I’m currently reading Maria McCann’s As Meat Loves Salt, and every time I speak about the book, I wonder what that title means. So to the Internets I ventured!
The phrase ‘as meat loves salt’ seems to have originated in the English fairy tale “Cap O’ Rushes.” To summarize the story:
A wealthy man has three daughters and asks each one how much they love him. First two daughters respond accordingly with answers such as ‘as much as the world’ and ‘as much as life’ while the third states she loves her father ‘much as meat loves salt’. She is cast out, dresses in rushes, and becomes a scullery maid in a great estate. The plotline proceeds much like “Cinderella” with a ball, which the third daughter attends dressed up in finery and catches the attention of the estate owner’s son, who of course falls madly in love with her and marries her. At the wedding feast, the daughter, now bride, orders that the food be prepared without salt. All the dishes were tasteless and awful. Her father attends the wedding feast as a guest not knowing that his own daughter was the bride. He finally realizes what his daughter had meant when she declared her love to him ‘as meat loves salt’. The bride revels herself as his daughter and hurrah for happy ending.
The full “Cap O’ Rushes” can be read here. The story was published in 1890 by Joseph Jacobs in English Fairy Tales.
Since discovering the provenance of ‘as meat loves salt’, I’ve become fascinated by the depth of devotion and complexity the phrase conveys and how it is portrayed in this novel. As Meat Loves Salt is as intriguing a book as the phrase it is named after. I found myself suddenly enthralled with the plot and characters and before I knew it, 300 pages into the complex passionate actions of the characters. Set in the 1640’s, the historical framework seamlessly supports the story that you forget you are reading a historical novel and settle in to enjoy the intimate scenery McCann has woven on the page.
I will not say much more because in this instance because the less you know before reading the better.