Bland Recipe? Add E-621

A late evening encounter with a synthesized Audi crossover got our Sheffield operative thinking about additives. 

ebay.com

Mono Sodium Glutamate, or MSG was invented back in 1908 by a Japanese chemist named Kikunae Ikeda who was searching for a food additive he named umami which is given as “neither sweet, nor salty, bitter or sour” and was marketed by the fledgling Suzuki company, though under the brand name Aji-no-moto, itself a part of Suzuki pharmaceuticals. Its European name is E-621. Do Suzuki make a car with that code name in Japan?

In the halcyon pre-Covid past, a night out at a local Latin American restaurant, where the tapas was tasty, the cigars and rum both plentiful and expensive (neither sampled) and the beats both seductive and loud, led to a rather unexpected (and frustrating) conversation regarding car design with my better half. Well kind of. The rum and ‘gars must await another time.

My wife has never particularly liked our Octavia. She considers it too large, too ugly and too difficult to drive and park. As we left the restaurant and approached our waiting Skoda, she looked over at the adjacent vehicle and exclaimed, “Oh, that’s a nice looking car, is it four wheel drive?” The car in question being a grey Audi Q2. I certainly do not expect my other half to be close to one tenth as interested in the car as we are here in DTW-Land, so I winced, but held my peace.

Driving home, the conversation gravitated to that Audi and those cars of a slightly lofty stance. Despite my obvious (and reasoned) arguments against her choice, her stance was a dogged, “well I like it.” Suddenly, recalling an element of the Q2 that must have inspired her, she added, “That silver bit at the back, that looked good,” referring to the chunky, sculptured polystyrene effect at the C pillar that the Q2 offers as style.

Cork, not Sheffield, but you get the idea? Audi Q2. Image DTW

Just then a Jeep Renegade drew alongside us. “Is that one any better,” I inquired? She paused a moment. “I like the rear lights.” My response took the form of an imperceptible roll of the eyes. It was after all, neither the time nor place for a style argument.

On returning home, with but a modicum of curiosity, the Q2 was researched for all of fifteen minutes. It proved poor reading and almost spoilt my cuppa. My first port of call being the Autotrader website where in a ten mile radius of home, twenty versions were available in a surprisingly large amount of colours, tiny mileages and one would guess, just exiting PCP World. From just shy of £18,000 upwards to higher spec models approaching thirty large. Another snort of derision.

The Audi website came next which led me to believe that these days anything can be made believable by hype. “The Audi Q2 takes the stage – an urban type with corners and edges. Whether for adventures off the beaten track or everyday life in the big city – the Audi Q2 is an all-rounder. Its progressive design and modern connectivity features make it ready for a new kind of mobility. The interior offers expressive colours for seat covers and decorative trims, leaving plenty of room for individual design.

There are six engines available, three petrol, three using Satan’s fuel but only four variants have four wheel drive. Thus, should you see a Q2 attempting a gravel driveway or other such terrifying surfaces, odds on that its front wheels are providing the traction.

(c) autovia-media

Wishing to dig no deeper, for this car does nothing for me whatsoever, my thoughts turned to Audi’s description, above. Smacking of the saccharine, the chassis I’m guessing being some form of MQB leads to a car that has added additives – it’s an A3 with mono sodium glutamate by the kilo. And like most artificial flavour-enhancers, it’s not necessary.

Whilst arguments continue over MSG’s properties and potential risks to health, the car manufacturers really do not need to pump out any more umami’s. The industry already contains far too many synthetics for us to stew upon, bake unevenly and chew over again and again – before spitting out, complaining of the odd aftertaste. A dash of rum, anyone? Or a Churchill cigar, then? Only £36.50 each…

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

14 thoughts on “Bland Recipe? Add E-621”

  1. a world without SUV would be a better world. small story, at the stadium one person stands up, sees better, they all get up then, result, the view is the same as before but they all stand up instead of sitting down.

    1. And that, sir, is the plain truth of it. I said as much a quarter century ago.

      Now try to persuade the distaff side of the equation. You will fail.

    2. Yes this is a great analogy.

      I also have a better half who prefers a higher seating position. Why? Because they feel safer being up at the same height as other drivers, rather than being lower. This wasn’t an issue even a decade ago, when SUVs were still the outliers rather than the norm, and MPVs simply didn’t carry any sense of intimidation.

    3. There’s a big paradox in this argumentation.
      People tell you they feel safer when they sit higher up and at the same time they drive around corners at snail’s pace for fear the car might topple over (the same could bre observed in the MPV era).
      An unnecessarily high seating position instils an inherently unsafe feel because you are moving around more when the car’s body starts to roll in corners.

      For the supposed comfort in getting in and out of cars on stilts: my late father had no problems with getting in and out of the parental Peugeot at an age of 98.

  2. Good morning Andrew. “…an urban type with corners and edges.” Hmm, it’s the corners and edges that are the problem. There’s a grey Q2 I see regularly parked in town and that ‘hexagon’ waistline treatment is horribly contrived. The rear quarter panel can be improved by specifying the black gloss option that merges it into the DLO:

    It’s still not a car I could buy.

  3. In defense of these cars they are “heads and shoulders” above traditional designs for personal access, really nice to enter and depart from a standing position. Ergonomically it’s logical and I certainly won’t be returning to a low vehicle for the sake of tradition.

    1. I have to agree, they guarantee easier access but I was the owner of a portentous opel agila ( Japanese key car) inside you entered very well.

  4. The Audi Q2, never seen one. Audi obviously keeps the good stuff in Europe, but the Q3 is available for lease for a mere C$358 per month plus VAT. Or in other words, almost free if one still has a job. And there’s the rub – the salon operators are idle at home.

    I prefer my MSG from tomatoes, to which I am strangely addicted. In the winter months when the fake red but actually green spheres are all one can get, fresh from their Mexican fields and train ride, I tend to purchase passata, the sun of Italy. Never had a better tomato than an Italian one. Luxury. I am of course willing to hear other opinions, as my tomato search on the hoof has hardly been worldwide.

    1. The best loved Italian tomato variety is ‘San Marzano’. They’re mostly too soft for salads but unbeatable for pasta sauces.
      Their quality is excellent also when canned as long as you watch for the harvest date on the bottom of the can which should be between 220 and 250 (day in year)

    2. When in Italy, don’t forget to seek for the Marinda tomato variety. Hard to find off season (it is sold only between January and Mary), expensive (never below 4 euros per kilo) but delicious.

      Dave: thanks for the 220/250 rule. Will check it from now on.

  5. There’s a facelifted version coming late this year or next year. It is said to have hybrid technology to improve economy and a tweaked front and rear and interior. Not very exciting, I’m afraid.

  6. Hi Andrew,

    I don’t mind the Q2, even though I found it unappealing at first, on pictures.

    I think it looks better in real life. The coulour combination between the C-pillar and the rest of the car seems to play an important role in how attractive it looks.
    I have in mind a blue version with the C-pillar in silver and it looks awful in my opinion but other colour combinations are much better I think.

    It has a chunky, solid appearance, in part due to the thick C-pillar and block-like proportions I guess, that might appeal to some buyers.

    I read once, I can’t remember where and I’am not sure if it was true, that the Q2 was originally drawn as a VW but for some reason Audi inherited it and I thought the Polo-like tail lights of the Q2 could be a remnant of the original VW.

  7. Can’t believe I would be flexing my neuroscience credentials on DTW, but here we are. Just got to clarify that MSG / 621 is a completely natural molecule, one of the amino acids in most proteins. It wasn’t “invented” by Ikeda, he went in search of the component of konbu kelp that made everything taste good when it was simmered in broth. Eventually he found it, and it turns out to be the same component in most flavour-enhancing foods in cultures across the world. Anchovies, Marmite, Parmigiano Reggiano, Thai shrimp paste, fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce – all are made to recipes which maximise their MSG content, because it tastes great. It tastes great because it’s the signature of high protein foods, that’s why we can taste it at all. Glutamate is the number one neurotransmitter – i.e. our brains literally run on MSG – and the superstition that it’s harmful derives from one anecdote written to the letters column of a medical journal 45 years ago. No good-quality evidence has ever been found to back it up. There was one study which found it was harmful if you injected a large quantity … directly into the brain of a rat. So as long as you can get by without injecting Marmite into your brain, you have nothing to fear from MSG.
    Rant over … it’s just that when I see a statement like “arguments continue over MSG’s properties and potential risks to health” it needs to be put right. There’s enough misinformation in the world. I’ll stop now.

  8. Another great article and observation Andrew. I don’t know why they have such a thick c-pillar, will make it dark inside and do nothing for rear visibility. You can’t always rely on parking sensors or cameras.

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