Thursday, March 13, 2014

"How [Some Endurance] Athletes Strategically Use Caffeine"

Caffeine molecule

I'm not much into caffeine myself, reserving my consumption of it for those infrequent times when I'm faced with a choice between a diet caffeinated soda and an non-caffeinated sugar-sweetened one.

But from my perspective as an exercise and nutrition scientist, this article on the use of caffeine by elite endurance athletes was very interesting. (I'll probably be checking out the book it was adapted from at my local library.)

I do have a bone to pick, though. The article's first sentence has one fatal flaw. Can you see it?
Every year, many of the planet’s fittest athletes converge in Kona, Hawaii, for the Ironman World Championship.
Ironman athletes are no doubt fit. But they can hardly be called the planet's fittest athletes. Fittest for their sport, to be sure, but fitness is sport specific.

Put a 123-pound male Ironman up against world record-holding 123-pound powerlifter Andrzej Stanaszek, of Poland, whose combined squat, bench press, and deadlift tally to a staggering 1306 pounds, and suddenly the Ironman is looking more like a limp noodle.

My Apple dictionary indicates that being fit means "having the requisite qualities or skills to undertake something competently."

The Ironman is going to be worthless in the powerlifting world and vice versa, since neither athlete will have the requisite qualities or skills to undertake the other's sport with any degree of competence.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mysterious Misi Luki

Best banana ever

In my previous post about Mr. Oliver's essay on Samoan food, I claimed that the banana cultivar known as Misi Luki was not native to Samoa. I based my claim on the presence of the k.

The k sound has actually been in the Samoan language for a very long time. The Reverend George Pratt and others considered it a corruption of the original language's t sound, a change that has also occurred in Hawaiian.

Exactly why Samoans and Hawaiians have shifted from a t to k sound is a mystery, though I've heard that Samoan orators prefer to speak in k to increase the volume at which they speak, an important consideration since much of their traditional speech making takes place out on the village green or malae.

But until recently, the k was never written out, hence my claim that Misi Luki wouldn't likely be Samoan.

I thought I'd turn to a Google search to see if I could find more on our mystery Musa.

Two sources caught my eye, one from the Royal Society of New Zealand, the other from a gardening blog, Garden of Edendale.

The Royal Society post claims that Misi Luki means Mr. Rudi (Rudi -> Ruti -> Luki, when pronounced in K-style), whereas Edendale gives Mr. Lucas, apparently a missionary who might have served in Samoa. Misi was a title given to old-timey missionaries to the islands, hence Misi Paine from my earlier post about my distant cousin who also served his mission to Samoa.

I like to think that the banana was named after Mr. Rudi/Lucas because, like the fruits, he was short, fat, and had a very sweet disposition.

Whether Misi Luki comes from Mr. Rudi or Mr. Lucas, the evidence points to a post-European contact introduction of the apparently fungus-resistant cultivar from somewhere in India.

Yup, This Confirms It . . .

Helping the homeless is just a ruse, of course, to increase customers

Walmart is pure evil.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Samoa in the News


At the Huffington Post, Robert Oliver—Chef, Author, Bon Vivant—writes about traditional Samoan cuisine.
Like many indigenous cuisines from all over the world, the diet was based on simple but nourishing preparations, here made largely with fish, root crops, tropical fruit, coconut and leafy greens, the best of the earth and ocean.
He laments, however, that in modern times, "in an ironic madness, . . . 'tourism food', largely devoid of genuine Samoan content, was then deemed by the traveling public, to be 'Samoan food.'"

Oliver then lists foods and dishes he considers "of genuine Samoan content."
[C]oconut oil . . . jam and jelly . . . vanilla . . . Misiluki (dried local banana) Pudding . . . hearty local pork chops smothered in local koko samoa ( extraordinary local cocoa) sauce . . . "poke" (spiced raw tuna with sesame) . . . served with crunchy local seaweed and creamy coconut wedges . . . oka (Samoan raw fish and coconut) . . . soulful watercress and shin-bone soup . . . "umu" (earth oven baked) lunches . . . freshly brewed kokoaraisa (a soupy rice and coconut soup flavored with the terrific local cocoa) . . . sapasui ( a Samoanized version of chop suey) . . .
Ironically, in an essay in which he decries a "food invasion," "food colonialism," "fat bombs," a Samoa "awash with fat, flour, fake foods and Fanta," "tourism food," "local cuisine [that is] dislocated and marginalized," "inferior imported food," and a suffering "cultural sense of self" tantamount to cultural destruction because "by rejecting Samoa's cuisine; we are essentially rejecting Samoa," Oliver's list is heavily populated by non-Samoan foods.

Jams and jellies? Not Samoan.

Vanilla beans? Not Samoan.

Misiluki bananas? Not Samoan. The k in the name gives it away, being, as it were, like this particular banana cultivar, an import.

Pork Chops? Though Samoans always had pigs, not a Samoan cut of meat.

Koko Samoa? Not Samoan.

Poke? Not Samoan. Pretty sure it's Hawaiian.

Sesame? Not Samoan.

Watercress? Not Samoan.

Kokoaraisa? Not Samoan. Rice (the araisa part) isn't grown in Samoa.

Sapasui? Samoanized, true. "Scandalously good," to be sure. But still not Samoan.

None of these are Samoan in the pre-colonial sense; they're all imports. Just like Christianity isn't Samoan.

But Samoans have adopted and to a large extent Samoanized Christianity, seamlessly imbedding it into their traditional way of life. So much so, that once when I asked a Samoan woman about the Samoans' pre-Christian religious beliefs and practices, the response I got amounted to, There weren't any other gods, we've always worshipped the Christian God.

And so it is with certain non-Samoan foods. I can't imagine a Samoa without those "cheap meat imports" that were, by Oliver's admission, "integrated into the traditional Samoan diet . . . [c]orned beef, lamb flaps, turkey tails, and chicken backs." I wonder if the Samoans themselves could imagine such a world.

So why do koko Samoa and watercress and sapasui receive Oliver's stamp of "genuine Samoan" while corned beef, turkey tails, and lamb flaps are relegated to the trash heap of colonialism?

I couldn't say, but it seems like Oliver is applying a double standard here. Part of it may stem from the privileged status that anything organic receives these days—Oliver makes a big deal out of the fact that Samoans are growing their foods organically. Or perhaps it's because cheap meat imports don't get much attention from Samoa's professional chefs, not being very chic.

Whatever the case, it's a double standard, and Oliver's problem stems from spending more time, it seems, "in restaurants all over Samoa" than in eating at Samoans' homes.

So while "Samoa is proudly shaking off the last vestiges of colonialism," Samoa is apparently proudly clinging to another, though chic, set of colonialism's vestiges: Rice, chop suey, watercress, vanilla beans, etc.

Bon app├ętit!