It’s hot here, and people sweat a lot, and when the body sweats it loses salt. In training the medical officer actually told us it might be a good idea to increase our salt intake to compensate for the climate. When I make popcorn, I’ll get the salt shaker out while the corn is still popping. On occasion my craving for salt will be strong enough I’ll pour some into my hand and lick it while I wait. I figure that sort of craving has got to be a sign the body is lacking salt. So perhaps salt’s prominence in Samoan cuisine is the result of a sort of dietary evolution.
Whatever the reason, salt has its place at the table. Coconut cream is salted to make pe’epe’e sauce. In my experience, whenever eggs find their way to the table, they’ve first been doused with a heavy layer of salt. At the pizza places around town, the plate of condiments usually has crushed red pepper, oregano, Samoa’s Own Chili Sauce, and salt.
The ubiquitous white canister of salt with the blue lid (as seen above) is seen at nearly every meal, but black pepper is a rarity. I’m not sure why that is.
And then there’s salt’s juiced up cousin, monosodium glutamate.
I don’t remember the last time I had MSG in The States. It seems more popular to explicitly say there is no MSG at a particular restaurant, and the few places that do use MSG use so little that it goes under most eaters’ radar.
Here the use of MSG is a little more relaxed. MSG is available in bundled packages at the grocery store, and it’s a popular ingredient at many restaurants. I was an official at today’s Zone A Athletics meet, and the lunch I was provided had a hearty helping of sapasui, the Samoan version of chop suey. I took a few bites that tasted like angry salt and sunburn. Mmmm. MSG.
MSG poisoning is not uncommon among Peace Corps volunteers. Symptoms range from tingly lips and a rash inside the mouth all the way up to vomiting and dizziness.
In the end, salt is a necessary evil. It’s a thin line between deficiency and hypertension.
Tomorrow’s Cultural Exploration: Birthdays.
I hope you’re well. Pictures below.
As I was saying, we had our Zone Athletics meet today. It rained. A lot. This is Year 11 Sunula running 1500 metres.
The junior (?) girls' 4 x 100-metre relay.