…or more frequently, the misfiring insides of others. Fistulated fellows? Check. Elvis and his mega-colon? Check. Taste-testing pet food, pus, rancid oil, and/or the saliva of others? All yours and more to spare!
I like to, for the most-part, enjoy nonfiction via audio books. Frequently, I wander around the house doing whatever needs doing while playing books through a speaker. While I whole-heartedly recommend Gulp, I do NOT recommend subjecting innocent bystanders (sorry, husband!) to the dirty work within.
Not everything here is gross. And really, why do we consider the things that happen inside (and sometimes outside) of our own bodies as being inherently icky? While Roach cannot find that clear answer, she and the many researchers she interacts with along the way all make things clear that the body is amazing, and that taboo keeps us from truly appreciating the works within.
Let’s start with the outside: the most fascinating pieces of the book, in my opinion, are those that focus around the senses of smell and taste. I am a home-brewer. I call the basement “the lab”. I mostly work with beer, but I can be pursued to dabble outside of my preferred realm. Roach speaks with a “super nose”; a woman with the best job I can think of: she travels all throughout the world telling people what went wrong with their products! She can pinpoint what skunked your IPA, point out why your wine tastes like tires, and tell from one sniff when your olives were planted and why your oil is funky. She’s my hero. Alas, my sense of smell is terrible and I will never be able to possess these super powers. I’ll just have to keep being super careful with my setup and hoping that I don’t mis-taste something funky. While it’s not terribly important to be a super nose in your daily life, it is here! “It’s not so important to know the difference between bitter and sour, skunky and yeasty, tarry and burnt. “Who cares. They’re both terrible. Ew. But if you’re a brewer, it’s extremely important.”
Beer is one of my absolute favorite things. Another favorite? Shutting down talk of CHEMICALS:
A quick word about chemicals and flavors. All flavors in nature are chemicals. That’s what food is. Organic, vine-ripened, processed and unprocessed, vegetable and animal, all of it chemicals. The characteristic aroma of fresh pineapple? Ethyl 3-(methylthio)propanoate, with a supporting cast of lactones, hydrocarbons, and aldehydes. The delicate essence of just-sliced cucumber? 2E,6Z-Nonadienal. The telltale perfume of the ripe Bartlett pear? Alkyl (2E,4Z)-2,4-decadienoates.
Thanks, Mary! It’s all chemicals! We are chemicals! Water! Air!
On top of clarifying truths, she also adventures into educational territory- I learned about the possible origins of fire-breathing reptile myths! Great!
The rear (ha) of the novel is dedicated to the colon, anus, and the like, and I’ll leave it to a source or Mary to sum it up: “think of it.’ said Robert Rosenbluth, a doctor whose acquaintance i made at the start of this book. ‘no engineer could design something as multifunctional and fine tuned as an anus. to call someone an asshole is really bragging him up.”
Be careful the next time you call someone an asshole, for you may be giving them an incredible complement!