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The Kid Should See This

Salt and Pepper, an Edible Histories introduction

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Salt is a mineral that’s essential for life. Pepper is made from dried and ground peppercorn fruit. How did they become so closely associated with each other? Food historian Annie Gray narrates A Brief History of Salt and Pepper, an episode of Edible Histories from BBC Ideas. A bit more from NPR:

“It’s a weird accident of history,” says Ken Albala, a professor of history and founder of the Food Studies Program at the University of the Pacific. In Europe during the Late Middle Ages, “Pepper was never on the table, nor was any other spice, for that matter. Usually spices would be added in the kitchen with a very heavy hand until the 17th century.”

peppercorn popularity in India

…salt has occupied a place of culinary dominance across cultures. “We like the taste of salt innately because salt is a signal of protein in nature,” says Rachel Herz, an adjunct assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University and author of Why You Eat What You Eat. What’s more, humans need salt to regulate fluid balance and help nerves and muscles function. Salt also helped preserve food before refrigeration. And, Herz says, studies have shown that the more salt people eat, the more they crave it.

Salt and pepper came together because of French cooking trends in the mid-17th century. Prior to that, French chefs favored “cinnamon and ginger, frequently colored by saffron.” And everything was sweetened by sugar.

french chefs used the pairing regularly
In 2012, Slate‘s Sara Dickerman asked readers if they’d replace pepper, and what they’d pick instead. Responses included sriracha and other capsaicin (chili pepper) products, garlic options, “tabletop Indian masalas, and Japanese spice combinations.” What flavor would you choose to be salt’s partner?

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