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ORIGIN OF THE NAME MASTER SALT

Decades ago, salt held a prominent place at the table.

 

The salt was presented in 'salt cellars'.

 

 Salt cellars are known by assorted names including: open salt, salt dip, standing salt, master salt, and salt dish.

 

A master salt is the large receptacle from which the smaller, distributed, salt dishes are filled; according to fashion or custom it was lidded, or open, or covered with a cloth.

 

A standing salt is a master salt, so-named because it remained in place as opposed to being passed.

 

During the Middle Ages, elaborate master salt cellars evolved. Placed at the head table, this large receptacle was a sign of status and prosperity, prominently displayed. It was usually made of silver and often decorated in motifs of the sea.

 

In addition to the master salt, smaller, simpler salt cellars were distributed for diners to share; these could take forms as simple as slices of stale bread.

 

The social status of guests could be measured by their positions relative to the master's large salt cellar: high-ranking guests sat above the salt while those of lesser importance sat below the salt.