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  • [Music]

  • They've sat with us at nearly every table, a pair that's partnered most of

  • the meals ever cooked in western kitchens. A Yin and Yang, darkness and light.

  • The importance of salt is crystal clear.

  • Life wouldn't exist without it and if it did it would taste gross and weird.

  • But out of all the herbs and spices on the culinary roster

  • how did this ground up gray stuff become the go-to spice of life.

  • Seriously, why not salt and turmeric or salt and mustard, salt and cumin, salt

  • and nutmeg, salt and coriander, salt and paprika, salt and cinnamon, salt and allspice, salt and cloves.

  • [Music]

  • Salt, or specifically sodium chloride.

  • It's the only rock that we eat, the unlikely joining of a poisonous gas and

  • an explosive-metal and when paired with water it provides both the incubator and

  • ingredients for life.

  • We use sodium and chloride ions to keep our cells inflated, to regulate blood

  • pressure and convey electrical nerve impulses throughout our body. To maintain

  • this we need to consume about six grams of sodium chloride every day. So salt's

  • culinary and cultural value is no surprise

  • its history could fill a book, and it has. A great book by the way. Have you guys

  • read the book Salt: A World History

  • Early hunter-gatherer societies got all the salt needed from their animal diet

  • To this day the Masai people of East Africa get theirs from drinking the

  • blood of their livestock. But as human society is shifted to growing and eating

  • plants, salt became something you either found or traded for. The earliest sites

  • of salt harvesting date to at least 6,000 BC in China and Europe

  • There's salt in most of the blue wet stuff covering earth once you boil away

  • or evaporate all that pesky H2O

  • but there's pure sodium chloride in Earth's crust,

  • if you can find it. Following animal trails led us to natural salt licks and

  • some of these became our first highways. Several ancient salt harvesting cities

  • still bear a pinch of history in their name. Entire economies were built around salt.

  • It was a commodity and currency that you could eat.

  • Roman warriors deemed worth their salt where sometimes given a salary.

  • The Roman custom of salting bitter greens even gave us salad.

  • Although that caesar dressing comes from Tijuana. Today salt is cheap enough to

  • manufacture that many people are in danger of eating too much. But before the

  • Industrial Age it was scarce enough that people fought wars over it.

  • It even inspired at least one revolution.

  • Before refrigeration, salting was one way to keep food from spoiling.

  • Since most harmful bacteria can't grow in high salt conditions. But obviously

  • salt also changes how we experience our food. It makes things taste salty but it

  • also accentuates other flavors. Sodium chloride can chemically block bitter

  • taste receptors and amplify those that sense

  • sweet, salty, and umami. Depending on when and how its applied to food it can

  • change the very chemistry of how it's cooked.

  • Salt is probably the most important ingredient on Earth. But then there's pepper.

  • One spice to rule them all.

  • If you thought salt was interesting, pepper is is a thing.

  • Black pepper comes from a flowering vine native to Southeast Asia.

  • It gets its heat from a chemical called piperine. Rather than capsaicin like

  • those confusingly named fruits of the chili pepper family.

  • It's been a common ingredient in Indian cooking for at least four thousand years.

  • But small amounts of black pepper made their way to Greece, Rome, and even

  • ancient Egypt, where peppercorns were apparently valuable enough to stuff up

  • the mummified nose of

  • Ramses the second.

  • Pepper became a key commodity in the spice trade stretching between Asia and

  • Europe, where its main use like other pungent spices was to mask the flavor of

  • meat that was, shall we say, past its prime.

  • The extreme distances involved in trading pepper across the known world

  • translated into extreme prices. To inflate them further Arab traders

  • invented a myth that pepper gardens were guarded by serpents which had to be

  • chased away with fire before a harvest. Who wouldn't want to put magic snake

  • powder on their food. Throughout the Middle Ages it was common to see many

  • spices used in the food of the wealthy, but the enduring popularity of black

  • pepper may owe itself to one picky eater.

  • Its said that Louis XIV demanded his food lightly seasoned,

  • preferring only salt and pepper be added. The French cuisine developed then was

  • the basis for much of what we eat today,

  • and now pepper is the spice and I'm sick of it. Too long we've been forced to look

  • at the world of spice in black and white! Held prisoner by pepper, unable to gaze

  • upon the full rainbow of flavors and I say no more!

  • Join me, brothers and sisters, stand together. We say yes to salt.

  • But let us say anything but pepper!

  • Stay spicy, and curious


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B1 US salt pepper chloride sodium sodium chloride spice

Why Salt & Pepper?

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    Richard Wei posted on 2016/07/27
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