Who Was The First Person To Actually Put Salt And Pepper Together?

There have been a lot of great couples in history, but has there ever been a pairing so perfectly matched as salt and pepper? The two are almost never seen singly, and indeed have graced tabletops together for the entirety of our lives. Like light and shadow, yin and yang, or peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper have formed an ideal marriage.

But whose idea was it in the first place? Light and shadow may be as old as time, but surely some enlightened person must have been behind the pairing of salt and pepper, establishing their customary use as matched condiments. There was indeed such a historical figure, of course, but before salt and pepper finally came together during the Age of Enlightenment, in France, they had existed separately for thousands of years.

While salt is as old as our oceans, black pepper (piper nigrum) may have originated on India's Malabar Coast, and first began to be cultivated there about 4,000 years ago. Although notable as an important spice in several ancient cultures – including in India, China, and Egypt - pepper first arrived in Europe by way of Ancient Greece in the fourth century B.C. The Ancient Romans even established a pepper trade with India, and black pepper was extremely popular in Europe by the 5th century A.D.

When salt and pepper shakers became popular

Despite their long histories, salt and pepper might not have sat with each other on dinner tables until famed French king Louis XIV (who ruled from 1643 to 1715) put them together. This fortuitous pairing was helped along by the fact that the king was quite finicky, and disliked almost all seasonings. Only salt and pepper (and strangely, parsley) were permitted to be served to him.

Louis XV set the table, so to speak, but it wasn't until the invention of salt and pepper shakers that the two condiments were truly established as a matched pair. This, too, took time. The first salt shaker wasn't invented until 1858, and the item didn't become common until the 1920s. Before that decade, salt and pepper were largely served in bowls. The production of matched sets of salt and pepper shakers emerged contemporaneously with the nascent car industry since cars made travel easier. Collectible shaker sets soon became popular as a result, since they were easy to pack as gifts on trips to see friends or family. The first matched pottery sets of salt and pepper shakers, for example, appeared in Germany in 1925. The rest is history, although it bears noting that the ubiquity of salt and pepper as paired condiments is largely confined to Europe and the Americas.