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Salt: Grain of Lifeby Pierre Laszlo
Synopses & Reviews
For the sake of salt, Rome created a system of remuneration (from which we get the word "salary"), nomads domesticated the camel, the Low Countries revolted against their Spanish oppressors, and Gandhi marched against the tyranny of the British. Through the ages, salt has conferred status, preserved foods, and mingled in the blood, sweat, and tears of humanity. Today, chefs of haute cuisine covet it in its most exotic forms — underground salt deposits, Hawaiian black lava salt, glittery African crystals, and pink Peruvian salt from the sea carried in bricks on the backs of llamas.
From proverbs to technical arguments, from anecdotes to examples of folklore, chemist and philosopher Pierre Laszlo takes us through the kingdom of "white gold." With "enthusiasm and freshness" (Le Monde) he mixes literary analysis, history, anthropology, biology, physics, economics, art history, political science, chemistry, ethnology, and linguistics to create a full body of knowledge about the everyday substance that rocked the world and brings zest to the ordinary. Laszlo explains the history behind Morton Salt's slogan "When it rains, it pours!" and looks into the plight of the salt miner, as well as spectroscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance. Salt is a tour de force about a chemical compound that is one of the very foundations of civilization.
"I have been darting, delightedly, from one section to another — from Salting Herring to extreme halophiles, to Spectroscopy. It is a marvellous mosaic leavened with great charm and lightness." Oliver Sacks
"The distinction between the scientific and the nonscientific blurs. One becomes astonished that every day one samples a chemical with such a rich cultural aura — which is to say the wager by the author is a success." Le Monde
"Laszlo takes something ordinary, looks at it through his dazzling prism of knowledge, and allows the reader to experience its extraordinariness in the process." Betty Fussell, author of The Story of Corn
"Readers will never again think of salt...in the same simple way." The Washington Post Book World
"History, chemistry, physics, economics, anthropology, technology...linguistics, art history...and culinary arts are all explored in this wonderful, multicultural Renaissance approach to the subject of salt. This approach, like salt itself, spices the ordinary and makes a topic that might on the surface seem bland be anything but....Salt is not just plain, and this book is a pleasure to read." Choice
Book News Annotation:
Laszlo (chemistry, U. of Li<'e>ge, Belgium and the <'E>cole polytechnique near Paris) offers a set of vignettes on the various aspects of the vital mineral. They include salt-cured food, nomads, harvesting, abuse of power, biology, other science insights, myths, and ethics and politics. Chemins et savoirs du sel was published in 1998 by Hachette Litt<'e>ratures; in the translation, by Mary Beth Mader, he has added some material for American readers.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Pierre Laszlo is an emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Liège, Belgium, and the École polytechnique near Paris, France. Of his many published works six have been translated into English, including Organic Reactions: Logic and Simplicity and Organic Chemistry Using Clays.
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