Every winter, widespread chemical dumping leaves Chicago streets covered in sodium chloride. Here are 10 facts you don't have to take with a grain of salt:
1. Salt has seasoned English in many ways. Because Romans put salt or brine on their vegetables, the word "salad" developed. Because Roman soldiers were given money to buy salt, "salary" was coined.
3. In promoting the Louisiana Purchase, President Thomas Jefferson cited reports of a "salt mountain" in the territory. "This mountain is said to be 180 miles long and 45 in width, composed of solid rock salt, without any trees or even shrubs on it." The New York Evening Post mockingly asked whether there was "an immense lake of molasses, too." The salt mountain was never found; some think the reports referred to Oklahoma's Great Salt Plains.
4. The adult human body contains about 250 grams of salt -- about half a pound.
5. According to a superstition, spilling salt can cause bad luck -- an idea that may have originated with Leonardo da Vinci's painting "The Last Supper," which shows Judas Iscariot knocking over a salt container.
6. Dozens of advice books tell the story of a job applicant who went to lunch with his prospective boss, only to lose the job because he salted his food before tasting it -- thus demonstrating a closed mind. But one of the most famous Americans, Elvis Presley, routinely showered his food with salt before taking a single bite.
7. Chicago is America's salty center, thanks to the Morton Salt Co. The company was owned by Joy Morton, a man who got his first name from the maiden name of his mother, Caroline Joy. Morton's father was agriculture secretary under President Grover Cleveland and is credited with starting Arbor Day. Reminders of the family's philanthropy include the Morton Arboretum in Lisle and the Morton Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago.
8. Though salt is necessary for human life, over consumption contributes to heart disease and other problems. However, modern table salt addresses a separate health concern: iodine deficiency, which can cause low IQ and goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland. A century ago, goiter was so prevalent around the Great Lakes that the area was considered part of a "goiter belt." Doctors pushed for adoption of a Swiss tactic of adding iodine to table and cooking salt, and Morton Salt began selling its iodized salt in 1924.
9. Michael Jordan's mother, Deloris, and sister, Roslyn, wrote a children's book in 2000 called "Salt in His Shoes," about how young Michael was upset about being smaller than his basketball-playing friends and was comforted when his mom told him he would grow taller if he put salt in his shoes and prayed.
10. There is an enormous salt mine under the city of Detroit, about 1,200 feet below ground. According to Detroit Salt Co., the century-old mine spreads out more than 1,500 acres and has more than 100 miles of underground roads.
Mark Jacob is a deputy metro editor at the Tribune; Stephan Benzkofer is the newspaper's weekend editor
Sources: "Salt: A World History" by Mark Kurlansky; "Salted: A Manifesto on the World's Most Essential Mineral" by Mark Bitterman; "Cassell's Dictionary of Slang" by Jonathon Green; "Dictionary of Word Origins" by Jordan Almond; "Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation" by Merrill D. Peterson; "The Road to Monticello" by Kevin J. Hayes; "The Story Behind Salt" by Heidi Moore; International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders; mortonarb.org; mortonsalt.com; detroitsalt.com; wadeburleson.org; Detroit News.