Doors that don’t open and preservatives in food

At my work meetup in Madrid this past week I embarrassed myself one night just before dinner. There were eleven of us and we arrived at the restaurant at 8:29pm. The restaurant opened at 8:30pm and when I tried to open the door it was locked. We figured they would open it at any moment and waited outside. Minutes went by and other people joined our queue at the front of the restaurant waiting to go in. After about 10 minutes we started to get worried and Ceri asked me whether I’d tried pushing the door as well as pulling it. I was a bit indignant – as if I wouldn’t have tried that already? I replied, “Of course!” and then demonstrated this to her : I pushed and pulled the door with force and it opened. Evidently it had been unlocked the whole time. Either that or there was a time freeze during which aliens appeared and unlocked the door before vanishing into space.

When we visited the three wineries I was very irritating and asked each of them whether they put sulphur dioxide (a preservative) in their wines. All three wineries did and so I didn’t taste any of the half-dozen or so wines we were presented with except for two – one of which was 30 years old and I wanted to try it. I drank less than half a glass all day but still got a headache. The wineries all told me they have to put sulphur dioxide in the wines or they turn to vinegar. If that’s the case then how do all these other wine producers manage to produce wines without it?

Sulphur dioxide is a known allergen; however there’s no evidence that it causes headaches. I think part of the problem is that alcohol often causes headaches and it’s hard to isolate the cause and identify sulphur dioxide as the source of the problem. Correlation is not causation. But since this happens to me when I eat other foods that contain preservatives I prefer just to avoid them. Headaches are awful and I would prefer to avoid them if I can.

The best dietary advice I ever heard came from an anthropologist – Christina Warinna and this is what I try to live by:

Eat wholefoods, eat fresh foods, eat lots of species.

She talks a little bit about preservatives in her TED talk. She says preservatives all work in the same way: by inhibiting bacterial growth. What’s wrong with this? She says, “We have to keep in mind that our gastrointestinal system is also full of bacteria: good bacteria that do many good things for you. They digest your food, they regulate your immune system, they promote mucosal function. If you’re eating foods full of preservatives how does that affect your micro-biome, your good bacteria within you? The answer is we really don’t know and it’s something we’re only starting to investigate.”