The Museum of Taste


Monosodium Glutamate

~ don't eat it ~

I get very suspicious of food ingredients that I can feel in my fingers after ingesting them. This effect was pointed out to me some time around 1970 while driving home from a popular Chinese restaurant. It's not so overt and blatant that I had noticed it before, but once it was pointed out it became obvious. Funny how that works.

I remember my mother getting two interesting food-warping substances in about 1950. One was "Adolph's Meat Tenderizer", and that consisted of an enzyme from papaya. I don't have a huge objection to that one. The other was called "Accent" and it was pure MSG. It is not OK in my book.

My understanding is that the monosodium form of glutamate is merely the kind that acts the fastest. Glutamate is a natural component of the nervous system. Spiking foods with it to crank up the volume on the taste buds is cheating, and unhealthy. A few years ago it was finding its way into baby foods, and the government, bless their tiny brains, said that was going too far.

If you are concerned about MSG, as you should be, it's not too hard to spot on the list of ingredients. Longer lists are more likely to include it if the food item has a subtle flavor. Americans seem to think that mild flavors, such as you find in chicken dishes, many styles of Chinese cooking, mushroom soups, etc., need boosting. Compare different brands. For instance, the list of ingredients on a box of Nabisco Cheese Nips is about twice as long as the one on Sunshine Cheez-Its. I like Cheez-Its a lot better and I theoretically had some respect for Sunshine until they came out with their White Cheddar Cheez-Its -- that one has MSG. As do some other of their goods.

There is precious little protection for the restaurant customer, sad to say, though there are instances like what I heard about San Francisco some years ago. I hope it's true. There are thousands (?) of Chinese restaurants in the city and they were getting pretty spun out with the MSG -- and the city outlawed its use completely. (I'd like to get feedback on this item (and all my pages actually). Got any?)

Eventually I'll put a bunch of links about MSG here.

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