Subjectivity

I had an interesting conversation today in relation to caffeine,and techniques to eliminate it from one’s diet. I offered up myopinion, which was that the elimination of caffeine should be donegradually – this is true for most lifestyle changes – tominimize the negatives (e.g. headaches) and to maximize theprobability that it will be sustainable. For instance in my case Icut caffeine by alternating “real” with swiss-water decaf inincreasing ratios, even mixing up the blends, and by mandating afull cup of water between cups of coffee. It worked wonderfully,and in a short while I was off the dastardly white stuff.

What was more interesting than the coffee conversation, though,was the replies that came regarding my brief background story whereI explained why I cut caffeine: I had mentioned that I waspreparing for a trip to Italy for two weeks, and hearing about theextremely strong coffee there, and the general lack ofavailability compared to here, I wanted to avoid both stomach upsetand spending half the trip searching for outlets of AnthonyHortinos. So I decided to eliminate coffee before leaving. Itworked perfectly. Naturally this outraged some people: “Butisn’t coffee in Italy the best coffee in theworld?

Ignoring the entirely practical reasons why I didn’t want to docoffee in Italy (and anyone who claims that convenience coffee isas widely available in Italy has never been here in SouthernOntario), the absolutism about such a subjective point iswhat strikes me as ridiculous: While sometimes a region hasconstituent accessibility that gives them an advantage orspecialty (e.g. seafood is generally better on the East Coastwhere it’s fresh from the ocean…unless it was on a long runtrawler that is), often it is subjective regionalpreferences that people confuse with superiority orinferiority.

For instance a common mantra here in Canada is that our beer is”better” than in the US, because there the generalAmerican consumer prefers a lighter blend than Canadians do.We get misled into thinking that we have some sort of materialadvantage in beer making, confusing subjective choices withabsolute measures. And of course the Brits think their beer is”better” still, because they prefer a thicker beer. It’s all soinane.