Salt actually outranks gold and diamonds as our planet's most precious substance — thank goodness it is not as rare or expensive. Possibly only water and sunlight are more important when it comes to feeding the people of the world.

Salt is, in small quantities, a compound necessary for our body to function.

It has for thousands of years been used to preserve food by desiccation (think beef jerky) or by pickling (think sauerkraut).

And, of course, it makes things taste good. Yet these days, salt is being used for so much more than simply enhancing the flavors of a dish. Trendy cooks are using unusual salts with interesting color, crystal structure or special flavors to add an upscale touch to special dishes — a sprinkle of deep brick-red Hawaiian clay salt on a scoop of lemon sorbet, for example ... or a fiery chipotle-strawberry margarita with the glass rimmed in black lava salt. Exquisite.

 

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