|Fifteenth century salt cellar, Musee du Louvre|
|Cellini salt cellar, 1543, Vienna|
That Baroque ostentation eventually went out of fashion, but salt cellars remained both decorative and a staple of the table:
|Late nineteenth century|
In the early twentieth century though, things started to change. Salt had previously been sold in blocks and chipped off with a salt spoon or the diner’s knife, but around this time distributors started adding magnesium carbonate and other agents that absorbed moisture; suddenly salt came in grains and could be poured! This was a handy breakthrough in convenience, even becoming the selling point for Morton’s Salt which remains to this day: 'When it rains, it pours!' This was probably the greatest thing ever, until sliced bread came along about twenty years later.
The salt cellar with its blocks of salt met its match in the salt shaker, which could pour individual salt grains to taste and be shared at the table very easily. Salt shakers gained popularity in the 1940s and 1950s, until salt cellars simply became nostalgic collectibles. Perhaps a bit of tradition has been lost with the salt cellar, so pour out a pinch of salt in memory of it next time you’re at the table.