Food photos by Wes Naman
Recipes in this article:
Mayan Citrus Salad
Bean Soup with Pork
Vegetarian Raise-the-Dead Chili
Recently, I have acquired a new addiction. It’s a fine white powder that human beings have been fighting over for thousands of years. The Mayans called it White Gold, but today, we call it salt.
Salt has long been one of the basic commodities of the world. Before modern technology allowed us to refrigerate food, salt was the main means of preserving meat and vegetables. Civilizations ranging from ancient China, Rome, pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, the Gauls, the Celts, and the Vikings all relied on the production of salt to preserve food, as did Medieval Europe and Colonial America. Archeologists have found salt works that date back as far as 4,500 years. Wars were waged over salt, fortunes made and lost, and cities built around coastal and inland salt works.
The Invisible Spice
Today, many people hardly give salt a second thought—its role in cooking is so ubiquitous, we almost forget about the importance salt plays in our culinary delights. Take salt off the table, and suddenly there is a glaring absence.
I’m not the only one with a salty habit. Today’s processed food is full of sodium chloride—too much to be healthy. According to the USDA, the average American consumes 1.6 pounds of salt a year (based on 2000 mg per day). In reality, it’s probably more.