Taste the Sweetness

Have you ever chewed on a starchy food, like a cracker or some rice, and noticed it slowly becoming sweet in your mouth?

That's from the action of salivary amylase, a digestive enzyme in your saliva. It begins the process of digestion in the mouth, by breaking down starches into their component sugars, which you can then taste. (Starches are nothing but long chains of sugars.)  It takes a while to start working; if you swallow your food too quickly, you'll miss this transformation.

The thing is, salivary amylase doesn't really need to be there. There are much more powerful amylases, made by the pancreas and squirted into the small intestine, that digest carbohydrates right at their site of absorption. These enzymes can very well do the job without that little bit of help from salivary amylase.

But salivary amylase has a nice benefit: it lets us taste the sweetness of the world. Instead of waiting until later in the process, the body begins taking apart our food into its component parts right away, as if to say, "Did you notice?  This simple food is made up of little sweet things linked together."  But only if we let our food linger a bit as we chew it.

Isn't all of life made up of little sweet parts?  Isn't even a traffic jam made up of tiny visions of clouds and trees and flowers?  When put together into the form of our obligations, they might seem like boring old starch.  But if we let them linger for a while, maybe we can start to notice the many tiny moments of sweetness from which life is made.