Salt: Discovering Food Culture Through Captivating Books


What is Food Culture

Food culture refers to the practices, beliefs, and traditions regarding food and eating habits within a particular group or society. It includes the dietary customs, food preferences, cooking methods, and rituals associated with food. Food culture also encompasses the social, historical, and environmental factors that influence the way people think about, produce, consume, and appreciate food. It is an essential aspect of cultural identity and can vary widely across different regions, countries, and ethnic groups.

What Can We Get From Food Culture?

Food culture provides us with various benefits and experiences. Here are some things we can get from food culture:

1. Culinary knowledge: Food culture allows us to learn about different cooking techniques, ingredients, and flavor combinations. It helps us expand our culinary knowledge and become better cooks.

2. Regional and ethnic identity: Food culture often reflects the identity of a region or ethnic group. It helps us celebrate and preserve cultural heritage, as different cuisines have their own unique ingredients, cooking methods, and traditional dishes.

3. Social bonding: Food culture brings people together and encourages social interaction. It provides opportunities for families and friends to gather around the table and share a meal, leading to stronger relationships and a sense of belonging.

4. Health and nutrition: Food culture can promote healthy eating habits by emphasizing the use of fresh, local ingredients and traditional cooking methods. Exploring different cuisines can also help us discover new nutritious foods and diversify our diet.

5. Economic impact: Food culture contributes to the economy by supporting local farmers, food producers, and restaurants. It generates employment opportunities and stimulates tourism as people travel to experience the culinary traditions of different regions.

6. Cultural exchange: Food culture allows for cultural exchange, as people from different backgrounds share their culinary traditions and learn from one another. It encourages openness, tolerance, and appreciation for diversity.

7. Pleasure and enjoyment: Food culture is a source of pleasure and enjoyment. Trying new dishes, exploring flavors, and experiencing different culinary traditions can bring happiness and enrich our lives.

Overall, food culture offers us not just nourishment and sustenance but also a deeper connection to our heritage, a sense of community, and an avenue for exploration and enjoyment.

Strategies in Learning Food Culture

1. Research and read books: Start by familiarizing yourself with the concept of food culture and different food cultures around the world. There are many books available that delve into the history, traditions, and customs related to food in various regions.

2. Take a culinary tour: If possible, consider joining culinary tours or food walks in different cities or countries. These guided tours usually involve visiting local markets, street food stalls, and restaurants, allowing you to experience and taste the authentic flavors of the region.

3. Cook and explore recipes: Get your hands dirty in the kitchen and experiment with recipes from different cultures. Look for traditional recipes and try to recreate them using authentic ingredients and cooking techniques. This will give you a practical understanding of the flavors and techniques used in different food cultures.

4. Watch cooking shows and documentaries: There are numerous cooking shows and documentaries that focus on exploring different food cultures. They often feature renowned chefs and local cooks who share their recipes, techniques, and cultural context. Watching these shows can provide valuable insights into food culture.

5. Eat out at ethnic restaurants: Explore ethnic restaurants in your area and try dishes from different cultures. Pay attention to the flavors, ingredients, and presentation of the dishes. Ask the staff about the cultural background and stories behind the food. This will help you understand and appreciate the cultural significance of various food traditions.

6. Attend food festivals and events: Attend local food festivals or events that celebrate different cuisines. These events often offer a wide variety of foods, cooking demonstrations, and cultural performances. It’s a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the food culture and interact with people who are passionate about culinary traditions.

7. Connect with people from different cultures: Engage with people from diverse cultural backgrounds who are knowledgeable about their food culture. This can be done through social media groups, online forums, or even organizing meetups. Exchange recipes, cooking tips, and cultural insights with them to deepen your understanding.

8. Document your food experiences: Keep a journal or start a food blog where you document your food experiences, recipes you try, and the cultural context surrounding them. Writing about your experiences will not only help you remember them but also allow you to reflect on what you have learned and share it with others.

9. Stay open-minded and curious: Approach learning about food culture with an open mind and a sense of curiosity. Be willing to try new flavors, embrace different cooking techniques, and learn from people who have different perspectives on food.

10. Travel and explore: If time and resources allow, travel to different countries and explore their food culture firsthand. Being physically present in a new culture will expose you to a multitude of flavors, ingredients, and dining customs, providing an immersive learning experience.

Salt logo

Salt by Mark Kurlansky


Salt” by Mark Kurlansky is a non-fiction book that explores the history, significance, and impact of salt on human civilization throughout thousands of years. The book takes the reader on a journey from ancient times to the modern era, uncovering how salt has shaped cultures, economies, and wars.

Kurlansky begins by delving into the role salt played in ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. He reveals how salt was not only a vital ingredient for preserving food but also had religious and economic value, leading to the establishment of trade routes and empires.

The book then transitions to the exploration of the Middle Ages, when salt became a scarce and valuable commodity. Kurlansky describes the creation of salt monopolies, the invention of new preservation techniques, and the impact these changes had on global trade and political power.

Furthermore, Kurlansky explores the significance of salt in the Age of Exploration, highlighting how salt became a critical resource for sailors, leading to the establishment of colonies and the expansion of empires. He also delves into the brutal history of salt production and the exploitation of laborers.

Moving into modern times, Kurlansky discusses the advent of industrialization and mass production, which revolutionized the salt industry. He examines how the invention of refrigeration diminished the importance of salt as a preservative, forcing salt producers to adapt and find new uses for their product.

Throughout the book, Kurlansky also explores the cultural importance of salt, from its role in religious ceremonies and rituals to its symbolism in art and literature. He also addresses the health and environmental implications of excessive salt consumption.

Overall, “Salt” offers a comprehensive exploration of the profound impact salt has had on human existence, demonstrating its far-reaching influence on civilization, trade, power dynamics, and culture.

Reasons for Recommendation

1. In-depth exploration of salt’s historical significance to food culture: “Salt” provides readers with a comprehensive understanding of how salt has influenced human civilization, particularly in relation to food. It delves into the origins of salt, its role in trade routes, and its impact on cooking and food preservation throughout history.

2. Illumination of global culinary traditions: This book delves into the various ways salt has been used in different cuisines around the world. From the curing of meats in Europe to the fermentation of fish in Asia, “Salt” sheds light on the diverse culinary traditions that have been shaped by the use of salt.

3. Insight into the origins of culinary techniques: By exploring the historical importance of salt, Kurlansky delves into the development of various cooking techniques. Readers gain a deeper understanding of how salt has directly influenced methods such as pickling, curing, and preserving, which have shaped the evolution of food culture.

4. Preservation of cultural heritage through food: “Salt” highlights how salt has played a crucial role in preserving culinary traditions and cultural heritage across generations. The book explores the timeless methods used to preserve food, such as salting, brining, and drying, which have allowed communities to sustain their food culture over time.

5. Examination of salt’s economic and social impact on food culture: Through its exploration of salt’s historical significance, “Salt” demonstrates how this humble ingredient has had a profound economic and social impact on food culture. It discusses the implications of salt trade and the influence it had on global economies, societal structures, and even political power.

6. Celebration of salt as a foundational ingredient: This book showcases salt as an essential element in the culinary world. By highlighting its importance in various dishes and recipes, Kurlansky encourages readers to appreciate salt as more than just a seasoning, but as a vital component in creating and enhancing flavors.

7. Awareness of the modern salt industry’s impact on food culture: “Salt” not only explores the historical aspects of salt but also delves into its modern-day implications. It sheds light on the modern salt industry’s impact on food culture, including issues such as health concerns, the rise of artisanal salt production, and sustainable salt sourcing methods, encouraging readers to be more conscious consumers.

8. Connection between salt and societal rituals: Finally, “Salt” examines the cultural and symbolic significance of this vital ingredient. It delves into the rituals, superstitions, and customs associated with salt, unravelling how it has become embedded in various societies throughout history.

Overall, “Salt” by Mark Kurlansky offers readers a comprehensive and engaging look at the profound influence of salt on food culture, making it a highly recommended read for those interested in culinary history and the role of ingredients in shaping our gastronomic heritage.


Ikigai by Héctor García


Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life” by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles explores the concept of ikigai, which loosely translates to “the reason for being” or “the reason to wake up in the morning.” The book highlights the lessons from the Japanese island of Okinawa, known for its long-living inhabitants and their overall well-being.

The authors delve into the factors that contribute to the longevity and happiness of the people of Okinawa. They emphasize the importance of finding one’s ikigai, which is a combination of passion, purpose, vocation, and mission. According to the book, discovering and aligning with one’s ikigai leads to a sense of fulfillment and a healthier, more purpose-driven life.

Ikigai” incorporates various elements such as healthy diet, social connections, physical activity, mindfulness, and finding joy in small pleasures. The authors explore these elements in the context of Okinawa, where people cherish their connections, maintain active lifestyles into old age, and prioritize a nutritious diet.

Moreover, the book examines the mindset and values prevalent among the Okinawans, such as staying active, embracing a positive attitude, and finding inner peace. Through interviews and research, the authors share inspiring stories of individuals who have found their ikigai and lead fulfilling lives.

Overall, “Ikigai” offers valuable insights and practical advice on how to discover one’s purpose and live a happier, more meaningful life based on the wisdom of the Okinawan people. It encourages readers to reflect on their own passions, talents, and opportunities, aiming to help them find their own ikigai and ultimately find fulfillment.

Reasons for Recommendation

1. Exploration of Japanese food culture: The book delves into the concept of ikigai, which is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture, including their approach to food. It provides an immersive experience for readers, exploring the art of traditional Japanese cuisine, its philosophy, and the mindful way in which the Japanese approach their meals.

2. Insight into the secrets of a long and healthy life: Japanese cuisine is renowned for its emphasis on healthy ingredients and balanced meals. The book explores the connection between ikigai, diet, and longevity, showcasing how food plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy and fulfilling life. It highlights specific Japanese food practices that contribute to overall well-being, such as eating a variety of colors, mindful eating, and portion control.

3. Incorporating mindfulness into eating habits: The book emphasizes the importance of being present in the moment while enjoying meals. It offers practical insights into the practices of “harahachibu” (eating until 80% full) and “itadakimasu” (showing gratitude for the meal), which encourage a mindful approach to food. This perspective can greatly impact readers’ daily eating habits, fostering a healthier relationship with food and enhancing the overall dining experience.

4. Cultural appreciation and broadening horizons: Ikigai not only focuses on food but also provides a broader understanding of Japanese culture, tradition, and way of life. It explores the significance of the tea ceremony, traditional cooking techniques like “washoku,” and the cultural significance of different ingredients. This holistic approach enables readers to appreciate the rich tapestry of Japanese food culture, spurring them to explore new ingredients and cooking methods.

5. Inspiration for personal growth and self-discovery: The book goes beyond food culture to explore the concept of ikigai, which translates to “reason for being.” It encourages readers to reflect on their passions, talents, and what brings them joy, leading them to live a purposeful life. By incorporating this perspective, readers can reshape their relationship with food and find ways to align their daily food choices with their personal ikigai, fostering a sense of fulfillment and contentment in their lives.

Overall, Ikigai offers a unique blend of culinary exploration, cultural appreciation, and personal growth, making it an excellent recommendation for individuals interested in deepening their understanding of food culture from a Japanese perspective.

Cooked by Michael Pollan


Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation” by Michael Pollan is a non-fiction book that explores the vast world of cooking and its impact on food and culture. The author partitions the book into four main sections, each focusing on a different cooking method: fire, water, air, and earth.

In the first section, “Fire,” Pollan delves into the tradition of barbecuing and grilling, exploring the cultural and historical significance of cooking with fire. He learns from pit masters in North Carolina, highlighting the art of slow-cooking meats and the primal connection humans have with fire.

The second section, “Water,” explores the practice of braising and the transformative power of simmering. Pollan grounds himself in the kitchen as he prepares a meal using water-based cooking techniques and showcases the complexity and depth of flavors achieved through slow cooking.

Moving on to “Air,” Pollan delves into the world of baking and bread-making. He not only learns the science behind fermentation but also becomes enthralled with the art of sourdough, connecting with the ancient traditions of bakers and the wonders of naturally leavened bread.

In the final section, “Earth,” the author explores the mysteries of fermentation and discovers the transformative qualities of microorganisms. He takes on the adventure of making various fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and even cheese, uncovering the deep interdependence between humans and microbes.

Throughout the book, Pollan emphasizes the importance of cooking as a way to reconnect with our food and nature. He reflects on the industrialized food system and its disconnection from the natural world, urging readers to reclaim their kitchens and engage in the joyous act of cooking.

In “Cooked,” Michael Pollan intertwines his personal experiences and observations with scientific research and cultural history, providing an insightful and thought-provoking exploration of the transformative power of cooking and its role in our lives.

Reasons for Recommendation

1. Insight into traditional food culture: “Cooked” delves into the history and traditions of various food cultures around the world. It explores the impact of cooking on our societies and how it has shaped our identities and communities.

2. Appreciation for local and sustainable food: Michael Pollan highlights the importance of using high-quality ingredients and supporting local farmers and producers. This emphasis on sustainability and ethical food choices resonates with the growing movement towards conscious eating and sustainability in food culture.

3. Rediscovering the lost art of cooking: In a time when ready-to-eat meals and processed foods dominate our diets, “Cooked” encourages readers to reconnect with the joy and importance of homemade meals. It reminds us of the pleasure and satisfaction derived from cooking from scratch and nurturing oneself and loved ones through food.

4. Exploration of diverse cooking techniques: Pollan explores the four ancient elements of fire, water, air, and earth, each representing a different cooking technique: grilling, boiling, baking, and fermenting. This diversity highlights the richness of culinary practices across cultures, offering readers a window into the vast tapestry of global food cultures.

5. Inspiration for experimentation and creativity: By sharing stories of his own culinary experiments, Michael Pollan encourages readers to step out of their comfort zones and try new cooking techniques or recipes. This inspiration can ignite a sense of curiosity and adventurousness in readers, leading to a more enriching and diverse food culture overall.

6. Understanding the connections between food and culture: “Cooked” explores the intricate relationships between food and traditions, family dynamics, and social rituals. By understanding these connections, readers gain a deeper appreciation for the cultural significance of food, fostering a sense of empathy and cross-cultural understanding.

7. Nurturing a healthier relationship with food: Michael Pollan emphasizes the importance of mindful eating and taking control of our diets. By promoting a more hands-on approach to cooking, the book encourages readers to become active participants in their food choices, leading to a healthier and more fulfilling relationship with food.

8. Transformation of ordinary ingredients into extraordinary meals: “Cooked” celebrates the ability of cooking to transform mundane ingredients into extraordinary dishes. Through Pollan’s storytelling, readers can appreciate the magic that happens in the kitchen when passion, technique, and quality ingredients come together.

9. Encouragement for meaningful connections: The act of cooking and sharing meals plays a vital role in building connections and fostering social bonds. “Cooked” emphasizes the importance of sitting down at the table, sharing stories, and engaging in meaningful conversations, which strengthens the communal aspect of food culture.

10. Reminders of the nostalgic and emotional power of food: By exploring personal stories and memories related to food, Michael Pollan taps into the nostalgia and emotional connections we have with certain dishes. These reminders evoke memories and emotions, making “Cooked” an intimate exploration of food culture that resonates deeply with readers.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top