Magazine article The New Yorker

The Spices of Life

Magazine article The New Yorker

The Spices of Life

Article excerpt

"Stockpiling food still helps people at least feel prepared for the worst," Sue Shephard writes in PICKLED, POTTED, AND CANNED (Simon & Schuster)hence the Web site justincasefoods.com which handles anxiety in a particularly contemporary manner by selling freeze-dried, vacuum-packed, and dehydrated comestibles. But the autumnal urge to hoard and preserve is very old, and very powerful: Shephard explains that even such odd-sounding foods as fermented "high" hare and giant "family" cheeses have been considered delicacies.

One of the best preservatives is also one of the oldest; Mark Kurlansky's SALT: A WORLD HISTORY (Walker) looks back at its influence. Though salt was never quite worth its weight in gold, its once steep price and desirability have invested it with metaphorical meaning. "Salary" derives from it, and so, more tenuously, does "soldier," which is fitting given the seasoning's pivotal role in empire-building and war. …

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