Book Review: Jeffrey Roberts’ Salted & Cured

By Hailey Grohman

These days, avid readers or eaters can find a book of cultural history for nearly any item they might find on their plate. Most of these stories hit the same themes: the pre-colonial origin story of a foodstuff, the massive migration of people and products in the Columbian exchange, the Industrial Revolution, and other touchstones of food history.

Jeffrey Roberts’ Salted & Cured, a journey into the world of cured meats, is no exception. It is, however, among the most thorough and well-researched of those histories, and one which best exemplifies the connection between people, place, and product.


Roberts, a Vermonter and teacher at New England Culinary Institute, has spared no expense to convey the depth and breadth of the cured meat world. He shows that these traditional products carry much more meaning than simply a caloric source; the history of cured meat is the history of nothing less than civilization itself. The curing of pork and other meats is one of mankind’s oldest preservation techniques. It is a survival necessity whose culturally diverse methods, as Roberts shows, tell much about our relationship to places and animals.

Roberts examines stories of all sizes: individual families, businesses, cultures and civilizations all hold different relationships to preserving meats. The vignettes are full of interesting and memorable details, such as this one: “On Manhattan Island a long, solid wall was constructed on the northern edge of the colony to control roaming herds of pigs. After the wall was removed, its imprint remained as Wall Street.” With stories like these, Roberts conveys just how impactful pigs and pork have been in our geography, our history, and our culture.

Though the text itself is dense and informative, the additional materials add color to the book. Several pages of photographs bring some of Roberts’ stories into clarity, and a helpful chart at the end of the book provides an exhaustive list of the definitions of different kinds of cured and smoked meats. Readers who want to hunt down the various obscure meat products mentioned in the book will be pleased to discover the list of places and chefs that Roberts endorses. It is clear that Roberts wants his subject to be accessible to all.

It is certain that Roberts’ book will make the reader hungry for the cured and smoked meats that he describes, some common and some more exotic. Fortunately, a dinner to promote the book at Hen of the Wood on May 6 will feature an array of charcuterie, as well as the author himself. Tickets are available for this unique event by calling the Burlington Hen of the Wood location.

Hailey Grohman is a recent graduate of the UVM Food Systems program. Her research interests include food communications and media.

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