It’s official, salt is sexy!
In more than one tradition around the world, salt is used to purify enclosures, or home dwellings. Along with herbs, or turmeric, sea salt is said to remove negative charges from the atmosphere. Salt is an agent of purification, a very housewifely thing to keep on hand. But like love, it possesses different qualities. It has been used for covenants, treaties, as well as a rebellion that changed the course of history. As such, it is not surprising that salt is the feature of not just one tale type, but two intersecting types, the Aarne-Thompson Types 510 and 923. The most familiar retelling of this folktale type exists in King Lear, in which a King asks his three daughters to prove their love for him, by words. But in the fairytale variants, this gesture of love is accompanied by a feast, a poignant juxtaposition between abundance and scarcity. We asked for retold tales to be set along the Silk Road, which has been the subject of historical accounts of trade, exploration, treaties and conquest. When the submissions guidelines went out, I knew that a tale type as powerful as “Love Like Salt” needed stories that were equally strong, poignant even. However, our inventive writers have also given us accounts that simply luxuriate in the wonders of salt, causing this thrilled editor to consider the basic seasoning that is in all of our blood with renewed wonder.
Submissions started coming in when I was packing to move back to Malaysia from Australia, and the rest came in while I was slowly settling into life back in my country of birth. I can safely tell you that both of the stories that leapt at me from the inbox were selected in Malaysia, during my first month back, when I was near despairing of finding the perfect tale. First in was Joshua Gage’s Salt, a tale that made my mouth water with the descriptions of dishes from Merv, Turkmenistan, while his searing prose tugged at the heartstrings. And then, Mae Empson’s The Salt of Aksum, set in that long-ago kingdom in Ethiopia, imbued with both love and a sense of humour, appeared in the DS inbox. The Salt of Aksum demonstrates that salt is more than just an important, indistinguishable ingredient in most foods. Salt is also synonymous with love because it is as essential to human existence. Not content with that, Mae gives us a scene of near-erotic terror, featuring salt. Both writers have succeeded in underscoring the quiet mystique of a seemingly humble ingredient. No longer just a supporting act, Salt is truly a rock star in this issue.
My publisher and co-editor, Erzebet Yellowboy-Carr is now settling into her new home in France as of the writing of this editorial, making her the second member of the team to be moving while work on this Issue is underway. This makes it a very special – albeit challenging – issue for both of us. It speaks, as it must, of journeys over sea, land and air in-between continents. It speaks of connections, and of sacrifice. While Erzebet maintains that she is only on Demeter’s Spicebox in an advisory capacity, I maintain that, like that salt that is so essential in many dishes, like love is essential in everything we do, this dish that is Demeter’s Spicebox would neither exist nor be what it is without Erzebet’s guidance, presence and behind-the-scenes work. Much love goes to her as she begins life in a new home, may it be filled with love, artistic abundance and many, many jars of salt, be they sexy or prosaic.