Is MSG really that evil?

I am in love with Fuchsia Dunlop! If I didn't already have a girlfriend, I would search her out. I dream of following in her footsteps and going to Sichuan and spending a few months (or 6 months or a year) studying how to cook real, traditional Sichuan food. Her first cookbook, Land of Plenty, is one of my cookbook bibles and is the reason so much of what I cook now is Sichuan (or Sichuan influenced) food. Her newest book, Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, deals with Hunan recipes, using many of Mao's favorites, and is bound to have me start cooking Yunnan food (both can be purchased from Amazon on the right).

So that's my personal ad for her (and if you don't believe me, what about Ruhlman?). That said, she has a very interesting op-ed (found here) in the New York Times just in time for Spring Festival on MSG. Though the myths of MSG evil have long since been debunked (Slate discussed this awhile back), there are still fears in mainstream America about Chinese food and signs or menu notes that the food is "MSG-Free" are always welcome. As Dunlop notes:
Bad Chinese chefs, of course, just use MSG as a substitute for good ingredients and properly made stocks, just as bad American food companies cook up snack foods made from fat and carbohydrates laced with salt and sugar. But top Chinese chefs also use it, to refine and elevate flavors.
The reality is that, properly used, MSG can actually be a good thing. So, as Dunlop concludes, as you go out and sample Chinese food, keep an open mind about the usage of MSG!

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