July 23, 2016

MSG is SAFE and NATURAL as Salt and Sugar

Restaurants blare it out loud – NO MSG!  An assurance that the compound will not get in your system.  A statement that declares MSG not can, but is harmful.

But wait a minute, the acronymic named ingredient standing for Monosodium Glutamate is as natural as salt or sugar. No one can be allergic to amino acids such as MSG because they are naturally present in the human body.  Glutamate is an amino acid that is used to make proteins in food and our body. Glutamate is in parmesan cheese, tomato sauce, soy sauce or by spreading Marmite yeast extract on your toast, if you like Marmite.  That is why pasta with cheese and/or with tomato sauce is popular.  

The misunderstanding and legend started in 1968 when there were reports that one person, just one, had a bad reaction to Chinese restaurant food with flushing, numbness and a headache.  Since then it has been dubbed called the Chinese Restaurant Syndrome supposedly because the restaurant in questionwas using MSG on its dishes.

You know what, since 1968 scientists have not been able to prove the connection between the symptoms and MSG.

Glutamates are naturally present in discernible quantities in ripe tomatoes, broccoli, mushrooms (that’s why they taste meaty), fish,cheese, yogurt, red wine (actually, in anything fermented), meat, and seaweed. Many prepackaged goods in the supermarkets contain MSG such as cookies and crackers, condiments, salad dressings, soups, potato chips, cured meats, frozen dinner plates to name a few.  You can’t escape it.  You are consuming it whether you know it or not.

Seaweed is the original source that led to the discovery of glutamates.  In the early 1900s, Mr. Kikunae Ikeda, a Japanese biochemist, noted that the savory, meaty, and ultimately satisfying taste of his favorite dried kombu seaweed broth was not represented by the four tastes (sweet, sour, salty, and bitter).Mr. Ikeda identified and named the fifth taste as umami.  

In 1908, Mr. Ikedaisolated the protein responsible for the umami taste sensation AND started a year later the Ajinomoto company producing glutamate salt which we now see in grocery stores.  

Glutamates like MSG bump the flavor of the ingredients up a notch, that umami sense and that’s all they do.  If ever, the worse thing MSG can do is to invigorate your appetite and make you eat more.

Health Canada has declared that MSG is not a health hazard.  The US FDA has given MSG a GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) designation – meaning there are no tolerance amount limits.But in the first place, why would you overdose with salt or sugar? You can’t do it – the same with MSG.

Although there are reports that MSG is an excitotoxin, which when overly abundant in the brain can cause neurons to die.  However the FDA has found out that the glutamate in MSG (monsodium glutamate), although related to brain glutamate does not appear to get into the brains of adults very well.  It can get into the brains of infants and be toxic to brain cells, however, which is why the FDA has not approved it for use in baby food.

So next time you’re eating out, to make your order yummier, ask for seasoning Accent, Ajinomoto, Vetsin or Sazon (in Latino menu), all MSGs.  This will shock and educate your company.  And if you feel bloated, groggy to the point of feeling drugged, most likely it’s because you overate.

MSG comes in many names:

Additives that always contain MSG:
·        Monosodium Glutamate 
·        Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein 
·        Hydrolyzed Protein 
·        Hydrolyzed Plant Protein 
·        Plant Protein Extract 
·        Sodium Caseinate 
·        Calcium Caseinate 
·        Yeast Extract 
·        Textured Protein 
·        Autolyzed Yeast 
·        Hydrolyzed Oat Flour

Additives that frequently contain MSG:
·        Malt extract 
·        Malt Flavoring 
·        Bouillon Broth 
·        Stock Flavoring 
·        Natural Flavoring 
·        Natural Beef or Chicken Flavoring 
·        Seasoning Spices

Additives that may contain MSG and/or other excitotoxins:
·        Carrageeenan Enzymes (Protease enzymes from various sources can release excitotoxin amino acids from food proteins.) 
·        Soy Protein Concentrate 
·        Soy Protein Isolate Whey 
·        Protein Concentrate.

Relevant Articles:

Glutamate: Essential food for the brain
See https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151001125653.htm

Yes, MSG, the Secret Behind the Savor

If MSG is so bad for you, why doesn't everyone in Asia have a headache? 



Pervasive Chemical, Crucial to the Body, Is Indicted as an Agent in Brain Damage


June 19, 2016

Bienenstich or Bee Sting Cake

In all my bakery stops all over the world, from Prince George Canada to Invercargill New Zealand, from New York to Manila and back, I have never seen it before.  It looked like a humongous 10 inch burger with a thick whitish filling instead of a meat patty.

I was told it was a Bee Sting Cake or Bienenstich in German.  The story goes that the scent of honey attracted a bee who stung what might have been perceived as an obstacle – the baker who created the confection.

Another version is that in the 15th century, German bakers successfully warded off  marauders by flunging beehives at the intruders.  To celebrate with their feast, they baked a cake named after the beehive’s stinging deterrence, Bienenstich!  

Bee Sting is a yeasted cake, consequently it is more bread-like in taste and texture.  The filling can be either whipped cream (with gelatin to keep it firm and prop the top), or vanilla custard, or buttercream filling .   The one I got at Breka Bakery at Fraser Street had a combination of whipped cream and vanilla custard.  At CAD$12.50, the 10 inch round cake can serve 8 or more.  

My guests said it was not overly sweet, just right.  In Vancoucer, only the Aspen Club on Victoria Drives serves the cake as a dessert slice.

For a good Bee Sting Cake recipe see:


June 12, 2016

Cape Roger Shore Walk

Saturday was mostly rain, so when the clouds opened up Sunday morning, it paved the way for a morning hike at Cape Roger Shore Walk, also called the Roger Curtis Sea Walk, on the southwest corner of Bowen Island – about a 15 minute drive from Snug Cove – where the ferry berths.

It was actually my first hike for the summer where I was wearing a pair of Tevas.  It did pay later to take a windbreaker cause any beach can be chillingly windy no matter how sunny, especially in Canadian latitudes.

How to get there if you don’t have your own wheels.  Once you land in Bowen Island (a mere 20 minutes sail from Horseshoe Bay Ferry terminal in West Vancouver), take the bus to Bluewater (call 604-947-0229 for schedule information).  The bus always wait for the BC Ferry no matter how late.  Your Compass bus pass will work.

Get off at Whitesails Drive and Reef Street , walk south on Whitesails till you hit Cape Drive – veer right – then turn right on Collingwood Lane.  Keep on walking till you see the water and the end of the road - a small parking lot.  The start of the trail is at your left.  There is an unofficial short trail on the right side which affords good views of Keats Island and a mossy knoll perfect for a relaxing stream of thoughts.

Back to the left - it is an easy hike with footbridges breaking off to a winding earth path - always hugging the shore.  Towards Cape Roger Curtis Lighthouse, at a leisurely pace, it will take you 30 minutes – at a regular stroll perhaps 15 minutes.  Midway there is the pebbly Pebbly Beach, officially named Roger Curtis Beach, which even at the height of summer has refrigerator cold water.

One can spot deers, and if you are lucky a slithering garter snake making a dash across the trail, or simply nonchalantly sunbathing.  Don’t worry, they are not venomous.  But they can strike and bite if you get too friendly.  They prefer to be ignored.  Snotty sort ...

Finally, after 10 minutes, land’s end with a white tower – ette ? ?

The lighthouse does not appear to be one.  In fact it looks like a 15 foot white gas propane tank standing upright at the end of a 20 meter narrow rocky strip.  

There is a makeshift bench good for a cozy two, quite comfortable actually, at the start of the strip, next to a tree (leftmost in above image).

 A bit disappointing

The best thing about the Cape Roger Shore Walk is it is still quiet – not much foot or dog traffic.  It is scenic in spite of the meh meh lighthouse and the occasional jarring aluminum boat gangways.  And one can plan on a day trip to and from Vancouver.  Just bring your own food and drinks.

There are those pesky bee-like yellow wasps that rudely hangs around your food - so beware - they can sting.  Best way to avoid these gatecrashers - set up their own meal a few feet away - but  a few can't be fooled.

For a map of Bowen Island Trails, see http://bowentrails.ca/
For everything Bowen, including Bus and Ferry schedules, see https://www.tourismbowenisland.com/