Salt and Money Relation
There is nothing pure about salt. It is the replacement, reconstruction, fabrication, reorganization, or transformation of salt – not so much salt itself – that eventually crystallizes in our brain. More than its natural character, it is the processes of material change that make its artificiality matter. These processes help us understand the man-made condition of salt from its microscopic to macroeconomic scales, even if there is no such thing as man-made salt. The genealogy of salt-processing has tremendously shaped our planet. Salt, in its organic, geopolitical or monetary forms, reveals the overlapping dimensions of global networks and infrastructures.
250 grams of salt are within us and many more are around us, always. It is hard to write about something that has existed for millennia in every body, in every culture, in every village, in every household. This compilation does not try to tell a comprehensive history of salt or systemically record its uses. Rather, we have tried to collect narratives that approximate its evolution over time. In this forever incomplete genealogy, we have identified some of the ways in which salt prevails in our current understanding of space, gender, sexuality, taste, economy, ecology, resource extraction, market and environment. Salt enters human consciousness through its miraculous abilities to prolong the lifespan of things; it is a time-expanding machine. Once the knowledge of how to harvest salt was discovered, meat, fish, vegetables and corpses were all granted an extended being, or rather, an afterlife. Salt has allowed people to preserve ancient worlds as much as it allowed others to explore and discover new ones. Salt makes the world go round, proclaimed someone, at some point. Salchichón, salmorejo, salami, salad are all remnants of a lexicon preoccupied with the mission of perpetuating life over decay. Between the eternal and the ephemeral, life and death, the texts here are organized in three spatio-temporal preoccupations: DESIRE, HORIZONS, and POWER. The reader may want to move entries between chapters, and on doing so will realize the impossibility of classifying the stories, as they are all entangled.
DESIRE deals with the material relationship between salt and the human body; its ambition, craving, appetite, passion, greed and lust. But also the effects of salt’s chemical properties in our psychology. DESIRE is about sex, the creation of images, curing the human body and its fluids. How does salt taste? Who determines that value? How is the body taught to identify the saltiness of salt? Can we calculate it, or do we feel it? Are we intellectuals, who understand salt without feeling, or ignorants, who feel salt without needing to understand what it actually is? Do we define salty by recognising its contrary condition: the unsalted, the sweet, the bitter or the sour? Pierre Bourdieu posed such questions in Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, reflecting on how reason and feeling reconcile those decisions through oppositions. He reminded us that salt has been strongly connected to dryness and virility: “the words meaning to be hot, scorching, also mean to be spicy, strong and virile, as opposed to bland, without bite, without intelligence. In popular culture, salty, spiced food is intended for men, because it generates courage and virility.” Following this popular century-old macho-ization of salt and its gender, Bourdieu analyses the stereotypical division in 1970s French society between statistics regarding the working classes and upper-class professionals. The former were distinguished by the inclusion of salty, substantial, “clearly masculine” foods in everyday breakfast, such as soup and meat; the latter would first take sweet foods such as chocolate, jam or honey in the morning, which were regarded as “feminine.” Immersed as we are in an age of accessibility, we re-unite the two to sell “gourmet salt.” Not only salt, but any item is subject of categorization into many different qualities and prices. Distinction has become a matter of affordability. It is not about whether “the wealthy” eat salty or sweet, but rather the various grades, colours and qualities, found between affordable industrial high potassium foods and “premium hand-picked” salt.