Image by Patrick Tomasso

Read Your Way Through Salt!

Salty Jack Salt Co. is more than just a salt company, but it is an educational company dedicated to teaching people about the world of salt beyond the kitchen walls. Salt is one of, if not the most important commodity used by humans throughout history. It has influenced our diet, health, cultures, political systems, economic systems, and even the course of history. We at Salty Jack™ want to help show the multifaceted sides of salt by recommending literature to help expand people's understanding on how important salt is. 

Below you will find recommended books and articles on salt or salt influence that focus on a variety of topics, cultures, and regions from a range of scholars, writers, and researchers. 

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Salt in Eastern North America and the Caribbean:
History and Archaeology

Edited by Ashley A. Dumas, Ph.D and Paul N. Eubanks, Ph.D.

As a contributing author, I highly recommend this book for its innovated research conducted by a brilliant group of researchers who have dedicated their work to learning more about salt. 

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Salt, once a highly prized trade commodity essential for human survival, is often overlooked in research because it is invisible in the archaeological record. Salt in Eastern North America and the Caribbean: History and Archaeology brings salt back into archaeology, showing that it was valued as a dietary additive, had curative powers, and was a substance of political power and religious significance for Native Americans. Major salines were embedded in collective memories and oral traditions for thousands of years as places where physical and spiritual needs could be met. Ethnohistoric documents for many Indian cultures describe the uses of and taboos and other beliefs about salt.
 
The volume is organized into two parts: Salt Histories and Salt in Society. Case studies from prehistory to post-Contact and from New York to Jamaica address what techniques were used to make salt, who was responsible for producing it, how it was used, the impact it had on settlement patterns and sociopolitical complexity, and how economies of salt changed after European contact. Noted salt archaeologist Heather McKillop provides commentary to conclude the volume.

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The University of Alabama Press

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Maya Salt Works
By Heather McKillop, Ph.D

Dr. McKillop is a good friend and colleague. Having met her at the International Congress on the Anthropology of Salt conference in Los Cabos, Mexico, I learned real quick how brilliant she is when it comes to water archaeology and the production of salt in the Mayan culture. I highly recommend her book along with her other publications about the Mayan culture and archaeology. 

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

In Maya Salt Works, Heather McKillop details her archaeological team’s groundbreaking discovery of a unique and massive salt production complex submerged in a lagoon in southern Belize. Exploring the organization of production and trade at the Paynes Creek Salt Works, McKillop offers a fascinating new look at the role of salt in the ancient Maya economy.  
 
McKillop maps over 4,000 wooden posts and wedges, the first known wooden structures preserved underwater from the Classic period, describing new methods of underwater archaeology developed specifically for this shallow maritime setting. She explains the technology of salt production, examining fragments of briquetage—the pots that boiled brine over fires in the kitchens—and provides evidence that salt workers relied on specific types of wood for building construction. McKillop theorizes that different households operated salt kitchens and distributed their goods via canoe to sell at inland marketplaces for use as dietary salt, a flavor enhancer, and preservative. Complex distribution networks reveal expertise in water transportation and knowledge of the sea by Maya mariners, skills that allowed them to control the transport of commodities like salt.  
 
By evaluating the scale, concentration, intensity, and context of the Paynes Creek Salt Works, McKillop provides a model for interpreting existing salt works sites as well as future discoveries along the Yucatán Peninsula.

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University Press of Florida

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The Salt Covenant 
By H.Clay Trumbull

This book is very special as it was one of the first books I read when I began my research on salt back in 2016. H.C. Trumbull shines light on salt's symbolism with religion. Far too often do we see literature on salt and its production or consumption but not how it influences culture. Although the book focuses on Christianity, it is good to note that salt's symbolism can be seen in many religions including Rastafarianism.

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

The original Salt Covenant by H. Clay Trumbull... Salt symbolizes blood and life, the supreme gift from a Supreme Giver. The Covenant of Salt, as a form of the Blood Covenant, is a covenant that is fixed, permanent and unchangeable, thus enduring forever. Why did God give the kingdom to David and his sons forever by a covenant of salt? Why is salt sometimes substituted for blood in making covenant? Was the destruction of Sodom a result of disregard for the covenant of salt? Why did Lot’s wife become a pillar of salt? Why does Jesus refer to His followers as “the salt of the earth?” Why is Judas represented in Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper as having overturned a salt cellar? Also included by H. Clay Trumbull: The Ten Commandments as a Covenant of Love.

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Salt: A World History
By Mark Kurlansky

Salt by Mark Kurlansky is one of the first general books about salt. It is very informative and provides a general understanding of salt over the course of history. However, as a scholar and researcher I do recommend that you read this books with a grain of salt as it has a heavy Eurocentric focus. Regional discussion of salt in other parts of the world like Asia and Africa is limited. 

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

In his fifth work of nonfiction, Mark Kurlansky turns his attention to a common household item with a long and intriguing history: salt. The only rock we eat, salt has shaped civilization from the very beginning, and its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of humankind. A substance so valuable it served as currency, salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires, and inspired revolutions.  Populated by colorful characters and filled with an unending series of fascinating details, Salt is a supremely entertaining, multi-layered masterpiece.

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Sucking Salt
By Meredith M. Gadsby

A powerful book about Caribbean women and how they had to endure hardship, yet found ways to overcome it. Although the book is not directly about salt, it uses salt in a symbolism format that is woven throughout the entire book. Salt was used as powerful imagery and Meredith M. Gadsby does just that in her book.   

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

It is a persistent image in Caribbean literature. But for Caribbean women especially, salt—particularly the image of sucking salt—has long signified how they have endured hardship and found ways to transcend it.

In this study of Caribbean women writers, Meredith Gadsby examines the fiction and poetry of both emigrant and island women to explore strategies they have developed for overcoming the oppression of racism, sexism, and economic deprivation in their lives and work. She first reviews the cultural and historical significance of salt in the Caribbean, then delineates creative resistance to oppression as expressed in the literature of Caribbean women writing about their migration to the United States, Great Britain, and Canada.

From British poet Dorothea Smartt to Edwidge Danticat of New York’s Haitian community—and with a special emphasis on the creative artistry of Paule Marshall—Gadsby shows how, through migration, these writers’ protagonists move into and through metropolitan spaces to create new realities for themselves, their families, and their communities. Her work draws on critical and ethnographic studies as well as creative works to take in a range of topics, not only considering the salty sexuality of calypso songs and offering new insights into Jamaican slackness culture but also plumbing her own family history to weave the travels of her mother and aunts from Barbados into her studies of migrating writers.

Through these close readings, Gadsby shows that Caribbean women express complex identities born out of migration and develop practical approaches to hardship that enable them to negotiate themselves out of difficulty. Her innovative study reveals that “sucking salt” is an articulation of a New World voice connoting adaptation, improvisation, and creativity—and lending itself to new understandings of diaspora, literature, and feminism.

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