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February 5th, 2013

Have I mentioned my love/hate relationship with salt?

First – the book. Salt by Mark Kurlansky is $2.99 last viewed on Kindle and $6.99 in audio. A journalist known for his off-beat views (who else would put forth the proposal that Cod – the fish – was key to world development, travel and certain groups domination) and interesting non-fiction.

Anyway – I have both the eBook and audio courtesy of some deal or another.

I have been enjoying listening as I knit. It didn’t hurt that for most of the book (non-fiction I listen to in spurts unlike fiction where I plow right through) I was on a cruise ship in the Eastern Med sailing past many of the ports mentioned and thinking about the Phoenicians, Greeks and other early sailors on the waters.

The other part of salt relates to everyday issues of diet and rationality. at home I don’t use salt in anything beyond the minimum needed in baking to control yeast. I don’t add it to food. I don’t put in water to make it boil quicker and there probably has not been a salt shaker in my house in decades. I don’t particularly like the taste and my guy just happens to have some issues with his blood pressure. Since he grew up with a mother who believed that “a little bit isn’t going to hurt” while on three meds and later died of a stroke, I take such things rather seriously.

Then there is cuisine on cruise ships where the cooks are young and healthy, the passengers often old and not and salt use goes by the handful not gram. Normally I come home at the same weight as I left courtesy of a bit of disciplin and a lot of time spent in the fitness center.

This time not so – I managed to trash my shin significantly in Alayna (first loop) and found that the pain and leg swelling caused by treadmill/elliptical/bike attempts simply was not worth it. So I skipped all of that. I still watched the food but was appalled to find that it appeared that I had gained a couple of kilos over the three weeks.

Not so as it turns out – this morning I was back to my pre-cruise weight. More importantly, my ankles and feet felt normal. As it turns out, all that salt certainly made an impact and even the amount of water I was drinking on the ship wasn’t enough to make up for the cooks love of the salt.

Maybe it was the lack of exercise and sweating that turned the tide? In any case, I will continue to read about salt and, disappointed, will have to watch what I eat while indulging in future cruises….

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  1. Margo
    February 7th, 2013 at 17:50 | #1

    Very interesting!

    I am constantly fighting the ‘you don’t need to add salt to that!’ battle. Adding salt to food seems to be one of those really deeply-ingrained habits that is hard to break – mostly because people don’t see a compelling need to break it. I always used to scratch my head in amazement to see G add salt to everything before even tasting it – and this includes even foods which are already high in sodium. It all became clear when I had a few meals with his family, in their small regional town: his step-father covered his meal in a veritable hailstorm of salt.

    These are essentially country people with limited formal education whose health literacy owes more to family beliefs and habits than to anything else, and who believe that salt makes food taste better — and food that tastes good is the whole point. These are also the same people who believe that the real villain with food today is ‘additives’ and that the problem is that people don’t eat what’s ‘natural’ (this is usually used to justify the consumption of high-sugar, high-carb and high-fat foods). These are also people who find it very difficult to comprehend the notion of ‘hidden’ salt in foods that they consume every day (bread, cereal, cheese, etc). And, not surprisingly, they are the same people who find it very difficult to comprehend the idea of hidden symptoms of chronic disease – it seems to them that if there’s anything wrong, they’d know it.

    Here endeth the public health rant for today!

  2. Ron
    February 7th, 2013 at 17:51 | #2

    Interesting thing about Salt… currency for the Romans at one point. Cultures that have a ready supply thrive. Those that don’t did not really expand.

    I heard the Cod theory of economic development during Western Civ in collage. You can run that back further and look at the people eating and catching the cod… Northern Europeans. Politically correct police don’t like to go down the fair skin world domination path. Stable source of protein that traveled well. Good nutrition leads to good thinking and healthy/fit warriors.

    If you go to Bermuda and stand in the cooperage yard of the Royal Navy Docks you will see the surface area they set aside for salting and drying of provisions in the mid Atlantic, 5 open acres on a tiny island where real estate is expensive and precious.

    You can make the same argument for sugar and its major product in the 18th century RUM. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson viewed the European addiction to sugar as the major threat to the infant USA. It was due to the economic as well as social issues sugar created. Shipping was devoted to the movement of sugar out of the Americas and into Europe. The empty ships would head south to Africa and pick up slaves. Head west to the Americas and drop off slaves, and pick up sugar. The American good and resources were then carried back to Europe. It was known as the triangular trade.

    Slavery was needed to make the labor intensive production of sugar economically viable. Though he owned slaves Washington expressed moral concern toward the effects of slavery on the social fabric of the US many times. Demon RUM was the single greatest source of unemployment due to Alcoholism in the US at the time of the revolution. The whole US Army “class VI” concept comes from Washington using Rum as currency when he had no cash. They paid the continental army in rum on several occasions, knowing it was going to render them combat ineffective for a week or more. The biggest event occurred during the winter in Valley Forge when they were facing mass discretion if the troops did not get paid.

    Here is a twist for you… Jefferson actually planted Hemp/Marijuana and tried to develop it as an alternative to Rum for most of his life. If you read his autobiography he has a many pages on the wonders of hemp in the form of clothing, fabric, rope, furniture, smoking, eating, skin suave… MJ was not made illegal until the 1920s. The rope that came out of PA and VA in the 19th century for the tall sailing ships was the best in the world, all made of Jefferson’s hemp.

  3. Carmen
    February 8th, 2013 at 17:50 | #3

    he Salt book sounds interesting. There is a genre now in non-fiction that focuses on the history of a commodity or technology (or concept – there was a book out a few years ago on the history of zero.) And each of these histories shows the critical importance of that commodity/technology/concept. The best I read a while ago about the world before fire, and I’d have to check the bookshelf for its correct name and author. Anyway, they are fun to read, unlike some I have been picking lately. (Trust me, you do not want to listen to 15 hours about genocide!)

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