I’m intrigued by this – so much so, that I’m writing about it. To anyone who follows this blog, you’ll know that’s significant in and of itself. I haven’t posted for a while. It isn’t that I don’t want to, or haven’t been writing. Sometimes, I just like keeping thoughts close to me and don’t share them with anyone. A strange quirk that courses through me that I can’t control. It is the only thing that signifies control, somedays. The minute I open my mouth, the world talks back and sometimes I just don’t want to know what anyone else thinks about it, so I just don’t.
Saliva! So odd a topic, I know. I first became interested in it, mildly, remotely, overwhelmingly (!) a number of years ago when I was working on a project that involved expanding an animal hospital. It’s no longer an animal hospital – it’s changed into a veterinary care center now – which does exactly the same thing as before, but I guess the name has better ring to it.
At the time, my job, acting as the architect, was to figure out a way to expand the practice from two to four exam rooms – doubling the capacity, while not interfering with day to day procedures. They couldn’t afford to shut down. It was a fun puzzle, in spite of working with a doctor on it. Doctors are the worst clients any architect will ever have, worse even than engineers and attorneys, if you can imagine! Especially awful for a left handed, intuitive sort of architect as am I. They don’t like getting to a point where there is no logical or rational answer for a decision. They live on second (and third, fourth, fifth, etc, ad nauseam) opinions… Doctors are the worst clients ever because in spite of everything – including their admitted deficit in getting to point where they must trust their gut – they’re arrogant and have succumbed to the notion that they’re always the smartest person in whatever room they occupy. They wear me out. I only hope I do the same to them, along with frustrating the utter hell out of them.
Near the end of it – the design – I realized I knew little about the inner workings of the back room, most notably the surgery area and how it functioned. We were touching that too – a new X-ray table, a new office, scrub sinks changing – I realized I knew none of what I needed to picture, so I asked to see how it worked. I was invited to come scrub in and assist for surgery.
I realize now, it was payback for me exposing his vulnerability and ineptitude, perhaps the most macabre sort of event that an untrained artsy fartsy type can ever be conscripted into. It was an amputation of a leg from a dog with bone cancer. My task, as the surgical assistant, was to hold the leg as muscles and arteries were severed and sutured. Eventually, after about 3 or 4 hours, we worked our way down to the femur, which he wrapped a gigli wire around, and sawed through, leaving me with a wonderfully shaved, sanitized and cancerous dog leg in my hands, completely independent of the body which it had been a part of…
Throughout the course of it though – I kept my mind occupied by asking questions. It’s the reason I didn’t faint – which afterwards he admitted he fully expected I would do (as he did his first time…) The point of it, on his end, I suppose. Lovely. Along the way, though, amazing during the procedure at how far a dog tongue can be pulled out while being intubated, I learned that dog saliva, unlike human saliva, contains no amylase.
Sanctuary. I know of amylase from brewing with grains, the sole reason why grains are malted! Lovely! I knew human saliva contains amylase – it’s the reason why complex starches, like those in potatoes, break down immediately into sugars into the mouth. Similar with corn – it’s the magic of Chicha, a South American beverage made by (woman mostly) chewing fresh kernels of maize for a few moments, then spitting them into a bucket, then left for a few days to ferment into something with a very modest alcohol content. Dogs cannot accomplish this task, but human saliva breaks down starches into sugars very quickly.
It’s all interesting to me – trivia filed away for another time and place – all until I was reading around about bacon, and discovering that in addition to amylase, human saliva contains nitrates. Same sort of thing that goes into curing meats, making air dried salami, the very thing that makes your pastrami a nice rosy color by bonding with the myoglobin in the muscle tissue to keep it from oxidizing… Puzzling. I know not what to make of this, other than wondering if there’s a recipe for spit cured salami, or if I could/should even ponder that…
I was researching it, because as everything these days, people freak out about nitrates and nitrite. I remember it as such: ‘a’ goes to ‘i’. Nitrates become nitrites, in the presence of oxygen. In other words, nitrates are anti-oxidants. Curious. You never freak out about ascorbic acid or oranges being anti-oxidants, yet somehow bacon is the work of satan…
I was reading around because I was intrigued to find that in lieu of using nitrates or nitrite, a lot of ‘organic’ and nitrate/nitrite free products are cured with celery juice. Did you know celery/celery juice, contains a load of nitrates?! As does lettuce, and spinach?! The Romans cured meats with spinach, long before anyone knew why it did what it did.
It’s probably just another small reason to tune out of and away from the fetid body of what is ‘knowledge’ these days. Eat. Love. Inhale deeply. Swallow. French kiss. Likely, it is the best thing you can do for your health.