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Salt: From Kitchen Shakers to Ancient Soldiers’ Paychecks
Salt is one of the most consumed substances in the world, but its uses extend far beyond food. Check out Groupon’s guide to learn more about this storied seasoning.
A familiar presence on tabletops throughout the world, salt is a white, crystalline substance composed of equal parts sodium and chloride. Though composed of at least 97% sodium chloride, ordinary table salt has a few common secondary ingredients: potassium iodide to prevent goiters and safeguard mental health, dextrose to stabilize the compound, and anticaking agents. Typically mined from underground salt deposits, table salt is often highly processed, yielding a fine, even texture easily mistaken for sugar. Conversely, sea salt is derived directly from the ocean (or brine) via evaporation—a process that results in a purer blend with a coarser texture, a slightly different flavor, and sometimes even a slight hue. Regardless of its origin, salt is widely considered to help balance bodily fluids, aid in digestion, and enhance the flavor of foods both sweet and savory.
Salt has long been an important part of daily life. Archaeologists discovered salt mines in Eastern Europe dating back to the Neolithic Age—thousands of years before such ancient cultures as Egypt and China added salt to their to-discover lists. The original use is unclear, but salt was likely used for preserving food and bleaching fabrics before it became a spice and even an antiseptic. As demand grew, the substance became as valuable as currency. In fact, salt made up such a large portion of ancient Roman soldiers’ pay that the allowance became known as salarium—the basis for the word “salary.” If a soldier no longer deserved his full stipend, he was, quite literally, “not worth his salt.”