Food - Salt
( Originally Published 1917 )
A food that flavors. There is one food the taste of which in itself we do not like, but without which almost every other food that we eat would be flat, stale, and unpalatable. We use it at every meal and physicians say we could not live without it. Of course we refer to salt. Perhaps you never seriously thought of salt as a food, but it is, and it is necessary to the health and comfort of both human beings and dumb animals. If your father is a farmer you have no doubt noticed that he has a "salt rock" in his pasture or else occasionally gives the stock a little coarse salt. Possibly, too, you have read how deer and other wild animals go to the "salt lick," braving many dangers in order to secure a little of that food which we are inclined to regard so lightly.
The American Indians discovered the value of salt and found ways of securing it before the white man brought it to them. The salt springs of western New York, in the greatest salt-producing section of the country, were known to them before pioneer settlers began to gather salt there.
Salt present everywhere. As to where it comes from—get your map of the world and place your finger at random upon a spot, almost anywhere on it. Then say, "Salt can be obtained here," and you will very likely be correct. In other words, salt can be had from its original sources in practically every region in the world, as well as from every shore which the ocean washes.
Because the earth is rich in veins of rock containing salt it is possible to dig down and strike a salt vein or "lead" in almost any inland region. Then, besides this, there are inland bodies of salt water which furnish salt and great mines where rock salt has crystallized in immense quantities.
This does not mean that salt may be found in paying commercial quantities in almost every general locality far from it! But it does tell us that nature has been kind enough to give a very generous geographic distribution to a food element necessary to the health and comfort of all animal life.
Although there are many million pounds of this food used each year there is no fear that the supply will be exhausted as there is practically no region in the world where it cannot be secured.
Three ways of obtaining salt. There are really three ways in which salt may be secured; first, mining; second, by evaporating sea water; and third, by digging wells until a salt vein is struck and then pouring down water and pumping it up again as brine. When the veins or leads of salt lie at a great depth below the surface, it is usually much cheaper to resort to the brine-well method than to mine it out like coal. This brine is put through a plant which heats, filters, and evaporates it, leaving only the dry salt. When this product is refined:sifted, and graded it is ready for sale and use.
The salt which is mined is called rock salt and must be crushed or ground before it can be used for table purposes. There is also a solar salt which is evaporated by the sun, and which finds a ready and extensive sale.
In securing salt from the ocean the water may be boiled and the salt thus removed, or it may be evaporated in the sun. In some countries great shallow beds are scraped out in the sand of the sea shore and when the tide goes out the sun evaporates the water, leaving a deposit of dry salt in the beds. This method is employed extensively in France and other European countries.
In Utah we have Great Salt Lake, where many thousand carloads of salt are gathered each year and shipped to various points throughout the country. There are also salt marshes in many parts of the country, and flowing salt-water wells. The ground about these wells is carpeted with a thick crust of salt.
Very likely you will be inclined to ask why all animals both human and dumb require salt. The answer is that salt contains two elements which are very essential to the processes of digestion. These elements are sodium and chlorine.
The history of salt. Like some of our other foods, salt has an honorable history. It is given a worthy place in the Bible and in histories and was one of the chief articles of trade carried by early caravans that crossed the deserts and wild countries of the ancient world. And salt did its share in the making of history during the Roman rule: in Rome a certain street was named the Salerian Way because it was there that salt dealers lived. The Romans worked the salt mines of England at the time of the invasion. Venice, too, was noted for her salt works, which had much to do with the upbuilding of her powerful fleet of commercial and fighting boats.
In Russia there are great salt fields where both men and women spend most of their lives in hard and cheerless toil. Many children contribute their labor to this industry in practically all European countries.
Other uses of salt. You know, of course, that salt is necessary for many purposes besides that of flavoring our food. For example, it is used extensively for preserving hides; as a preservative of food it is invaluable; in refrigeration, in chemistry, and in medicine it has a wide use.
Our importation of salt. In spite of the fact that we have more salt in our own country than we can ever use we imported more than 275,000,000 pounds in one year from England, the British West Indies, Italy, Spain, and the Dutch West Indies. You have no doubt learned by this time that there are people in the United States who insist upon having imported foods, and even imported water. And there are people in other countries who ignore their own foods and import ours. Of course in many cases there are reasons for this expensive exchange of products that do not appear upon the surface of the transaction; on the other hand, it is often the result of an ill founded whim without any good reason.