Despite not having trained for the past three months, my gym insists on feeding me. I’ve become the slightly chubby girl that feasts then occasionally hangs around watching soap operas with the seniors. I never thought I’d be happy living this way, but I’m increasing my language skills, I’m learning more about the culture and quite honestly, I just like the ladies. During one of these hang out sessions, I was complaining about how I tried to bring some friends from NYC to an Isaan restaurant in Siam Square. I’ve been there a number of times and always request that they don’t spill MSG in the food. I did so again on this occasion and the server informed me that it was impossible to not put MSG in the food. If I wanted to eat, I could have som tam (papaya salad), otherwise, I was out of luck. I was confused by this statement and politely explained how I had eaten there before and wasn’t served MSG. She said it was impossible.
I was relaying this story to one of the neighbourhood ladies, most notably, the woman who cooks the food at the gym, when she told me that I indeed can eat MSG, I only get sick if I eat a lot of it…
She repeated herself. She said something to the effect of ‘Lolah (because few Thais know me here as Laura), you can eat it. Honestly, you only get sick if there is a lot in it.”
Some background info…how can I determine if I’ve eaten MSG? Generally, the first indication is that there is swelling in my left eye, then heat in my blood, followed by waves through my veins. Sometimes I see pixels; sometimes it’s the equivalent of hitting a car wash when some kid squeegees the windshield, except the windshield has been replaced by my eyeballs. Basically my vision is clear, there’s a wipe of weirdness, then clear again. By the time this hits, should I have not noticed my left eye swelling, there’s a really good shot it has magnified to a varying degree of abnormality. Sometimes a little bit, sometimes enough to make me look equally ten years older and senile in about fifteen minutes. Then the following morning….ah, that precious time of day when I realize, I can’t fit into most of my clothing. I’m bloated, exhausted and generally in a nasty mood. This is rarely subdued by the guys at the gym when upon seeing me, ask why I’m so fat.
Living in Thailand with this allergy has been a challenge. I can explain to whomever is either serving or cooking my food that I have this allergy. I can list off the additives/flavour enhancers that contain it (ie. Rotdee), and I can further explain that I can’t eat it because it will make me very very sick. Despite knowing that they understand me, I will still occasionally be poisoned. There are a number of reasons I suspect this may occur – they forget, they don’t care, they lie and say it’s not in the food, they think it won’t be flavourful unless they add what they think is a tiny bit of it….
When I was in Samui I was getting hit with this stuff so much, that all I wanted to eat was fruit and nuts from 7 Eleven (as I got hit with MSG by nuts I ate on the beach). My Thai friends would try to help me, and I’d still suffer. They would too because, aside from all the swearing I’d subject them to, I was walking around with this sort of post MSG shock. Afraid to eat and paranoid that every food vendor in Samui was out to get me. I remember one situation where one of my Thai friends had a long conversation with the cook. It went something like this
Hero: Don’t put in MSG or Rotdee. She’s allergic to it and can’t eat it. It makes her very sick.
Repeat this sequence approximately three times.
When he repeated it for what I believe was the fourth time, the cook answered, while squeezing her fingers together:
Well just a little bit..it won’t taste good without it.
He finally told her that I would die if I ate it. We were both paranoid eating dinner that night.
You want to know who I’ve become in a restaurant? I’m that chick who obsessively touches her left eye during meals. If I feel swelling, I hit the antihistamines; try to control my bitching and head somewhere to pick this up….
Ya-Hom Powder by Five Pagodas Co., Ltd.
Currently I’m sitting here with a half litre of water filled with about a tablespoon of it. Why? Because I ate at the gym tonight and was mildly poisoned. The ladies picked up some food in Chinatown and I didn’t ask if there was MSG in it. Even if I did, these good natured and wonderful women would probably have assumed there was only a little bit in it – I know they don’t want to poison me, I really believe they like me, but the cook’s recent comment makes me wonder if I’ve been sort of an experiment in the ‘what she doesn’t know won’t kill her’ vein…? It would explain some of the eye swelling I’ve had to deal with that I couldn’t seem to figure out…
You can pick up Ya-Hom Powder at most pharmacies, grocery stores, and some 7-Elevens. It’s as common as Tylenol is in North America and a small bottle, which will last for numerous occasions costs twelve baht. It honestly is the best stuff I have ever used.
More about Laura
I’m a Canadian who decided to quit my job, sell most of what I own, pack a suitcase, and skip continents to pursue a martial art I’m not particularly efficient in. A minimalist. A modern nomad. A kid who just likes having a good time.
My attraction to muay thai is that it’s an art with no wasted motion. It has been the greatest vehicle for my continual education. It’s incredibly challenging to me – both the physical and the mental game. The latter probably more so than the former.
Currently I’m in Bangkok training muay thai fulltime. The plan is to be here for a few years, but realistically, I have no idea where this path is leading, or what the timeline is. I like change and pushing my comfort zone. A lot. Nevertheless, muay thai will be the constant among the variables.
Be prepared for updates, rambling, video content and anything I’ve learned that I think may of use to you.
This hasn’t been easy, but so far, its been a pretty sick ride.
My website http://www.milkblitzstreetbomb.com/