Table Salt Used to Indicate a Person’s Social Status
By Kaye Nemec
While table salt is an important flavoring ingredient in modern day cooking, it had a much more significant reputation in earlier centuries.
It wasn’t until the early 1900s that manufacturers began processing table salt to be used in salt shakers. Before then, salt was served in very elaborate containers that often resembled chairs or thrones.
These “salt chairs” were commonly placed at the head of the table closest to where the most important guest. Salt was considered an extremely important substance that was to be treated with great admiration. Important people sat “above the salt.”
In Russia it was common to have a welcoming ceremony when guests came over that included serving a piece of bread with salt. The salt was served out of the salt chair or throne. Because of the popularity of this ceremony, salt chairs became popular wedding and house warming gifts. Bigger salt chairs signified a wealthier or more prominent place in society.
Typically salt chairs were about 5 inches tall. The salt was stored in what would be the seat of the chair and a lid was placed over the salt. Because the salt could corrode silver, the seat and lid of the chair were usually gold plated. Today, antique “salt chairs” can be found selling at auctions for $500 and up.