|Crystal Master Salt|
Photo from: B. Bowen Carr
MEng nef, Eng saltcellar. When salt was scarce, only high nobility could afford it. From this came the expression “above the salt” as it was only served to the upper tables in the hall that were set on a platform.
Lords in England had huge saltcellars, usually in the shape of boats. They were placed on the table in front of them in the hall for banquets, to symbolize the extent of their hospitality as salt was necessary for life and its vital role in preservation.
The size of the saltcellar symbolized the status of the lord. Those of high status had the biggest saltcellars and were more hospitable than those of lower ranks.
Spaniards had such big saltcellars that some had wheels. In Spain salt was offered to all the guests. If there were many, bread was hollowed out and used as a saltcellar at the lower tables.
Eiximenis instructs that salt should be picked up with the point of the knife blade and placed on one side of the plate. It should never be put on the tablecloth he continues. Between meals salt cellars were kept covered and under lock and key. See sal. [Cejador. 1990:99; and Sanz 1967:15]