When my aunt was diagnosed with – and recovered from – cancer, she started preaching the evils of vetsin. Part of the “healthy living” message she shared to us was that monosodium glutamate is carcinogenic, that it contains bad chemicals that pose a danger to our health, and too much linamnam doesn’t do the body any good. I didn’t hear her compare vetsin-laden food to asupre at dagat-dagatang apoy, but that doesn’t stop her from taking an occasional bite of shrimp tempura.
Mom, however, is an avowed fan of vetsin. The whole point in her cooking – whether it was caldereta or puto muffins stuffed with pizza topping – was that it wasn’t edible without at least half a pack of Ajinomoto sprinkled on the dish before it is served. MSG occupies an almost-revered position in the spice rack, right next to sesame oil and liquid seasoning. Dinner was never “dinner” until me and my brother raid the kitchen for more rice to finish off the viands. Yet Mom always makes a point about “dieting.”