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Forklore: Cup of salt?

April 29, 2012 |  8:00 am

Forklore sigIn Near Eastern cookery, there are a lot of soups called shorba. And not just in the Near East. The Turkish form of the word, corba, has spread to the Balkans; in Romanian it's ciorba and in Croatian it's chorba. The word is common all over Central Asia; in India you find soups called shorwa or shorpo and you can't escape it even in Siberia. The Evenks, formerly known as the Tungus, are the reindeer nomads who traditionally roamed the sub-Arctic forests of the Central Siberian Plateau, and their word for fish soup is sherba or sirba.

The word doesn't have anything to do with our word soup or with the Arabic verb meaning "to drink" that's at the bottom of the words syrup and sherbet. It's made up of two Persian words, one meaning "salty" and the other meaning roughly "boiled dish."

This doesn't sound very promising. However, flavoring isn't the only reason to put salt in a dish. If you boil meat in plain water, all you end up with is water and boiled meat. But if you add salt to the water before boiling, it changes the ionic balance and draws juices --and flavoring elements--out of the meat, making ... broth.

-- Charles Perry