes but preserves, desiccates but is wrested from the water. It has fascinated man for thousands of years not only as a substance he prized and was willing to labour to obtain, but also as a generator of poetic and of mythic meaning. The contradictions it embodies only intensify its power and its links with experience of the sacred.”
Margaret Visser, Canadian author and broadcaster
So I was having dinner with Garry Kasparov and there was a checked tablecloth. It took him two hours to pass me the salt.