51 pages 1 hour read

Mark Kurlansky

Salt: A World History

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2002

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Part 1: Introduction-Chapter 3

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1: “A Discourse on Salt, Cadavers, and Pungent Sauces”

Introduction Summary: “The Rock”

The author buys a pink, translucent rock in Spanish Catalonia. It is almost pure salt, from the famous salt mountain of Cardona. He puts it on his windowsill at home. One day, it gets rained on and the pink begins to turn white. On humid days, a puddle appears beneath the rock, filled with white salt crystal. But the rock never gets smaller: “Those who think a fascination with salt is a bizarre obsession have simply never owned a rock like this” (2).

A Welsh psychologist named Ernest Jones believed that humanity’s obsession with salt was irrational and sprang from sexual motives, arguing that salt is associated with fertility, because saltwater fish have more offspring than land animals: “In the Pyrenees, bridal couples went to church with salt in their left pocket to guard against impotence” (3). Kurlansky cites precedents from Egypt, Borneo, Apache culture, and India, all involving salt as a fixture of sexual superstitions or rituals.

The author proposes that the human fixation on salt may stem from the fact that is has hundreds of uses: “The figure often cited by the salt industry is 14,000” (5), citing salt’s ability to melt ice, dye textiles, soften water, and many more.

Related Titles

By Mark Kurlansky