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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Salt: A world history

This is the definitive textbook on salt.  That should be a good thing but the keyword is textbook.  I loved the first three chapters of this book.  I really enjoyed learning how man discovered salt, how people quickly learned how to adapt salt to preserve food.  I found it fascinating learning how the Chinese discovered that they could use natural gas to boil brine from wells deep in the earth to make salt.

Then my love of learning about salt started to fade.  I learned how caviar was discovered and every single detail of the four common kinds of sturgeon.  I learned how the Swedes make salt packed sausage.  I learned how cheese progresses from being ricotta to formaggio to finally being parmigiano.  Fascinating stuff but once you've read 450 pages in tiny type about salt you're totally worn out on the stuff.  By the time refrigeration and chemical salts come to save the day making salt cheap for everyone I never wanted to see a tiny white grain again.  I literally fell asleep at the table one night while reading it, that's something that hasn't happened since I undertook the Thomas Paine marathon last spring.

The book was packed full of recipes though, if nothing else if the apocalypse comes, signs of which have been seen already today with a Republican winning Ted Kennedy's seat, I'm your man to preserve your fish and game for the long harsh nuclear winter.  My specialty will be Chinese pickled frogs.

Take a bucket full of frogs, a barrel of brine and a slew of wooden chips.  I suggest beechwood for it's mild flavor.  Dump the frogs into the brine, let them swim to the top and perch on a chunk of wood, then cover the barrel.  In three months open and enjoy.  Serve frogs as is, pickled on top of their salt encrusted beechwood chip.  Flavor with pepper sauce for Schezwan style.

So if you want to read this book, try to find a readers digest edition, but if the end of the age of electricity comes, you'll want a copy of this book to get you through.

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