Thoreau, March 6, 1846

It is worth the while to have lived a primitive wilderness life at some time, to know what are, after all, the necessaries of life and what methods society has taken to supply them. I have looked over the old day-books of the merchants with the same view, – to see what it was shopmen bought. They are the grossest groceries. Salt is perhaps the most important article in such a list, and most commonly bought at the stores, of articles commonly thought to be necessaries, – salt, sugar, molasses, cloth, etc., – by the farmer. You will see why stores or shops exist, not to furnish tea and coffee, but salt, etc. Here’s the rub, then.

I see how I could supply myself with every other article which I need, without using the shops, and to obtain this might be the fit occasion for a visit to the seashore. Yet even salt cannot strictly speaking be called a necessary of human life, since many tribes do not use it.