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Gulp by Mary Roach
Transcript of Gulp by Mary Roach
A presentation by Angello Rennella, Juan Erquiaga, Kashleen Santiago, Amana Khan
"I want you to say, 'I thought this would be gross, but it's really interesting.'" (Page 19)
Mary Roach has a knack for approaching somewhat taboo/boring topics in an entertaining manner, and
is no different. There's a certain stigma surrounding what happens when we eat; it's pretty gross to say the least. Not only is she writing this book to entertain, but to inform the reader about the taboo on the things that don't typically cross their minds while eating, however crude it might be. She wants to end the stigma, to address the elephant in the room while "ingesting nutrients" and make it something we can talk about more openly.
"Like most carnivorous birds, the kite regurgitates a pellet of fur and feathers once it has finished with the digestible portions of its prey. This gave Reaumur an idea. He could hide in the kite's food a small tube carrying meat. The tube would keep the meat from being crushed by the gizzard, and mesh grates at either end would allow stomach solvents, if they existed, to enter and digest it. The kite's gizzard, taking the tube to be an unusually large, hard bone, would conveniently return it to day-light. If the met in the regurgitated tube was dissolved, it meant that some sort of fluid had done the work of digestion." (
Chapter 8 Page 153)
In this excerpt, Roach describes the very articulate process in which scientist, Rene Reaumur, tackles the topic of survival theory. She went into deep detail on how this particular carnivorous bird digests it's prey, helping us understand the reality of the "Man surviving inside a whale" hypothetical. The chapter basically talked about this story about how some guy got eaten by this whale and lived. To add test if this was even possible or not, Roach laid out what Reaumur did in hopes of bringing this hypothetical into the real world.
"The forestomach of a killer whale, a far smaller creature, has been measured, unstretched, at five feet by seven feet-about as big as a room in a Tokyo capsule hotel, with a similar dearth of amenities"
(Chapter 8 Page 152)
Time and time again Roach uses real word examples to convey her point. How would a reader be able to picture the 5 by 7 stomach of a killer whale? By giving an imaginable example of course.
"...the fisherman is halfway in the mouth of an indeterminate species of baleen whale. He wears a sleeveless red robe, and his hair, just starting to recede around the temples, is slicked back with seawater. One arm is outstretched in an effort to swim free. Baleen whales are strainer feeders. They close their mouth on a large gulp of ocean and use their tongue to push it forward through the vast comb of baleen, expelling the seawater and retaining small fish, krill, and anything solid.
(Chapter 8 Page 149)
Roach uses this narration to give you a little bit of back story about the topic she's about to tackle: digestion. It draws us in by giving us this crazy story about some guy being eaten alive in order to introduce the main theme of this chapter which is mainly about how we digest food, or in this case, people.
Using the same excerpt, Roach pushes this unbelievable story about being eaten alive into reality by using these humanizing descriptive phrases. It not only draws you in as a reader, it helps you understand what's going on by putting yourself in their shoes.
"He wears a sleeveless red robe, and his hair, just starting to recede around the temples, is slicked back with seawater."
(Chapter 8 Page 149)
"When the stomach stretches past a certain point-- to accommodate a holiday diner or chugged beer or the efforts of Swedish medical personnel-- stretch receptors in the stomach wall cue the brain. The brain, in turn, issues a statement that you are full and it's time to stop. It will also, around the same time, undertake a transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxation, or TLESR, or burp. The sphincter at the top of the stomach briefly relaxes, vesting gas and restoring a measure of safety and relief."
(Chapter 10 Page 186)
Here Roach bluntly describes the process of a stomach expanding. Tagging along was her famous humor that keeps the readers wanting more. Her reminding the reader that this is what happens during a "holiday dinner" or when you chug a beer makes them realize that this is a common occurrence, something part of our life. Her goal with this was to inform the audience on what's happening inside your body while also illustrating that it's a normal, healthy even, thing.
"The woman wheeled into the emergency room of the Royal Liverpool Hospital ... turned out to be carrying a meal."
"Two pounds of kidneys, one and a third pounds of liver, a half pound of steak, two eggs, a pound of cheese, a half pound of mushroom two pounds of carrots, a head of cauliflower, two large slices of bread, two pounds each of plums and grapes, and two glasses of milk. Nineteen pounds of food."
(Chapter 10 Page 189-190)
This is basically Roach telling you what not to do. This woman who ate nineteen pounds of food may have been able to carry a larger amount of food than the average person but like Roach said the stomach was unable to stretch anymore and it eventually ruptured. Her long list successfully made the reader visualize just how much food that woman ate, and if that wasn't enough for you she adds it all up and you realize that the woman ate an amount of food roughly the size of a 7 month old baby. Although this example seemed ridiculous is served as an example of just how far the body can go.
"On April 22, 1981, a fifty-two-year-old carriage driver in the city of Stockholm swallowed the contents of a bottle of prescription opium pills. Mr. L., as he became known was found by his landlord and taken to the hospital, where the staff got busy with the tools of an overdose... The technique is known today as pumping the stomach, but in the case report it was referred to as gastric rinsing. The term gives a deceptive air of daintiness to the proceedings,... Hardly. The patient was slumped in a chair, thinly attached to his wits, while the medics loaded his stomach, multiple times in fast succession. With each filing, the organ appeared to hold more, which should have been a clue. Mr. L. had sprung a leak."
(Chapter 10 Page 185)
"More recently, a pair of Miami-Dade County medical examiners reported the case of a thirty-one-year-old bulimic psychologist found seminude and fully dead on her kitchen floor, her abdomen greatly distended by two-plus gallons of poorly chewed hot dogs, broccoli, and breakfast cereal. The ME's found the body slumped against a cabinet, 'surrounded by an abundance of various foodstuffs, broken soft drink bottles, a can opener and an empty grocery bag" and-- 'the coup de grace'-- a partially empty box of baking soda, the poor man's Alka-Seltzer."
(Chapter 10 Page 188)
(Chapter 1 Page 25)
"Poking around in the sensory-science journals, I have seen flavor lexicons for mutton, strawberry yogurt, chicken nuggets, ripening anchovies, almonds, beef, chocolate ice cream, pond-raised catfish, aged Cheddar cheese, rice, apples, rye bread, and 'warmed-over flavor.'" (Chapter 1 Page 35)
Roach's nose is put up to the test at an oil tasting test. She writes "Our final challenge is a ranking test: five olive oils of differing degrees of bitterness. This proves a challenge for me, as I would not have described any of them as bitter. All around me, people make sounds of ill-mannered soup eaters...I'm doing a mnyeh-mnyeh-mnyeh Bugs Bunny sound, but it's not helping..."
(Chapter 1 Page 34)
Roach's friend describes her drink-"'It smells like a campfire to me. Smokey, like wood, charred wood. Like a cedar chest, like a cigar, tobacco, dark things, smoking jackets.' She sips from the glass. 'Now I'm getting the chocolate in my mouth. Caramel, coca nibs...'"
(Chapter 1 Page 26)
"All the while, his belly continued to swell. In a photograph taken shortly before he died. he stands in a doctor's wood-floor examining room, naked except for hospital slippers, baggy white socks, and a few days' growth of a beard... Imagine the biggest portebelly, the longest overdue triplets, on a meager frame of knobby limbs. The bastard offspring of Humpty Dumpty and Olive Oyl"
(Chapter 16 page # 291)
"It surprises me that Presley's condition didn't dampen his enthusiasm for food. He so appreciated Edna Nichopoloulos's Greek hamburgers that he gave ehr a ring he'd commisioned, with each of the recipe's ingredients represented by a different-color diamond. "Green for parsley," says Nichopoulos when I ask about it "white for the onion, brown is the hamburger, and yella..." Some words are born for the Memphis accent. Yellow is one."
(Chapter 16 page #301)
"Elvis Presley's colon is not on display in a glass case, but you can get a good sense of what it looked like by reading the autopsy section of The Death of Elvis. As Florendo cut, he found that this megacolon was jam-packed from the base of the desending colon all the way up and halfway across the transverse colon. ...The impaction has the consistancy of clay and seemed to defy Florendo's efforts with the scissors to cut it out."
(Chapter 16 page #301)
(Chapter 16 Page 290)
Much like her other chapters, Roach introduces a topic with a wild story that will leave you wondering what exactly she's going to talk about until the very end. The story of Mr. L. puts smack in the middle of a "E.R. Nightmares" scene. She also touches on the face that the term "gastric rinsing" doesn't do the violent nature of this procedure justice. Her blunt word choice gives the story a fast and serious mood but of course at the end you're left with the mysterious "Mr. L. had sprung a leak." Which is what finally leads into the topic of "The science of eating yourself to death"
Once again Roach is able to enthrall the reader by the use of description. Her description of the psychologist as "seminude and fuly dead" adds a sense of dark humor to the story as well. A perfect image of the scene is painted in the readers mind and it helps us understand the desperate state the psychologist was in when she ate all that food.
The process that Roach is describing in this excerpt is the "art of smelling" (pg 21). The intricate process of smelling is something not many people think about on a daily basis. Roach began explaining the various parts of the smelling procedures to hook the reader by showing them just how complicated and vital smelling is and how much of a role it plays in something we do every day; eating.
This kind of example used by Roach is listing. The effect that this has on the reader is that it gives the reader an understanding of just how much the nose has to do when we eat. It emphasizes the work load. The reader can imagine the nose working hard to pick up all these different sorts of smells from all these different objects.
This narration helps the reader grasp the sensitivity of the olfactory nerves inside all of us. If there are experts who can pick out what oils were "rancid" and "served in cups washed with chlorinated water" using their nose and taste buds but Roach couldn't, then the job and nose of those experts must certainly be extraordinary (page 36).
Her description adds yet another effect to the chapter. Here, the reader is able to visualize the many smells that Roach's professional sensory forensics friend is able to detect. While reader the excerpt, I could almost smell the exact smells she was describing. The use of adjectives and specific word choice made the smells bounce off the page and into my nose.
Mary Roach explains just what happens during the digestion process that makes a person feel the need to... well defecate. She lays out the process in extensive detail so her audience can easily picture what is she is verbally illistrating for them. In a way, she is making learning about why we poop fun and enjoyable to read.
By using the example of Elvis Presley, Roach is captivating her readers to making them want to more about the threats of a megacolon. Very rarely do we see people go out of their way to read about the functions of the inner organs. Even if they begin to read about it, they will doubtfully continue. By adding this example, it gives the readers a reason to want to continue to read.
This paragraph is a perfect example of Mary Roach's style of writing. She heavily incorporates humor to keep her readers attention. This allows her to keep them captivated for long enough to get her point across.
Here we see Roach going in depth while describing the ring Presley made for his mother. We notice this extensive style of description throughout the entire book. The way she breaks down every detail to her audience so they have a clear picture of just what is being said. This gives the reader a mental picture of what she is talking about making it more of an enjoyable read.
"As you chew food or hold wine in the warmth of your mouth, aromatic gases are set free. As you exhale, these "volatiles" waft up through the posterior nares-the internal nostrils at the back of the mouth-and connect with olfactory receptors in the upper reaches of the nasal cavity."
"What happened here? Hirschsrung's disease. As J. W.'s embryonic self was laying down nerves along the length of the colon, the process petered out. The final stretch was left without. As a result, peristalsis- the wave of contraction and dilation that moves things through the gut- stops right there. Digestion piles up until the pressure builds to a point where it shoves things through. The shove might happen every few hours, or it might take weeks. Just behind the dead zone, the colon becomes outstretched and damaged- a sloppy, passive, swollen thing. The mega colon may eventually take up so much room that it begins to bully the other organs."