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Sep 29, 2011 10:19 PM

Sneakiest Chef Ingredients... a MSG rant


An Asian ingredient that's starting to become a trend/prevalent amongst *western* shortcut taking chefs and restaurateurs. In the name of time, money, laziness and a duped diner.... The sneakiest of them all."Umami". MSG.

Damn Mr. Ajinomoto and Ac'cent!

If you are curious and want to understand it once and for all.

Buy a bag of MSG from the market. Taste some straight up.. a spoon or 2. Sense the taste and feeling on your tongue... then check back 10 min later. Note how your tongue, mind, and body feels. Did you experience foodgasmic umami bliss? Tell me its a "harmless ingredient".

Then try truffle mushrooms, one of the few natural occurring foods containing all three umami giving compounds in any significant amounts, straight up..

Then try each heavily paired with a nice cut of steak.

There is no mistaking Umami from natural glutamates for MSG.

Sex with a stranger vs sex with the one you love.
Louis Vuitton vs Louie Vuitton.

That's what it's all about. If you still don't understand, that's ok - I haven't been to the moon either.

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  1. The use of MSG is just starting to become a trend in Western food...? It's not been done before now? Mmmm. Who knew? This is certainly news to me. Thanks. We must stop this before it catches on and becomes widespread all over the world.

    So if I'm understanding you... and please correct me if I'm wrong.... Eating straight MSG from a bag vs. nibbling a truffle are different experiences.... and dropping a pebble on your head is *different* than being crushed by a two-ton boulder. Hm. I'll have to remember that as well.

    Thanks for the info.

    Science has proven that the so-called "MSG effect" is purely placebo related. Try your test with pure salt or pure sugar -- also completely natural pure ingredients -- and you will get the same results if you believe you will. The only valid studies are double blind -- which yours isn't.

    It's totally cool if you don't like it and don't want to eat it. But don't pretend there's any scientific basis that it's bad for you or a significant portion of the population when there just isn't any. Or that it's some evil encroaching culinary trend when it's a proven totally safe and reliable, natural flavor enhancer, and has been for more than 100 years.

    11 Replies
    1. re: acgold7

      While I do respect your position, I don't agree with you.

      Not only is taste involved but the after effects of how you feel after eating the food. Like I said, try the little experiment out for yourself sometime.

      Remember, I'm speaking in terms of a restaurant treating food more like a product then something you eat.

      Yes, you can say that about pure sugar. But that's also my point as well.
      Make a simple syrup with sugar and water and use that for your waffles and pancakes vs something like honey or maple syrup. But at least eating a teaspoon or 2 doesn't make you feel bad afterwards compared to the pure chemical MSG which doesn't exist in nature.

      In terms of cooking; Sugar vs honey, molasses, sugarcane, maple syrup, etc.

      1. re: Eddoword

        I get a kick everytime someone equates "natural" with wholesomeness or goodness.
        Try this experiment:
        Buy a bag of hemlock from the market. Taste some straight up.. a few leaves. Sense the taste and feeling on your tongue... then check back 10 min later. Note how your tongue, mind, and body feels, tingling of the extremeties, and tiredness. Did you experience foodgasmic umami bliss? Tell me its a "natural ingredient" and thus, by default, it is good.

        1. re: Eddoword

          A teaspoon or two of pure sugar is certainly worse for you, especially if you're diabetic. So, objectively and scientifically, a much larger proportion of the population would feel much worse after doing that. Diabetes and insulin resistance are real and documented.

          And pure sugar doesn't exist in nature either -- it has to be made just as MSG does.

          Again, no one is telling you that you have to like or eat the stuff. If you think it makes you feel bad, then it does. Tastes vary and all people are different. But the analogies you are using make no sense and have no logic or scientific or objective basis behind them.

        2. re: acgold7

          Shit oh dear, MSG was a staple in my mom's kitchen in the 1950s. It was called Accent and she used it sparingly, but she had it in stock.

          1. re: EWSflash

            MIL always had Accent in her pantry too. It was used in her delicious goulash.
            All I know is preservatives in foods play major havoc with my tongue.

            1. re: iL Divo

              Reassuring to know that I'm not the only one with tongue issues.

              1. re: iL Divo

                salt, smoke, vinegar (well acid in general), and alcohol are all preservatives. how do you feel about them?

                1. re: charles_sills

                  For me, not counting foods that don't please my palate (i.e. sea urchin, shiso, beets and produce high in capsaisin), MSG seems to be the only item, preservative or otherwise, that I have a physiological reaction to.

              2. re: EWSflash

                Yes, exactly. The container of Accent which was in my grandmother's kitchen had never registered with me until I was looking through an old cookbook of traditional Maine recipes. The fish chowder called for something called Accent. I looked it up and figured out what it was... and found it at the grocery store. The general look of the container jogged my memory. I'm not sure how long this brand has been around, but definitely since mid-20th century.

            2. if truffles tasted exactly like msg and msg tasted exactly like truffles, you'd make the same argument. you decide "there's no mistaking umami from natural glutamates" first, then you assign the natural one the better taste sensation.

              i wanna see blind taste tests. i bet a lot of people like msg better than truffles, too, also, btw.

              1 Reply
              1. re: TheFoodEater

                Great. I would like to see those tests too.

                Really though, I don't care as much as its me that's tasting, eating, and experiencing the food. It's all that matters.

              2. Isn't MSG basically just harvested from seaweed? I'm looking around, and I'm not seeing any (non woo-woo) account that it has any negative repercussions. Granted, I don't have any in my pantry, and I don't personally cook with it, but I think that persons who claim it causes a host of symptoms may be suffering a placebo affect.

                1. Do I use MSG in my kitchen? No.
                  Do I get fussed if someone else does, or am I deluded enough to think I don't consume at least a little of it every day? No.

                  It's not new -- it's been commercially available as an isolated ingredient since the early 1900s -- so if there were legitimate medical issues associated with its consumption, they should have manifested themselves by now, particularly in Asian communities, where you can buy the stuff in great big bags.

                  Have I ever tasted it right out of the bottle? Yes. Nasty stuff. But so is baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, and flour. The fact that it's unpleasant out of the package, straight up and on its own, does not in and of itself mean that it's harmful.

                  But put any of those things IN another recipe (for those particular ingredients, let's make chocolate chip cookies) -- and they become a wonderful tasty treat, and leaving out any of them would render the final product less attractive and/or less tasty.

                  1. I have eaten a spoonful of MSG straight from the bag. It had a taste I can only describe as "not-quite-sour". Zero aftereffects, positive or negative. Maybe the reason MSG doesn't taste like a mushroom is because the former is a small distilled crystal and the latter is an mushroom-- AHH forget it. Why even bother reasoning with anti-science people.