Archives for: February 2005, 03
My funniest and most frustrating MSG moments have been in restaurants.
There was the time we were on vacation in Maryland and our waiter didn't know what MSG was. He went to get the manager. The manager charged up to the table and said, "Who can't have MSG." We pointed at our son. The manager smiled and said, "My mom can't have MSG. If she gets it she can't breathe and we have to rush her to the hospital. You can eat anything you want in my restaurant - there's no MSG here."
Another time on vacation we had waited 20 minutes for a table. A slouchy teenager came to take our order. We asked about MSG. He didn't know what it was. We asked to speak to the manager. He said he was the manager. We sighed and walked out.
Once we explained the problem to a restaurant manager who was not familiar with MSG. He took me back in the kitchen and let me read labels to make sure that what we were ordering was MSG free.
Then there was the waiter who said, "It's in everything we serve." I knew that was impossible. He insisted that sodium was in everything. Clearly he was only hearing part of "monosodium glutamate," but we could not communicate.
Appleby's is wonderfully oriented to food sensitive people. Ask their wait staff about any menu item. They go to a computer and print out a list of ingredients.
We ate lunch at a restaurant I had thoroughly checked. That afternoon our son was sick. I called the manager, "OK what have you changed on your menu?" He insisted they had changed nothing. He said tell me everything your son ate. I began to list what he had ordered including the condiment bar where he added lettuce, tomato and cheese sauce. The manager stopped me - they had a new brand of cheese sauce and sure enough, MSG was in the ingredients.
As I said yesterday we have been dealing with this problem for 12 years. When we started only a few waiters were informed about MSG. Today, almost all of the chain restaurants train their wait staff about food sensitivities. Very rarely do we find a manager who does not know what foods contain MSG. We haven't left a restaurant because of MSG in years. They are all eager to please.
Many restaurants are eliminating MSG from their food. There are two Chinese restaurants where we live that are now MSG free. I was nervous at first, but our son has ordered many things and has never had a twinge of headache. Red Lobster used to use MSG in their seafood seasoning. They had enough customer complaints that they changed to a new recipe that is MSG free.
When I look at the webb site that is mentioned in the MSG thread on the Forum. I find a lot of good information. Most useful is a list of other food additives that contain MSG-like chemicals. The problem I have with the webb site is its conspiracy-like attitude. They seem to believe that food manufacturers and restaurants are out to trick you and hurt you on purpose.
In my experience, 12 years ago there was a lot of ignorance about MSG, but manufacturers and stores and restaurants tried to be helpful. Today people in the food industry are much better informed and many are eliminating MSG altogether.
When my son was a senior, our family visited several college campuses. One of my concerns was MSG in the dining hall. At two major universities, the servers had no clue about MSG. The managers however were well informed. They said, "Just have your son come see us when he comes into the dining room, and we will tell him what he can't have that day." My son pictured the embarrassment of going into the dining hall with new friends and having to check in with a food services manager before he could get his food. He was not happy.
We visited Texas Tech for a big recruiting event. We really liked what we saw that morning in our meetings. At lunchtime, the dining hall was crowded, so I sat down at a table while my husband and son went to get food. A few minutes later our son was back grinning from ear to ear. "Come and see this," he said. On the serving line the ingredients were posted above each food item. I wouldn't say that he chose the location for his higher education, because of the food, but God used that little incident to reconfirm that this university was indeed a good match.