Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

salt sodium chloride (NaCl), is commonly said to be essential to life, although strictly speaking what is essential is the sodium which is present in some foodstuffs in one form or another.

Salty is a basic taste, which we are equipped to detect by some of the taste receptors in our mouths. Salt is also important in the preservation of food, especially by salting in pickles.

The word itself, in most European languages (French sel, Spanish sal, German Salz, Russian sol’), comes from a single Indo-European root and has penetrated many aspects of language, just as salt has much of our food. ‘Salary’, ‘sauce’, ‘saucer’, ‘sausage’ are but a handful of English derivations.