I found myself talking this morning with a student and told him to “Take it with a grain of salt”. As soon as I said it, I really wanted to know where the phrase came from. I am a geek in all things not just food. Thank goodness the internet is on hand of all of my geeky trivia word origin needs and I found the reference immediately.

Of course this phrase that we have used willy nilly (another interesting origin for another day) comes from none other than Pliny the Elder (which makes me think of yummy beer). Thank you Pliny for all of your wisdoms.

This one dates back to 77 A.D. and is cited from Pliny’s Naturalis Historie, it is translated as so:
“After the defeat of that mighty monarch, Mithridates, Gnaeus Pompeius found in his private cabinet a recipe for an antidote in his own handwriting; it was to the following effect: Take two dried walnuts, two figs, and twenty leaves of rue; pound them all together, with the addition of a grain of salt; if a person takes this mixture fasting, he will be proof against all poisons for that day. ”

Meaning that, things that might injure us can be offset by taking a grain of salt.

We also use it to mean that you can “accept it but maintain a degree of skepticism”. That nugget came a little later and some of the first written notes of it occurring in 17th Century English writing.
Coming from an Chef Instructor’s point of view I agree wholeheartedly many things are much better when taken with a grain of salt.

Excuse me, I need to go make hari-kari with my students and a Quiz review.