Chewing it over

To chew:
bite and work food in the mouth with the teeth especially, to make it easier to swallow
  • masticate
  • munch
  • champ
  • chomp
  • crunch
  • bite
  • nibble
  • gnaw
  • grind
  • eat
  • consume
  • devour
  • manducate
  • triturate
  • chumble
  • a chewy sweet

I’ve been thinking about chewing for a couple of days, or chumbling as I might now call it! The word originates from  a good Old English word, ceowan which means to chew, and that may have come from a much older European Germanic root. As well as chewing in the food sense, chewing has come to mean “to think over or discuss something”, and it’s been used in that sense for about six hundred or more years.

I know when I eat I chew very quickly and I do consciously try to slow down, and slow down everything to do with eating; I’m sure gulping food down isn’t as good for you. It seems common sense to me that if you enjoy food then you can have more enjoyment if you eat it more slowly and make it last longer. It also makes it seem as if you are eating more if it takes a longer time; again, it seems to me that a lot of problems with eating too much is about what’s going on in your mind as well as what’s going on in your mouth. At home, when we go on our diet, we try to make sure there is no other distraction while we’re eating whatever it is, so no reading, no TV or radio, nothing to distract from what’s on the plate and in the mouth except a pleasant conversation about it.

Actually chewing food properly is a part of good digestion, but there are reams of stuff written about how many times food actually should be chewed – and some of the facts asserted are quite extraordinary, sometimes quite alarming (and unbelievable) and often actually disgusting. The nineteenth century politician and prime minister William Gladstone had many odd and peculiar ideas, but one thing I do remember is that he always chewed his food thirty-two times per mouthful, one for each tooth. This practice had an influence on a lot of other diet ‘specialists’ of the time, especially in the USA; Gladstone lived to be eighty-eight and was Prime Minister four times, the last time  when he was eighty-three years old!

I came to think about all this as I mentioned, a couple of days ago; I was sitting having a coffee when I noticed a couple sitting a few tables away but facing me. They were sitting side by side and both eating what looked like similar food, pasta by the looks of it. They were each reading something on the table in front of them, and forking their food as they read. He was quite large and she was very slim; for some reason, maybe I was bored, I began to count the number of times he was chewing – seven chews! That must have been a tiny mouthful… but no, it was seven times again, then nine, then eight, then nine, then seven, then eight… He was eating quite quickly, chomp-chomp-chomp, chomp-chomp, chomp-chomp, chomp – gone and next mouthful! I began to watch her – it was maybe a bit rude of me, but I was just fascinated. Twenty-nine chews! Thirty-five chews! What a difference between them! I’m not drawing any conclusions, but it seemed speedy eater large, slow eater slim… food for thought!!



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