Referred to as “white gold” in the Middle Ages due to its high trading value, salt has enjoyed a colourful world history. Here in Canada, the discovery of the great Michigan salt bed 150 years ago has made salt a staple of Canadian dinner tables since Confederation. As the only rock that humans consume, and must consume to live, salt is the unsung historical hero of the spice world. Here are some more salt facts:
Your salary has salty roots.
Roman soldiers were sometimes paid in salt, which led to their compensation being referred to as a “salary.” The word salary is derived from the Latin word sal, meaning “salt.” Additionally, it spawned the phrase “worth your weight in salt” and was the official currency of Ethiopia (then called Abyssinia) in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Salt was discovered in Canada by accident.
When entrepreneur Samuel Platt was drilling for oil in Goderich, Ontario, 150 years ago, the last thing he expected to find was salt. Platt and his Goderich Petroleum Company were on the hunt for oil when they made a remarkable discovery. Once they reached a depth of 964 feet — just 36 feet short of their goal — they hit the great Michigan salt bed. The company was quickly renamed The Goderich Salt Works and they began salt panning operations in 1867, the same year as Confederation. The company that would later become Sifto still stands today and is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2017.
Salt helped shape human history and civilization.
In Canada and around the world, salt allowed humans to break dependency on fresh food and allowed for foods to be shipped across long distances due to its preserving qualities. Additionally, salt acted as an antiseptic, antibacterial, and antidote against poisons.
Salt saved lives.
The phrase “to take with a grain of salt” refers to the antidote used regularly to protect against poisons where a grain of salt was one of the ingredients. Threats of poison were taken less seriously because they were “taken with a grain of salt.”