Finding Taghaza


About a third of the way through Mark Kurlansky’s Salt: A World History, picked up in San Francisco while waiting for typically unfortunate airport food to settle. Would never have thought previously that the subject of salt and its path through history could sustain a 400+ page tome, but Kurlansky is engaging and witty and has the peculiar ability to convince the reader that the last ten thousand years of human history is nothing more than the history of salt itself (he, of course, already having written Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World). Along the way are no end of fascinating tidbits as well as snippets of ancient and medieval recipes, such as this porpoise dish from England:

Take purpays: do away the skyn; cut hit yn smal lechys no more than a fynger, or les. Take bred drawen wyth red wyne; put therto powder of canell, powder of pepyr. Boil hit; seson hit up with powder of gynger, venegre, & salt.

Kurlansky weaves the obvious culinary use of salt with less obvious but no less earth-shaking political, social and technological implications of both salt and the salt trade. Already today, I’m sure that I talked my poor brother into a disinterested stupor (during the ride from the airport: “Did you know that the words ‘salary,’ ‘soldier,’ and ‘salad’ all have their roots in salt?” “Oh, shut up!”), so I’ll leave well enough alone and say that I’m enjoying the book tremendously so far, though I’m not sure if I’ll pick up Cod anytime soon!

Recent acquisitions: Kieslowski’s Trois Coleurs trilogy on DVD, as well as Morelenbaum2/Sakamoto: Casa — and if you know me, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Tom Jobim is hardly a combination I can pass up — and Evanescence’s Fallen on CD.

Tomorrow night, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis at the old digs, and maybe some long-lost friends. More later.

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