Friday, June 06, 2008
Two versions of Salt by Mark Kurlansky
A couple of years ago I picked up the book Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky on a whim at Powell's Books, the ultimate bookstore and one much-missed. (The store is still there, in Portland and the suburbs; it's me that left it.) It sat around till a few weeks ago, when I was hunting around for some light nonfiction and saw it on the shelf.
As often happens in my reading life, we experienced a bit of serendipity in the library, coming across a kids' picture book version - beautifully illustrated. Of course we brought it home and read it together.
In either version, this is a fascinating and fun book to read. I have no idea how factual it is; I am not a salt scholar. The Salt Institute recommends the book on their (hard to read) website.
The book is full of anecdotes about salt production (including the salt ponds at the bottom of San Francisco Bay, not far from my old home town), history of salt in cooking and other uses, particularly for preserving fish. My favorite section is about the creation of Tabasco Sauce on Avery Island, LA. As I read that to my kids, my boy got up and went to the pantry to get out the bottle. They were thrilled to see Avery Island on the label. There's a smattering of (mostly medieval) recipes, including one for sauerkraut and caviar... no thanks. The picture version is short, interesting, and lovely to look at. If I was still buying picture books, I'd spend money on this one.
I see that the author also has an earlier book, Cod: A History of the Fish that Changed the World, also with a picture book companion. I am not all that interested in learning about codfish, but who knows?