What is this book? Tracing the social and culinary evolution of salt, it’s a kind of history. Exploring the surprisingly complex chemistry of salt and salt production, it’s also a science book. Big and lavish, it could be a coffee table book. An intriguing collection of recipes: it’s a cookbook! Salted is all these things—and a manifesto, too.
Salt is a key ingredient in cuisines across the globe, but most of us have never tasted its varieties. With infectious enthusiasm, Mark examines the mineral’s history, from the first evidence of salt production during the Neolithic period, to the rise of salt as currency, the salt trade, and the prevalence of salt taxes (which helped pay for the construction of the Great Wall of China). By the 1960s, industrial salt production had all but wiped out artisan salt makers, but the modern food movement has led to a resurgence of artisan salt—with an astonishing range of flavors—from Ghana to Korea to France to Pakistan.
The hair-raising description of the industrial process by which table salt, kosher salt, and sea salt are produced may lead some readers to toss their box of Morton in the trash. Fortunately, Mark suggests plenty of alternatives, with full descriptions of hundreds of different varieties. In the final chapter, he shows how to use salt strategically in recipes—such as Cyprus hardwood smoked salt, to spice up flambéed bananas, or Kona salt, for a knockout rum cocktail. Some of these salts are available from the stores Mark runs with his wife, Jennifer Turner Bitterman ’95. (See www.atthemeadow.com.)
Mark makes a persuasive case that salt is one of the great unsung heroes of the countertop. This book will change the way you think about it.