By Rev. Joan Kessler
I begin this reflection today with an admission about myself: I love McDonald’s French fries. I love their salty goodness. When I was recovering from COVID back in October, the first day I was able to leave my house, I went to the McDonald’s drive-thru and ordered French fries. I had a deep craving and need for salt after being ill and I could think of nothing better, nothing more comforting or satisfying or rehydrating than an order of McDonald’s French fries. I know that too much salt contributes to high blood pressure and increases one’s risk for heart attack and stroke and that makes salt kind of bad. But it just tastes so good. Maybe you have a McDonald’s French fry story too. But my point is this, we need it. Too much is not good for us, but neither is too little. We take salt for granted today and would never consider it being in short supply or not immediately available. But this was not always the case.
Salt has been one of the most sought-after commodities in human history. Civilization built itself around salt deposits. Around 6000 BC, the practice of collecting salt water began and wars were fought over the control of this critical resource. The Egyptians were the first to utilize salt for the purposes of food preservation. Sodium dries and draws the moisture from food making it possible to store meat without refrigeration. It was used for medicinal purposes like disinfecting wounds, to check bleeding, to rehydrate, and to treat skin diseases. It was the currency Roman soldiers were paid in and hence the word “salary” is derived from salt. Dogs were domesticated by leaving salt outside of homes to entice the animals to leave the wild and come near. Food was salted to enhance flavor and to meld with other spices for a rich culinary experience.