Photo: atmtx, Flickr
What would a dinner table be without its salt and pepper? They've become so ubiquitous in everyone's kitchen. However, we rarely wonder why. Both were heavily used in cuisine for hundreds of years, but so were several other spices. What made people focus on salt and pepper?
The story begins with salt. In Ancient Rome, it gained popularity as a condiment. Italians during the Renaissance served salted dishes at the same time as sugared dishes. It was not until the 17th century that the French created a salt-sweet divide. Salted foods were eaten throughout the meal because they stimulate the appetite. Sweet plates were served at the end; they satiate the appetite and shutdown our desire to eat.
It was in France that salt met its inevitable spicy partner, pepper. 17th-century Classic French cuisine, which developed at the court of Louis XIV, considered pepper and parsley as superior to the various spices imported from the Middle East. In fact, it viewed all spices as vulgar ingredients masking the true flavor of a dish. Pepper was the only spice acceptable. And, it eventually attained the same status as fine herbs which were thought to be more wholesome and exquisite. The French heightened the importance of pepper giving it the status it has today.