August 3, 2013


Some readers enjoyed my use of the word "bolus" 2 posts down. (A "feminist blog is committed to chewing things into a bolus of feminism....  When the evidence is flimsy, lubricate the bolus with the notion of the subtlety of the oppression. It might be swallowable.") That's not a word that would have come naturally to me if I hadn't read Mary Roach's cool book "Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal," so let me provide you with a reading:
The study of oral processing is... about the entire “oral device”: teeth, tongue, lips, cheeks, saliva, all working together toward a singular unpicturesque goal: bolus formation. The word bolus has many applications, but we are speaking of this one: a mass of chewed, saliva-moistened food particles. Food that is in— as one researcher put it, sounding like a license plate— "the swallowable state."

I don’t think the scientists are uninterested. I think they may be disgusted. This is a job where on any given day, you may find yourself documenting “intraoral bolus rolling” or shooting magnified close-ups of “retained custard” with the Wageningen University tongue-camera...

Humans, even physiologists, don’t like to think about food once they’ve begun to process it. The same chanterelle and Gorgonzola galette that had the guests swooning is, after two seconds in the mouth, an object of universal revulsion....
ADDED: From last April: Holus-bolus.