The Salt of the Earth (Part 1)

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About This Episode

Scientifically speaking, table salt is simply sodium + chloride. But historically, salt has had a major impact on human culture and society. Neil interviews Mark Kurlansky, author of “Salt: A World History,” to find out how the marriage of these two elements on the periodic table have periodically seasoned the flow of human events. Also joining us is Peter Whiteley, curator of anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, to discuss the importance of salt to the Native American tribes of the desert southwest. Co-host Eugene Mirman adds some salty commentary to our show that examines the explosive properties of what has proven to be one of the most important minerals on our planet.

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  • Dave Eyraud

    Hey! Those mines “near Detroit” are the Windsor Salt mines! 🙂
    PS.. the mines run subterranean all the way to Sarnia
    PPS.. maybe you can figure out the “Windsor Hum” — search it on Google.

  • Christina Vonthronsohnhaus

    I have a book on Salt By Mark Kurlansky for 449 pages,Now I need to read it

    • Jeff

      Christina, that’s the book.

  • James

    Neil made an error on this show about salt. Using salt to raise the boiling point while cooking would lead to a poor culinary experience. The boiling point elevation for water and sodium chloride is particularly low (deltaT=Kbmi works to deltaT=0.5x(molality)) indicating that to raise the temperature of one litre of water by one degree celsius requires around 28 grams of salt. Which is a lot. The only reason to add salt to cooking water is for flavor or as an ingredient.
    Just as a an anecdotal reference I made pasta tonight with a little less than two litres of water and added about 1 gram salt to the water and thought the pasta (after draining the water) was salty.

    • Jeff

      Neil had this response to James Morris’ comment:
      “Thanks to the sharp-ears of James Morris for catching my salt-in-boiling-water error. Shame on me for mindlessly perpetuating an old kitchen tale. We’re thinking of creating a new section on this website to track such correction when they are needed. Stay tuned. -NDTyson”

  • Filipe Ronzani

    Awesome Episode !

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