Sunday, May 24, 2009

Food. Food. And, also? Food.

Flavour Enhancer 621

Since Mum's ordeal with bowel cancer, I've become understandably thingy about food. Not in any sort of rational or consistent fashion, I'll admit. I'll look at the ingredients list on a packet, and if there are too many numbers or items in there that I don't recognise, I'll put it back on the shelf. (Of course, if I have cravings or am simply not in the mood to fight with the grocery shopping, I'll just not look and willfully indulge in ignorance.)

My latest illogical decision was against MSG.

Now, I have no problem with MSG. No reaction to it at all. I was practically raised on the stuff, and if I stop eating it I'll probably go into some sort of withdrawal. This decision was not based on all the bad hype surrounding it, but rather, the fact that it is commonly listed in ingredients as 'Flavour Enhancer 621'. It's a number, so it has to go.

Unfortunately, once I decided on this, I discovered it's EVERYWHERE.

And by everywhere, I mean, everywhere. How am I going to live without noodles when all sauces and soup bases contain MSG? Augh?

I found some miso soup in the organic shop around the corner that is lacking, thankfully. It's going to be a slow hunt to find more alternate soup bases.

Stupid neurosis.


After a successful(ish) writing date yesterday, my fellow tortured artists and I tried out a new feeding hole. I'd noticed "WAFFLES!!!" in huge letters on a window in Melbourne Central earlier in the week. That jedi mind trick clearly works well.

Raganeau Crepes. I don't remember seeing any crepes on the menu, but there were certainly waffles. One of them was soaked in melted butter. Far too much melted butter. To the point where it floated, as butter does, and collected at the top of my skull and gave me a butter headache. A butter hangover, to be precise. I'm surprised it didn't ooze out my tear ducts.

It was a mistake, a glorious mistake. When enough time has passed and I've forgotten what a mistake it was, I'll go make that mistake again.


Dad decided he wanted to go out for dinner. Specifically, to a Japanese restaurant. I told Mum that was not an entirely wise idea. Dad is firmly grounded in the methods of communal Chinese eating: a variety of meat, vegie, soup and tofu dishes in the middle of the table, everyone getting what they want, when they want as the meal progresses. No serving spoons, just double-triple-quadruple dipped chopsticks (this is probably why my immune system is so ridiculously overpowered). And rice. Rice for everyone. Rice without saying. Rice is the foundation upon which all other food rests, it brings meaning to the meal, it doesn't even get mentioned in preparation because rice is rice is assumed is rice.

Japanese cooking can work like that, but generally doesn't. There's a different methodology to the preparation and presentation. While multiple dishes still feature, each person is generally granted their own portion. All meals are insular. There will be no fights for the last piece of chicken.

It doesn't matter how many times Dad encounters this, he is still surprised when the dishes don't come out prepared for sharing, and rice is not automatically served. He does not approve of this, not at all, and then confuses all the serving staff with his attempts to turn a Japanese meal into a Chinese meal featuring Japanese cooking.

In light of all the cultural hooha I've blogged about recently, I feel I should mention this. There are some cultural differences that are irreconcilable. Heh.


  1. Ever since I read 'margarine' on the list of foods my nana was supposed to avoid post-cancer, I've had an aversion to it. Mind you, it's always tasted like plastic to me.

    Can't stand diet fizzy drinks for the same reason.

  2. I want to know what happened to the other 620 flavor enhancers. Somewhere there must be a list.

    "317. Purple spots."

    "380. Hair loss."

    "453. Subject reported 'Makes everything taste funny, kind of like Szechwan peppercorns but not in a good way.'"

    "488. Hysterical blindness."

    "526. Subject developed insatiable craving for salt & pepper prawns 'the way they make them at Mayflower on Geary St. in San Francisco.'"

    "577. Runny nose."

    "618. Subject broke free of restraints, demolished hospital canteen, and climbed to roof of building, threatening suicide if not provided with 'a bowl of New Mexico green.' Subject was coaxed inside with Doritos and pepper spray, and sedated."

    "619. Skin rash."

  3. Margarine is one of my problem foods. I know I shouldn't eat it for all sorts of reasons, but plain bread and butter is one of my favourite snack foods.

    I stay away from most fizzy drinks, unless they're accompanied by alcohol, in which case they're probably the lesser evil. Heh.

    David, you'll put me off all food forever like that! Preservatives, additives, and emulsifiers get my hackles up too. They're all numbers!

  4. MSG here is not listed as a number, just written out in full. And I don't recall a lot of numbers in general on labels here, which makes me think that most other things here are also just written out in full. Which is why our lables are long and full of words with many syllables. Now I want to go read labels.

    Margarine is horrible and also a staple.

    Now I want sushi. I don't think I've really had any other japanese meals, so that's what my brain thinks of when japanese food is mentioned.

  5. Anonymous25/5/09 01:38

    "There are some cultural differences that are irreconcilable."

    And then there are the cultural differences that are fucking hilarious. This is def. one of them. ; )

  6. Where is 'here', Tulen? I suspect they started labeling MSG as FE621 precisely because MSG was getting a bad rap. I've noticed they've also started calling artificial flavours and colourings 'nature identical'......meaning, artificial. : /

  7. Loved the comment about Chinese eating. Whenever I'm with Chinese relatives the same thing happens.

  8. Heh. Thanks Amy. I feel oddly relieved to know we're not the only family that do it.