Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Art of Mastication

For starters – get your mind out of the gutter.  What kind of establishment do you think The Spear is running here?

Of course The Spear is referring to the thrice-daily (and maybe more frequently if you’ve got the stamina) task of ‘chewing’.  You see, The Spear has been having a bit of a bad run at it lately, and it has led to some interesting results.

Several days ago The Spear gave himself a bit of a nip on the inner lip while eating what he considered to be at the time, a relatively safe garden salad.  Ouch, no biggie.  He moved his crosshair to the fruit salad which anxiously awaited its fate.

Over the course of the next two days, The Spear managed to bite the same spot on his lip again - three times – the ever swelling size of which ensured much larger, meatier mouthfuls.  He howled with pain; his doner kebab turned red with blood; he spent half a day with a saliva-soaked tissue hanging out of his mouth.  Oh the humanity!

So today, keen to avoid biting off the entirety of his lower lip in a feat of unintentional auto-cannibalism, he has taken to chewing at around 25% of his usual mastication rate – that is, he is chewing four times slower than usual, as if trying to soften up an extra-large mouthful of hubba-bubba (grape flavoured, naturally).  For lunch he very slowly devoured a chicken schnitzel sandwich.

What he has found is that, when hungry and with a tasty bite of food in his mouth, The Spear finds it agonisingly difficult to chew slowly.  His natural instinct, like the mouth-pit of the great desert-dwelling Sarlacc from the Return of The Jedi, is to gobble up his prize as soon as it enters his mouth (laser blasters and all). 

It’s as if his cerebral cortex, the thinking part of his brain, finds it a herculean feat to pacify his reptilian brain-stem into submission when it comes to the rate of primary digestion.  Even though he knows his toasted chicken-schnitzel sandwich tasted delicious, the mental effort involved meant he was thoroughly unable to enjoy his meal, and he left the lunch-table with a certain - but clearly misguided - antipathy towards schnitzels in general.  By the end of his sandwich he no longer felt hungry, but he did feel like punching somebody in the face.

It makes The Spear wonder just how much of his behaviour is directed by the non-thinking part of his brain, and if similar attempts to override its baser functions in other aspects of his life lead to the same sense of frustration.  Like when he does indeed wish to punch someone in the face for instance, but the rational part of his brain battles the brain-stem (or is it the mammalian part of the brain which instills rage?), ultimately making him walk away to avoid the ultimate deterrent of a romantic weekend on a bunk-bed with his old mates in the slammer.

The Spear is also struck by the possibility that the inability of one to successfully chew slowly when hungry may be a sign of someone who is more susceptible to other impulses of the stem, such as promiscuity or obesity.

Certainly there is some pleasure to be had in submitting to the inner-reptile every now and again – people ‘snap’ all the time, occasionally in spectacular fashion - but just not when you’re bordering on looking like Angelina Jolie fresh from the Botox clinic and you’re one bite away from lip sandwich.

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