By Adam Campbell-Schmitt
Updated July 14, 2016
Credit: YouTube

Salt and pepper are so elemental to cooking we sometimes take them for granted. Having those two shakers on the dining table is ubiquitous to the point that you might never have questioned their presence to begin with. Salt makes the most sense as it’s by far the number one flavor enhancing element known to man (okay, except maybe for fat) and pepper is… just kind of there along for the ride. The folks over at It’s Okay to be Smart have gone in search of the answer as to why we’ve narrowed the broad field of potential seasonings down to two, and the history and impact of both salt and pepper may surprise you.

When it comes to salt, roads have been built, trade has flourished and wars have been waged over the stuff. It’s been scarce at times, and yet it’s part of our very body chemistry. Pepper, on the other hand, has an exotic path to prominence — once a prized spice from the East that, unlike many of it’s colorful counterparts, became a staple of any well-seasoned chef’s arsenal. The video above explores the mass adoption of the classic pair and how a finicky monarch can change an entire country’s palate.