Microbiologist develop some strange habits when it comes to food.
Some take a fatalistic approach. They reason that microbes are everywhere, we're going to die anyway, we might as well eat dirt and make antibodies. You know these people. They quote things like the "10 second rule" when food drops on the floor, tell you we're all getting asthma because we're too obsessed with cleanliness, and let their dogs wash their dishes.
With a few possible exceptions, I'm in the other camp.
I'm the one who freaks out if the cover is left off the salad dressing during dinner. I brush my teeth without setting down the cap. I never eat potato salad. And I'm always the first to notice the little green spots of mold growing on our bread. Yes, my husband gets annoyed when he sees me staring suspiciously at various items of food, but I practice constant vigilance. We must be vigilant, mustn't we?
The things that I learned about food made one of the rituals of going to grad school in Seattle really scary. It wasn't Ivar's Indian salmon house, it was eating sushi. Our frequent department seminars on salmon poisoning didn't help.
Salmon poisoning? Isn't that caused by eating raw salmon? Isn't the best sushi made with raw salmon?
I managed to conquer the fear by starting slowly. Sushi rolls with cucumber were easy, and eventually they led to the harder stuff, like unidentified eggs, octopus and yes, raw salmon.
But now Carl Zimmer has ruined for me. It may be years before I can choke down lox again.
Thanks Mr. Zimmer.