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I Can't Believe It's MSG! & MSG Recipe Cards

Shellie Zhang
Shellie Zhang
10 × 12.5 × 1 cm
Every Day Objects, Cooking, Card
“As sardonic as MSG is salty, these recipe cards and spice packages unearth the hidden history of this controversial seasoning and counterplay the racist assumptions behind MSG. Edition of 100.”

Set of 2 recipe cards, MSG Recipe Card library description (open edition), and numbered MSG packet (numbered edition of 100).

From the 1930s to late 1960s, MSG was commonly used in North America, often marketed under the brand “Accent” and advised to be used as another seasoning in addition to salt and pepper. As more paranoia came to surround MSG, attitudes shifted, assigning the negative connotations of MSG solely on Chinese cuisine. To this day, it is frequently only Chinese and East-Asian restaurants who must assure customers that they do not use the seasoning and that their business is safe.

The MSG Recipe Card Library features a small sample of recipes published in the Toronto Star between 1935 and 1976 that call for some form of MSG. The library resurrects the forgotten Western dishes that embraced MSG to shed light on the motivations behind its demonization and othering.

Stylistically similar to bags used for distributing drugs, I Can’t Believe It’s MSG addresses the contraband nature of the enhancer, combining humour with the visual language of advertising. – Shellie Zhang


Every. Day. Objects. catalog copy written by Lena Suksi + Fan Wu. Photos by Yuula Benivolski.

  1. Zhang - I Can’t Believe It’s MSG!
  2. Zhang - I Can’t Believe It’s MSG!

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