You may have heard that all of us with a human tongue can distinguish five basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. The last of these, umami, was discovered at the turn of the 20th century by a Japanese chemist, Kikunea Ikeda argued that this flavor was distinct from the four already recognized and accepted flavors (sweet, sour, bitter, salty). Scientists debated for several years whether humans had specific taste receptors for umami, and finally it was confirmed in the mid-1980s.

Ikeda identified this full, meaty and brothy flavor coming from Kombu, a seaweed that the Japanese often use in soups. He also identified that the natural compound glutamate salt is responsible for this flavor. Shortly after his discovery, the Japanese company, Ajinomoto began to make and export monosodium glutamate (MSG) chemically derived from wheat gluten (McKee, 2007).


Chicken bone broth. Photo: Kathy McNeely

Today, people who know that they react poorly to eating gluten avoid bouillon cubes and broth because wheat gluten is often an ingredient from which MSG is made. Others avoid it because they suffer from “Chinese restaurant syndrome;” and experience sensations of burning, pressure, and chest pain after beginning a Chinese meal with MSG-laden soup (McGee, 2007). Scribner. In addition to the health reasons for avoiding MSG, consumers today have lost a flavor-packed nutritional treasure by embracing quick and easy broths and soups. In his book, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, Harold McKee writes: “The most unfortunate aspect of the MSG saga is how it has been exploited to provide a cheap, one-dimensional substitute for real and remarkable foods.”

Not only is MSG a health hazard for people with MSG sensitivities; it also represents a short-cut around a time-tested method of cooking good, nutritious food. Lost are the ingredients of a fabulous bone broth: the gelatin, amino acids and minerals that are released when bones are rolled on a simmer for several hours, as well as the minerals and phytochemicals the animal ingested by eating grass or other vegetation. All these elements that served to protect and support the health of the animal are passed on to the person when s/he ingests home-made bone broth. Try getting that out of a can, carton or bouillon cube!

Interested in learning more? Join us on Thursday, Feburary 19 at 7pm

Fallon Morell, S. (2014). Nourishing broth: An old-fashioned remedy for the modern world (p. 9). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Fallon Morell, S. (2000). Broth is beautiful. The Weston Price Foundation. Retrieved January 25, 2015 from:

McGee, H. (2007). On food and cooking: The science and lore of the kitchen. Scribner. Kindle Edition. (Kindle Locations 3635-3641).

Nourished Kitchen blog (2014). Traditional foods 101: Bone broth, broth & stocks. Retrieved January 25, 2015 from:

Wikipedia (2015). Umami. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; Wikipedia®; Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Retrieved January 26, 2015