I went to Master’s of Social Gastronomy this evening and learned quite a few things about tonight’s topic: Monosodium Glutamate, also known commonly as MSG.
MSG appeals to our savory taste. Think of worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, meat, and mushrooms. MSG gets a bad rep in the USA. People claim they are sensitive to it and everyone thinks it;s this awful thing that’s going to kill us. I’m guilty of being a part of that group before this evening.
I walked away from this lecture with these points:
- MSG was found by a rad guy, Profesor Kikunae Ikeda, who wanted to make the less tasty, healthy food delicious for the Japanese population. He isolated MSG after his wife made a kombu stock (which is amazingly savory) and boiled it down to its essence. Then, he commercially produced it.
- MSG, a naturally occurring protein, is in almost everything it seems like. It is concentrated in ripe tomatoes, kombu, and parmesan cheese.
- “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” is all in our heads- it’s the salt that’s making us sick (and it’s not just at Chinese restaurants). Salt dehydrates you which causes the aches and pains.
- A Taiwanese person eats as much MSG is one day as the average American eats in 6 weeks. It’s perfectly safe.
Having a historical gastronomist and a food scientist explain the safe nature of MSG was enough to convert me. Where do you stand?