Some years ago, doctors had started talking about how salt was part of a triumvirate of badness, alongside sugar and flour. In time, all of us came to learn that it was the root of any number of problems, especially high tension.
But does anyone that it has caused wars and was even one of the reasons for the French Revolution? Other than history buffs, I bet not many people know this. I, personally, didn’t know myself – I only learned it at Pirana…
From prehistoric times to our contemporary era, salt has been a prized commodity for its use in the preservation of food and hides, as well as a complement to one’s meal.
Because it was not always found in abundance, there have been battles over the resource in every era. François I, for one, found a way to turn it into a source of revenue by creating a “salt tax.” This tax, however, became onerous in time; it incited rebellions and even contributed to the French Revolution. Even if the revolutionary authorities abolished it immediately in the wake of the king’s overthrow, it was implemented once more in 1806. It was only abolished for good in 1946 – a full 140 years later.
As for me, I was born just one year later!
In between, Mahatma Gandhi’s “salt march,” which paved the way for India’s independence, began in 1930.
Once, I went to Hallstatt, a place from which salt was mined in the past. I never managed to bring myself to head to the salt mines though – what with enjoying an Austrian white by the lake and taking in the majestic natural scenery.
I later went to another place where salt is mined, Pirana, but I once more failed to see the mines, because sitting next to the sea – this time with a Slovenian white wine and some fish – again seemed like a more attractive idea.
Pirana is a small, coastal town in Slovenia’s southwest. With its Medieval architecture, narrow streets and Tartini Square (so named because the famous composer and violinist Giuseppe Tartini was born here), it’s a charming settlement.
The square was also where the townsfolk celebrated the yearly salt festival, which we were fortunate to stumble upon. Given that all the locals were bedecked in historical attire, we were slightly incongruous in our shorts and flip-flops, but we mingled and took a photos anyway, learned a bit about the history of salt and, without further ado, made a beeline for Pavel 2.
Pavel 2 is one of the numerous restaurants located on the coast. All of them resemble each other, and all of them boast fresh fish and a great place to watch the sunset, although they’re not really anything to write home about in terms of their kitchen or service.
Still, Pavel 2’s “calamari fritto,” which is fried in fresh oil, sticks out in my mind – although nothing else does. The “mixed grill of local fish” plate was a bit underwhelming for a Mediterranean like me. The service was ponderous, while some waiters spoke other languages, but others did not.
But what did I say – what’s important is to gaze at the sunset and fill your lungs with a bit of the scent of seaweed and iodine that comes in with a light sea breeze. That’s what all the younger people were doing from their vantage point of the rocks located between the restaurants.
Naturally, their evening also included some romantic affections, laughter and flirtation. One of the girls evidently went a bit too far in the game of flirtation and coyness, because the boy showed his irritation, got to his feet and moved a bit further along.
I was about to run to the girl and say, “My girl, coyness is like the salt you have here. Don’t overdo it – too much and it’ll ruin the taste,” but my wife intervened.
“Sit yourself down and leave them alone. Do you know better than them about what they should be doing?” she said, silencing me.
I contented myself with motioning to the waiter to bring another glass of the house wine…