I've just finished Mark Kurlansky's fascinating book on salt (Salt: A World History). Since my days of curing ham in Italy - about which more in a forthcoming book - the importance of salt has been obvious. I knew about the Via Salaria, since I used to live on it, but even I was surprised by the number of words deriving from the Latin for salt, from the rather obvious "salami","salary" and "salad" to the less obvious "soldier" (more evident in the modern Italian "soldato"). But most interesting was the link between the two oldest food cultures in the world, which have both been an important part of my life, and how historians debate whether the use of salt for preserving fish and meat was first used in Italy or in China. But it might just have been Egypt.

Another interesting fact emerges from pages on the salt trade in the Baltic Sea and North Sea, dominated at one time by the Hanseatic League which evolved from an alliance between the ports of Lübeck and Hamburg in the thirteenth century (a coinage which gives us the “hansa" in Lutfhansa).

For a time, the Hanseatics were well appreciated as honorable merchants who ensured quality and fought against unscrupulous practices. They were known as Easterlings because they came from the east, and this is the origin of the word sterling, which meant “of assured value.”
— Mark Kurlansky, Salt: A World History