Tag Archive for 'msg'

Podcast: The Science Enthuiast

I recently appeared on the The Science Enthusiast podcast, talking FOOD SCIENCE, natch. Tune in to hear me chat MSG, GMOs and much more. But don’t listen if you don’t like cussing, we do that a lot.

Eight Flavors: Data Visualization

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All the eight flavors. Click for a larger image.

My first book, Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine will be released December 6th, but is available for pre-sale right now. To create the book, I researched the eight most popular flavors in American cooking: black pepper, vanilla, chili powder, curry powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and Sriracha. When I dived deep into each of these eight topics, I often found fascinating new information and recipes–some of which didn’t make it into the book. So over the next few months, I’ll be publishing this exclusive content on my blog! If it whets your appetite to read the whole book, make sure to get your own copy here.

The premise of my new book, Eight Flavors, is that American cuisine can be illustrated by its most commonly used flavors. One of the most freqeunt questions I get about the book is how I picked my eight flavors to focus on.

When I began my research, I made a timeline of recipes from my respectable collection of cookbooks, dating from Amelia Simmons’s American Cookery, the first cookbook published in this country in 1796, all the way through modern American standards like How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. I flipped through these cookbooks from different eras: the 1800s, 1850s, 1900s, and 1950s, selecting the most influential tomes from those periods, like Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife; Fannie Merritt Farmer’s The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook; and James Beard’s The Fireside Cook Book. I looked for ingredients that significantly affected the flavor of the recipe. After I made a list of commonly used flavors, I plotted them on a graph with the help of Google’s Ngram Viewer, which visualizes the frequency of words in all the books Google has digitized. I set the sample size to American books from 1800 to 2000. When I built the graph of American flavors, it revealed which ones were used the most frequently (and for all practical purposes, were the most popular), when flavors entered our lexicon, and how some grew in popularity while others disappeared. After all was said and done, the results revealed eight winners—flavors that were the most popular, and had never significantly waned in their popularity.

The graph at the top of the page shows them all, and gives a really clear sense of how these flavors entered into our kitchens chronologically. I love in that top graph how clear garlic’s popularity is over the other flavors I talk about.

I write in the book that vanilla replaced rosewater in American kitchens, and you can see that below.

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Vanilla v. Rosewater

And look at how long curry powder has been used in the U.S.!

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Curry Powder

And look at how our use of MSG has declined in the last 30 years. I unpack the perception that MSG is “bad” for you in my book, but you can also listen to some great podcasts on the topic here.

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These graphs gave me a quick and dirty way to identify trends over time, and a wonderful way to visualize how our larger culture was affecting consumption of these ingredients, and vice verse.

Pre-Order My Book: Eight Flavors!

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My very first book is in presale, ready to wing its way to your hands on December 6th, 2016!

Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine looks at the eight most popular flavors in American cooking as a way to define American food–and the American people. Moving chronologically through our history,  I explore black pepper, vanilla, curry powder, chili powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and Sriracha. But this book is really about people, the folks who have shaped American food over time; and these are people that don’t normally get a page in our history books: blacks, women, immigrants. There’s Edmond Albius, a twelve-year-old slave, who discovered the technique still used to pollinate vanilla orchids today. And David Tran, the Vietnamese refugee who created Sriracha to support his family.

This book has got it all! There’s gorgeous illustrations (by Peter Van Hyning):

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Fun facts:

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And tempting recipes:

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Let’s face it: I’ve just made your Holiday shopping a snap. You can buy the book here.

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Thank you in advance for reading, and thank you for being fans, followers and readers–it’s because of you that this project has come to fruition!

Podcast: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know about MSG and Why We’re Scared of it but Shouldn’t Be

I am neck deep in the final draft of my forthcoming book, Eight Flavors. I’m writing about the stories behind the most popular flavors in American cooking: black pepper, vanilla, chili powder, curry powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and Sriracha. When I’m chatting at a party, and I rattle off the list of chapters, the topic I field the most questions about is by far MSG (or Monosodium Glutamate). “Isn’t it bad for you?” “Isn’t it a chemical?” “Why does it have such a negative reputation?”

Good questions–and ones I answer thoroughly in my book. But in the meantime, there have been several great recent podcasts that address those questions and concerns. I’ve rounded them up here so you can binge-listen  and draw your own conclusions!

Stuff You Should Know: How Umami Works!
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For millennia humans have recognized four tastes, but in the 1980s a fifth taste first isolated in Japan gained worldwide acceptance – and took off like a rocket! Learn about meaty, musty, savory umami in this episode. Includes a history of MSG and explanation of it’s savory taste. Listen Here!

 

Gastropod: The United States of Chinese Food

Get the low down on MSG’s long-time association with Chinese Food.

Wander into any town in the U.S., no matter how small and remote, and you’re likely to find at least one Chinese restaurant. In fact, there are more Chinese restaurants in America than McDonalds, KFC, and Burger King combined. And the food they serve is completely unlike anything you’ll find in China. In this episode of Gastropod, we ask one crucial question: why?

 

Masters of Social Gastronomy Podcast: Monosodium Glutamate

This is an oldie but a goodie from me & Soma; the full history and sciense of MSG!