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Wine & the Matrix

When I lived in France, doing research on the brain, I ate in the neurological hospital every afternoon. When you eat in the neurological hospital, with all its doctors, here's what you do.

You start by getting your plastic tray, on which you build an amazing lunch: your little crunchy half-baguette, maybe a little fresh fish in a wine sauce, some herbed veggies, a little spiced cous cous perhaps, a piece of cheese or fruit, two empty glasses, and you're done! You're free and clear. You're on the outside.

Once you're out there, you have a few options for your drinks. There's water, soda, juice, and then you find a cask of red wine.

A cask.

With a tap.

I don't know how to say this differently: free refills ... on the wine ... for the doctors ... over lunch! This is enough to tip the Baptist brain right off the pier.

"Honey, we have GOT to schedule any surgeries for the morning!"

But what was interesting about all this was that I never saw anyone go back for seconds - and I was watching. I never saw anyone messy either.


The reason for this comes squarely down to culture. In their culture, wine is considered to be a food. And, if you're having FOOD for lunch, why not have wine to go with it. After all, it's a food too. From their perspective, it makes perfect common sense that you would have food with your food at lunch. Duh.

By contrast, from our American cultural perspective, we don't see wine as a food at all, but as the sum of its pharmacological properties. We see it as an intoxicant, laced with resveratrol, antioxidants, tannins, and other bioactive chemicals - all very "Acme Jr Chemistry Set". In fact, our perspective divorces food from the flavor or even the experience of eating, a myopic reduction to the lowest common molecular denominator.

That's why, from our American viewpoint, it makes absolutely zero sense whatsoever to have an intoxicant in the middle of the day. Why in the world would you drug-up on an intoxicant and then expect to go back to work. Why would an employer allow that? The very idea is insane.


What's cool about this little intercultural thought experiment is that "wine over lunch" is obviously correct AND it is obviously stupid, all at the same time. The only thing that flips the switch from smart to stupid, from right to wrong, is the cultural assumptions that we have been indoctrinated into believing.

Think about it. If your culture teaches you to assume that wine is a food, then having a glass with your lunch will make perfect sense to you. Conversely, if your culture teaches you to assume that wine is an intoxicating drug, then the very same act performed in the very same way will suddenly seem absurd.


So the next time you pick up a glass of wine, you will think you're making your own decisions about it. You will think you're being rational, when in fact our culture of health surrounds you like The Matrix. It predefines what seems to you as good, and what seems to you as bad.

The way out of this cultural Matrix of embedded associations is, first, to understand it so you have the freedom to make a different decision.

Next, become a more sensual consumer. When you have your glass of wine, focus on the experience: the aroma, the flavor, the way it marries and "loves on" the food on your palate. Let go of the sterile notion that you are consuming a bunch of inert molecules swimming in a glass.

Of course, our cultural assumptions are true in a way. Yes, everything is composed of stuff and that stuff is composed of molecules and those molecules are composed of atoms and those atoms are composed of neutrons protons and electrons. Whatever!

That little factoid is totally irrelevant to the experience of a crisp white wine on a hot summer evening! Your knowing the number of protons in your Malbec has exactly zero bearing on the way it complements your meal.

Unplug from The Matrix of our imposed cultural assumptions. Treat wine as the food it is. Don't let our imposed attitudes determine what you think and how you think it. When you do this, you end up with a focus on the sensuality of the wine, enjoying it more while consuming it in control.

Dr. Will Clower is an award winning author, media personality, CEO of Mediterranean Wellness, and the founder and director of the Mediterranean PATH.


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