Why are salt and pepper the “classic” dinner table seasoning?

Is there a reason we use salt and pepper on so many dishes and they can be found in any kitchen table at dinner time? Does it have to do with their flavour synergies, or were they just more available “back in the day” and it has become a habit?
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Salt is perhaps the most basic and effective flavour enhancer, and so it’s fairly obvious why we have it on our dinner tables.

Pepper brightens flavour, and masks off-putting notes, such as staleness or blandness from overcooking. Black pepper was, at the time, cheap to produce, durable in shipping and shelf-stable for a long time, so the Romans settled on that, and we picked up the habit from them.

Other cuisines have other condiments for the same effect – in Lebanon, they have sumac upon the table, in Morocco it’s cumin, and in Jordan, za’atar.


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