You know, in Chinese and Thai cooking, MSG is simply called flavour. It's just some kind of powder that enhancers the flavour in your food. My mum sometimes uses it in her cooking, my partner's Thai brother in law does too. Everything you eat has MSG in it. Doritos? MSG-ed. Shapes? MSG-ed.
Here is my theory:
Years ago, when Asian migrants started to enter Western countries, and bringing their delicious cuisines with them, opening up their little take away shops and whatnot, the West freaked out.
"Oh, no!" they would moan. "These Asian folks make such good food, what if they steal our good old business? We must consult with the head of our state! Surely there is something they can do to save our businesses!"
So they would scramble to meet the Heads of State, begging them to do something about this crisis. "We can't lose our business to the foreign folk!" they cried.
The Heads of State listened, stroking their beards. They came up with a plan, but they needed their men to befriend these foreign folk, suss out their strategies, and report back to the Heads of State.
The business men agreed, so off they went, befriending these foreign restaurateurs. These foreign restaurateurs were more than happy to share their food with the Western folk. It felt like they were becoming part of the family, like the Western folk were welcoming them. They showed them their recipes, taught them their skills. Little did they know that the Western folk have been conversing with the Heads of State in secret.
"What is this powder they speak of?" asked the Heads of State.
"We don't know, sir. But it makes food taste bloody good!" piped the men.
"By golly, we can't have that! What if it's bad for you?" asked the Heads of State.
"That would be terrible! How do we stop our folk from eating this delicious but unknown flavour enhancer whilst saving our businesses?" asked the men.
The Heads of State stroked their beards some more, and held up their index finger.
"We propose that this substance be named MSG for Monosodium Glutamate," said the Heads of State.
"Oh, what a scary and scientific name! That must be terrible for us!" cried the men.
"Yes, and once word gets out about MSG, it will put folks off foreign food, and your business will increase two fold!" declared the Heads of State.
And word did get out about MSG. Decades later, TV Shows like A Current Affair and Today Tonight exposed how terrible MSG was, and how dangerous Asian cooking was because they used so much MSG.
OK, so that was a really terrible story and obviously not a historical account of MSG, even though it could be perfectly plausible. But do you see my point? My theory is that MSG was just another way the West bred xenophobia against the East. By calling flavour enhancers this terribly scary name, it's like someone put a litre of red food colouring into your soup.
I just want to say, yeah, MSG is bad for you if you eat too much of it; but it's no different to salt. Next time you freak out that there's MSG in Asian cooking, remember there's MSG in your potato chips and your cuppa soups and savoury biscuits and frozen goods.