When I see the name Mary Roach, I have trouble not confusing her with Terre (pronounced Terry) Roche of the Roche Sisters.  In the ’80’s in Baton Rouge we’d sing along to “We are Maggie and Terre and Suzzy” as that song from their album “The Roches” blasted from our Vietnam-era g-normous speakers.  Our kids are still mortified about the lip-sync we encouraged them to perform to “The Death of Suzzy Roach” at a church function. Unitarians are such open-minded people! 🙂

Screen Shot 2019-08-15 at 11.26.18 AM

But today I’m more interested in Mary Roach.

Amongst Roach’s always-fascinating book titles (Stiff, Bonk, Spook) is Gulp, written in 2013 about human’s gastrointestinal tracts – or – as Roach refers to it – the alimentary canal.  An excerpt from the book published in the NYTimes talks – colorfully – about the specifics of chewing and swallowing.

Screen Shot 2019-08-21 at 7.09.39 AM

Elsewhere in her book Roach describes the (quirky? quacky?) beliefs of Horace Fletcher, aka The Great Masticator.  Fletcher, who died in 1919, preached that chewing…and chewing…and chewing was necessary for good health.  He believed that his mastication system (chewing at least 100 times before swallowing) could cure alcoholism, anemia, appendicitis, colitis, and insanity.  He also had some interesting thoughts on excrement, but we won’t go there. Look it up yourself 🙂

“Nature will castigate those who don’t masticate” is a Fletcher quote.

Screen Shot 2019-08-21 at 11.20.22 AM

Mmmmm.  How to become young at 60 sounds like a must-read to me…though it’s post-facto.

Even if Fletcher’s chewing notions seem a bit much, there is clear evidence that chewing has many positives.

In this WebMD article – Chewing your Way to Healthier Eating – the author writes:

Believe it or not, the simple act of chewing can reduce your calorie intake. It works by increasing the satisfaction you get from meals, thus helping to tide you over between meals.

Having to chew a lot may also indicate you’re not eating an ultra-processed food, and that’s clearly something to avoid.  According to an NPR report – People ate much faster — both in terms of grams per minute and calories per minute — on the ultra-processed diet. Hall says it might be that, because the ultra-processed foods tended to be softer and easier to chew, people devoured them more quickly, so they didn’t give their gastrointestinal tracts enough time to signal to their brains that they were full and ended up overeating.

Which all brings me to yesterday’s lunch at Friedman’s Home Improvement Store in Sonoma.  I had a hot dog.  It’s the first hot dog I’ve had in probably 3 years.  It was so incredibly soft.  Soft squishy white bun; soft, borderline-mushy hot dog;  juicy, soft, plastic-packaged cooked relish.

I didn’t exactly savor it – but I ate it quickly – and Andy and I were off to do our plant-shopping in Friedman’s nursery.

(An aside:  in Gulp, Mary Roach says hot dogs make the top 3 in the list of “killer foods” – those most often associated with choking to death.  I definitely would have chewed longer and harder had I known that yesterday.)

(Another aside: in Andy’s Corner Andy explains why he can’t see a hotdog without thinking of Ignatius Riley from A Confederacy of Dunces.)

Screen Shot 2019-08-14 at 2.43.29 PM

Mary Roach warns us

In the same way that a dark, silent room will eventually drive you to hallucinate, the mind rebels against bland, single-texture foods, edibles that do not engage the oral device.

But – thanks to my neighbor and Bestie, Deb, I’ve got a wonderfully crunchy, chewy granola recipe to share.  It’s not too sweet – as so many store-bought granolas are.   And it will most definitely engage your oral device.

Screen Shot 2019-08-19 at 3.31.25 PM

Deb’s Granola (ready to serve with plain Greek yogurt and fresh peaches.  Yum!)

Deb's Granola

I adapted this ever-so-slightly from my neighbor Deb.

  • 5 c rolled oats (not instant)
  • 4 c chopped nuts and seeds (suggested: sunflower seeds, pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, slivered almonds, flax seeds, cashews)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 c honey, warmed
  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • 1 c raisins (optional)
  • 1/2 c unsweetened flaked coconut

Mix the oats, nuts and seeds, and salt in a large bowl. Add the honey and oil and mix well.

Spread the mixture on ungreased cookie sheets and bake at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally – until the entire batch is golden brown.

Allow the mixture to cool, stirring from time to time.  When it is almost cool, add the raisins and unsweetened coconut and mix well.

The granola keeps well stored in an airtight container in a cool place and may also be frozen.

Recipe brought to you by Deb and and Andy and Ann.



  1. I’m so grateful you wrote about this. A wise teacher once told me, “you chew your liquids and drink your solids”. As is most information given when you are going to school to become a Doctor in Chinese Medicine—riddles make you pause a bit longer, and think a little deeper.

    Of course my western brain kicks on and understands the meaning: ahhh, so you swich the liquids to make sure the amalase secretions from under your tongue coat the liquid (in case their are carbs that need to be broken down for processing), and of course our teeth are the only true grinding function we have in our body; our stomach is only a muscle. The longer grinding of the food will allow analysts, once again, fully coat the food to transform it into an easily digestible near-lights, so that the pepsin enzymes (and acids) of the stomach can better coat the now smaller particles of food, to increase absorption of nutritnets, and decrease indigestion. Brilliant!

    Now…how did we get so far from this as a species? I do think this will lead to a much deeper conversation. The softer processed foods idea is definitely on track.

    Thanks for you, and your mind-woven-heart through words.


    • theRaggedys says:

      Andy here: Thanks for the comment. My western brain certainly could not have figured out the clever riddle without your interpretation. As you point out, chewing is a complex process that plays an important part in amazing digestive system. Your comments definitely will make me much more self aware as I munch on that granola.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: