How did salt and pepper become the world’s most popular spices?

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How did salt and pepper become the world’s most popular spices?

In: Economics
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pepper probably because it can cover off flavors. but salt drove the worlds economies going for a long time as it was needed for preservation. it’s the only mineral our bodies crave and we’re not alone animals need salt, too.

TLDR: It was mostly because wealthy people decided it was fashionable about a hundred years ago. But salt has literally always been a table staple.

This is a strange one.

The first bit is that salt is and always has been the king of condiments. As far back as the Mesopotamians, it’s been *the thing* to have on the table. We don’t think of it that way now, but salt used to be more precious (by far) than gold. An Xbox-sized block of salt could have purchased *you* for a solid chunk of history. Right up until the 17th century, salt was placed in a small dish in front of the man of the house, and he would dish it out to people at his discretion.

As salt became more accessible, then we see the integration of salt into the cruet set.

Now, a cruet is a lovely little bit of tradition that no properly-dressed table would ever have been without. It contained the bare essential condiments: salt, pepper, vinegar, olive oil, and… a mystery condiment that has not been identified. Hopefully some really boring person journaled that they scolded their servant for not filling the ___ condiment properly, or something, and that journal will one day be discovered and the mystery will be solved. Until that day, it’s lost to history.

Anyway. These were the accessory condiments to any meal, and they really do cover a lot of bases. This group makes sense as a broad range of staple condiments to cover a variety of needs.

The wealthy began this crazy of condiments on the table and the middle class soon followed. Before you knew it, everyone who could afford it had the full set. That was not a large percentage of the population just yet.

Then came the Trimming Down era. Suddenly, it was not popular to have all that fuss and bother. Tables became sleek and less fancy. People wanted simpler meals with less steps involved (not least because servants were now Not Really A Thing.)

And the cruet died a rather sudden, dramatic death. Instead, the two powders – salt and pepper – were lifted off of it and placed on the table. The cruet was chucked out with all the other old frumpery, and the liquids were left in the (brand new) refrigerator or brought out only on request.

And that’s how we ended up with only salt and pepper on our tables as the staple two.

Basically Pepper can make just about anything (within its sphere of influence) taste better and salt is needed for our very survival as well as being the oldest taste enhancement method going back as far as the Mesopotamians and on top of that being the only way to safely store foods for long periods of time without the use of modern refrigeration.

Your body requires salt to keep certain functions of cells working, it was also heavily used for food preservation.

Pepper was said to have been paired to salt by Louis the 14th who was a big fan of the spice, in addition to its worth as a status symbol as it was quite expensive.

Are they the most popular spices though? In Asia you would be much more likely to find soy sauce / chili oil / vinegar on a restaurants table than salt and pepper.

Salt has always been vital for life. If you look at early hunter gatherer societies, they often spent time where salt is, presumably because a diet that lacks it is deadly. Salt remained absolutely crucial to human civisation, which is presumably the reason why it’s associated with value (‘salary’, being ‘worth your salt’) later on.

This is mostly the case for Europe/the west.

Salt becuse it was vital for preservation of meats and vegetables. Especially in countrys with harsher winters. See; The cultural foods of scandinavia for example.

Pepper became popular as a way to cover the flavour of spoiled meat. Which was highly significant for the maritime powers of Europe.

Both Salt and Pepper have remained as Stables, not only through the cultural tradition. But also becuse they are abel to enhance other flavours. Hence why they are still heavily incorporated in modern cuisine.

I don’t know about pepper, that might be more of a cultural thing, but we literally evolved to crave salt. Because our bodies need salt to function, tastebuds evolved to identify salty foods and give off a ”great taste”-response to reward you for eating it. Many cultures use different vehicles to make food salty (soy sauce, fish sauce, cheese etc) but the point of all of those is to make other food more salty.

Never used black pepper when I grew up in Asia. I don’t think i saw them in shops, but they probably were.

Salt on the other hand was common. Salt not only add flavour to most foods, it can and is used to preserve food for a long period of time.

I could be completely mistaken, but it was basically just the personal chefs of some French king in the 1700s used it a bunch and the king loved it, so then everyone in France loved it. Then I think the French kinda spearheaded the modern culinary movement. Writing recipes, techniques, philosophy behind foods, experimenting a bunch, etc. etc. etc. I honestly can’t remember why I think this is true but maybe I can find an article.

Edit: I found an article.
https://gizmodo.com/how-salt-and-pepper-became-the-yin-and-yang-of-condimen-1258049326

I read a booked called Salt: A world History and I recommend it. You get a better appreciation for just how big a role salt played in human development, basically facilitating discovery of new worlds.

Even the word salt is laced with meaning – coming from the Latin ‘sal’. Roman soldiers were paid in salt sometimes, which is where we get the word ‘salary’. They used it with vegetables and oil which is where we get ‘salad’.

Fast forward to France and new brides were often showered with salt and grooms would put it in their pockets to increase fertility – which is where the word salacious comes from.

They were signed to Next Plateau Records and released their single “Push It” in 1987, which hit number one in three countries and became a top 10 or top 20 hit in various countries. Their debut album Hot, Cool & Vicious sold more than 1 million copies in the US, making them the first female rap act to achieve gold and platinum status.[7] Their fourth album Very Necessary sold over 7 million copies worldwide (5 million in the U.S.), making it the highest-selling album by a female rap act in history at the time.[7][8]

Salt-N-Pepa have sold over 15 million records worldwide,[9] making them one of the best-selling rap acts of all time, male or female

source: Wikipedia

It’s called ethnocentrism

And your question is a good example of it

Black pepper is a predominantly western, aka white people, spice due to the climate it grows in.

Most people aren’t white. Therefore black pepper isn’t one of the most popular slices in the world.

Salt is a mineral required to live and we are evolved to seek out salt

Salt isn’t easy to get in food with the exception of blood.

So we find salt in nature and add it to food.

Additionally salt is a very good preservative. So we use it a lot to keep food fresh.

Those 2 things combined make it popular. Because if you don’t eat it you die.