Saturday, October 22, 2005

MSG Whillikers!

At times it seems as if my life is little more than a string of battles; issues, big or small, that I deem necessary to open my big ol’ American mouth over and work towards a healthy outcome.

Some of my fellow teachers have experienced certain health problems ever since I arrived. The list is long and exhaustive, including everything from rashes to lethargy to anaphylactic shock. More often than not, we’ve summed these problems up to some simple cause such as the flu, hay fever, malnutrition, and so forth. With the exception of one rather drastic (and ridiculously handled) circumstance most of these maladies have been closer to molehills than mountains.

Recently one of our dingo-ate-my-baby Aussies has been stricken with migraines that have lasted up to twelve hours at a time. I consider this a “big problem.” Perhaps one that “demands medical service.” Of course, I said the same thing about the anaphylactic shock, and the Chinese just didn’t understand.

Luckily this lil’ shrimp-on-the-barbie Downunder-er has got a medical background and did a little research of her own. She analyzed her lifestyle, eliminated external factors, and the symptoms cleared up. Slowly, one by one, she reintroduced certain elements only to find the clear culprit: MSG. (PS: I've been watching a lot of "House" lately.)

Cross referencing the reported (but not proven) symptoms of an MSG allergy and suddenly we found the answer to almost every health problem every foreigner has experienced since I got here. Intriguing. Diagnosis (prognosis? I forget which is which) in hand, we started approaching the school cook in a hope to end the tyrannical use of MSG in her cooking.

I think we’d sooner get blood from a stone.

Every Chinese I discuss this problem with lacks the ability to understand what I’m trying to say. Yes, some people think MSG causes cancer. Yes, some people think that MSG deteriorates eyesight. Yes, MSG can cause rashes, shock, diarrhea, the whole gambit. (There is medical evidence behind all of this.) And, the hardest for them to comprehend, some people do not like the taste of MSG.

In the end, I’m attributing this to the binary thinking of the average Chinese. Food is food, yes, but “good” food must be Chinese, and it must be loaded with MSG. Otherwise it does not fit the rigid definition of “good” food. A filet mignon topped with crumbling bleu cheese cannot be good. Steamed lobster dunked in melted butter cannot be good. Hell, a burrito can’t even be good! Why? Because its not Chinese! Its not loaded in MSG! (Crazed, pushed-too-far laughter emanates across the internet from deranged author to hapless reader.)

Me? Well, MSG will, at times, send my stomach sprinting south for the border, but that has been the worst so far. Hope lies on the horizon, and the horizon lies about a 20 or 25 minute walk away at a fairy land I like to call “McDonalds.” There I sup upon the ambrosia that is their new sandwich: three beef patties on a sub roll with some orange dressing and a lot of cheese. On the way home I can pick up some donuts. Bliss. Hail Donut!


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