I dug this up earlier today–it’s a “Salt A to Z” that I wrote on spec last year for a food-related zine. As far as I know, the zine never got off the ground (they weren’t interested in the piece anyway). Rather than let this journalistic deadweight gather cobwebs in my computer, I’m dumping it out here.

This is probably the least mass-appealing thing I’ve ever written–and I’ve written about comic book trends and death metal bands who sing about men in loincloths who carry broadswords and ride with valkyries.

Have I sold you yet? Let’s drink to the salt of the earth…


Salt. It’s always there when we need it, and yet we continue to take it for granted. Before you load up your next baked potato, before you throw that pasta in the pot, take a second to learn something about salt and join us in the realm of salt enlightenment. This is the Essential Salt A-Z:

A Aesop. He wrote a fable called “The Salt Merchant and His Ass.” Sure, it’s no “The Hare and the Tortoise,” but it’s about salt and an ass. Cool.

B Black Salt. The underappreciated pinkish salt used mostly in Indian cuisine has a strong, kinda pungent, taste.

C Crackers. Hopelessly lost without salt. Saltines, especially.

D Donnaly, Andrew Sr. The leading salt manufacturer during the Revolutionary War. See what a community college education can get you these days?

E Egypt, Ancient. There are cave drawings depicting saltmakers dating back to 1450 B.C. Mummies were preserved in salt. Ancient Egyptians=visionaries.

F French Fries. If you have any extra, unwanted, body fat on you, French fries are probably to blame. And fries without salt are as meaningful as George Lucas-scripted dialogue. Those tummy rolls? You can now trace them back to salt–the Kevin Bacon of condiments.

G Grain of salt. A translation of a Latin phrase, and a cornerstone of skeptical, cynical, thinking. Used in a sentence: “She told me I was her first. I decided to take that with a grain of salt.”

H Hoodoo. Witchcraft still practiced today, which incorporates salt into many of its preservation spells. Bad hoodoo. Good information.

I Indian independence. Gandhi walked a helluva long way (248 miles) for a grain of salt, sparking a revolution and the subsequent freeing of 60,000 prisoners.

J Jones, Ernest. The psychologist who likened American passion for salt to a sexual-like obsession. To be fair, it’s hard not to get a boner over a can of salted cashews. Ernest Jones, you know us better than we know ourselves…

K Kosher salt. Oy vey. The most commonly used salt today. Iodized salt is sooo ten minutes ago.

L Licks. Sure, “salt lick” just plain sounds funny. But salt licks are how our animal friends in the wild score some of their nutrition. They can be found in nature, though there are a lot of companies that manufacture them, too.

M Margarita. It’s unthinkable, and a crime in several Mexican cities, to drink the classic “rocks” version without a salted rim.

N Nuts. So full of protein and goodness. Though the food pyramid and its new layout confuses us, we’re pretty sure nuts are part of it. And nuts just ain’t nuts without a heaping helping of salt.

O Onandaga, New York. The Native Americans there are considered to be the first producers of salt in our country, back in the late 1600’s.

P Pickling salt. A much more dense salt that’s good for, um, pickling. Canning, too.

Q “Qui Salt?” A 70-second throwaway song by World Music artist Mamadou Doumbia. Okay, YOU find an entry for “Q.” Good freakin’ luck.

R Rock salt. Please, for the love of God, don’t eat this. It’s great for de-icing sidewalks and driveways. Not so much for your punching up your bouillabaisse.

S Sodium Chloride. NaCl. Salt defined. If you must know, the mix is 60.663% chlorine and 39.337% sodium.

T Table salt. What you’re stuck with at your local fast food crutch of choice. Also used for cooking, though not nearly as tasty as Kosher (see: Kosher salt) or sea salt.

U Unification Church. They use something called “holy salt” to purify people and cast away Satan. Awesome.

V Veruca Salt. Character from Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Popular female-fronted Chicago rock band from the 90’s. Take away the Veruca and what do you have? Riiiiight.

W World Salt Production. As of 2002, there were 225 million metric tons of salt produced. Once someone can convert that back to our weights and measures system, we’re guaranteed to be really impressed.

X X-Rated. We found an adult movie on the web called “Salt and Pepper” that you can watch for less than 9 cents a minute. There’s also that idea that male ejaculate has certain salt-like qualities…

Y Yellow Emperor. From China. An early (we’re talking 5000 years ago) believer that increased salt intake could lead toward hypertension (or “hardened pulse”).

And, ending on a somber note…

Z Zimbabwe. A once-prosperous producer of salt, now victim to countrywide starvation and poverty.

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