Old salt

I'm having a love affair with salt. Recent salty interludes include discovering spaghetti with olive oil and rock salt, sprinkling pink salt from the Murray River on my calamari at Circular Quay, savouring Koko Black's new salted caramel truffle, and pledging undying devotion to Lindt's dark chocolate with sea salt - or fleur de sel, as they more gallicly call it. (Seriously, go and buy some right now). I've been eating salt since I started on solids - otherwise I'd be dead by now - but I don't remember ever noticing it before, ever enjoying it as a flavour rather than simply a category of flavour.

Salt has a fascinating world history, which is amply canvassed in Mark Kurlansky's Salt: A world history. Bill Bryson's history of private life At Home also details some of salt's story: together with pepper, no condiments in human history have caused more toil and bloodshed. For the ancients it was so valuable that it was used as currency: hence 'salary,' and the colloquial 'worth his salt.'

It figures in the Hebrew scriptures as a cleanser, purifyer, preserver, and destroyer. The book of Job contains the first known reference to salt in recorded literature. Salt was part of religious rituals and ordained feasts; conquered lands had their fields strewn with salt to make them unfruitful; the Dead Sea is also the salt sea. Salt, famously, was what Lot's wife became when she looked back at the destruction of Sodom. In the New Testament, Jesus memorably calls his followers 'the salt of the earth'. Later, Paul tells the early church to season their conversations with salt, and fill them with grace, as though the two were counterparts.

Salt is elemental, primitive, powerful, ubiquitous; able to kill or to keep. Too much or too little is lethal for us. Spilling it is bad luck; throwing it brings good. Salt is not food, but it is the grace of every repast. It also has a mysterious affinity with the sacred. And you wouldn't eat your chips without it.

Mmm, sacralicious.