Before petroleum was the strategic resource, there was Salt. Or so is a thesis of "Salt: A World History" by Mark Kurlansky. And it's hard to argue with the case laid out. Between the salt administration in China (alternatively causing insurrections and financing the armies to put them down), the 'Gabelle' in France (a main cause of Le Revolution) and Gandhi's Salt March, the governance of salt has played a large roll in many of history's pivotal events.
Of course it's also food, which makes "Salt" a bit of a mix between the historical and the gastronomical. I'm not much of an epicurian myself, so I wasn't able to decipher many of the provided recipies (other than to say that many of the older dishes sound just awful, but I suppose that the pre-refrigeration palate differs rather greatly from our own.)
Also of interest are the linguistic aspects of salt. Many modern idioms from "worth his weight" to "red herring" as well as the description of certain nomadic tribes as "Celts" (almost literally "Salt People") come from the exploration, mining and trading of salt. Technology was also driven by salt exploration - in particular the Chinese method of percussion mining (according to the book, the Chinese were literally thousands of years ahead of the West on this front.)
And to bring it full circle, we learn that the best places to find oil? Underneath subterreanean salt-domes.
Pooh's View: Enlightening, entertaining read - if I was more into cooking I would have liked it that much more. Bonus points for discussing, at length, the origins of Tabasco Sauce.
Update: Bookblogging #16, "Baseball Between the Numbers" is up at Tuesdays With Torii.