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The Onerous Journey of a Meatball
May 1, 2011

I was once a delicious meatball. I should, in fact, say "we," not "I," for I was a foodstuff with such ingredients as fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and vitamins. Humans – especially kids – loved me very much.

Imagine: I have just been cooked, and I am now waiting on a dish. Oh, what's that? A metal thing with four prongs has just stuck itself into my chest, and it threw me into a shaking room with a gate moving up and down. There are, in this room, 32 flat and occluding rocks, some of which are sharp, while some are like millstones, all being lined up in a U-shape row. The frontal rocks have divided me into large pieces by squeezing and cutting. My pieces are pushed backwards by a soft shovel underneath. The rear rocks have made me almost like a paste, thoroughly mashing my pieces. Meanwhile, many taps on the right and left sides and in bottom of the room began flushing water upon me, and the carbohydrates within me have began dissolving by the pityalin enzyme (alpha amilaz) in this water. The flushing water contains substances such as lyzozym and antichore to eliminate any probable microbes within me.

I was fully softened and turned into something almost like gruel, when suddenly I was impelled by the actions of that soft shovel to an extremely tight tube inside of which movements continuously push me downward. A gate opened while I was being brought down and, as I was hoping to enter into a more spacious room and be saved from the compressive movements, I suddenly flopped into a well containing a light-colored liquid. I have come to know, while I was expecting to have some refreshment, that the liquid I flopped into was an acid capable of eroding marble (pH=0,8). I cried ‘Oh My God!', but it was too late. This acid began to break my proteins down. The pepsinogen which was simultaneously being secreted by some cells over the walls of this large room and which were ineffective within an acid-free environment, became instantly activated by this acid and began to thoroughly break me up. Most of my proteins were broken. While I was wondering and asking ‘how come the liquid I flopped into is capable of eroding the marble but not capable of breaking up this well?', I have come to notice that walls of the well were coated with a thin layer of mucous substance (membrane) which is unbreakable by acids.

I said ‘Oh My God! As long as you do not permit, these acids, which can erod marble, are not capable of damaging a soft tissue!'. Together with other foodstuff, I have been both blended and broken in this well-like room for about an hour. Later, the outer walls have again squeezed us, and we have been ejected yet again, this time into a new tube at an opposite direction to the one we were just pushed out of, by a sudden loosening and opening of a valve. This tube (called duodenum in Latin) has a length of about 15-18 cm and, appears as if lined up side by side. Here too, we felt wretched and were faced by a basic secretion (sodium bicarbonate) being ejaculated from a tap. This liquid was inactivating (neutralizing) the acids mixed with us, i.e., preventing them from damaging the unprotected walls of the tube which we were in.

Here again the amylaz, lipaz, trypsin, kymotrypsin and carbocsypolypeptidas attacked me, all of which break up, in a respective order, carbohydrates, fats and proteins of my ingredients, along with a lot many other enzymes, and they broke me up to my smallest constituents. Meanwhile, I started pondering the reasons why these enzymes, which are making mincemeat of me, are not damaging the tap (pancreas), which are composed of the same proteins, fats and carbohydrates that they come from. Then, I have come to realize that these enzymes could not become activated in pancreas tissue, since it does not have any activating factors, but they gained shredder features only after we arrived in the tube we are in, and only with the help of such factors which are being secreted from the intestinal walls.

After having been fully shredded within this narrow tube, a green liquid (bile), was poured on us as we were approaching its end. This detergent-like liquid was particularly responsible for shredding the fats in my ingredients. I understood, after all of this, that I was passing through a very excellent factory. As I and my fellow meatballs proceeded inside this narrow tube of approximately three meters long, no part of us remained un-shredded, except the cellulose fibers of plants such as parsley and onion which accompanied us. They continued their journey until arriving at a very thick and short tube. I have found out that their sap have been absorbed and their leftovers, after being amassed for some time, have been thrown into a cesspool called a toilet.

In the meantime, we have noticed that the walls of this tube are plicate and protuberant. These walls are apparently the places where our particles penetrate into another realm through two different ways. We understood that, via rather thin capillary channels situated inside these protuberances, we were being transferred into narrower tubes which contained two different (red and white) types of liquids (blood and lymph vessels). Now, there isn't ‘me' anymore, instead, there is only an ‘us' which is composed of very smaller particles. While glucoses, the simplest forms of carbohydrates and aminoacids, the simplest forms of proteins are being transferred into the red liquid, our fat acid siblings are transferred into the white liquid of lymph vessels. Our glucose and aminoacid siblings have been carried by the red liquid to a factory called a liver. They are being returned to the red liquid after having passed through certain processes and being equipped with some useful characteristics here. But, the fats (lymphs) of the white liquid are, for some reason or another, being separately transferred into the red liquid, bypassing this factory. I learned the reason later: if the fat acids came to the liver together with glucoses and aminoacids, they would spoil this factory and kill its workers.

Finally, the red liquid carried us to tiny cell chambers numbering almost 100 trillion. Each of our tiny particles were sent to separate cells. Here, water, carbondioxide and energy were being produced by primarily coupling of our sibling glucose with oxygen. I learned that energy was needed for the functioning of these cells. Our fat siblings were also being utilized (consumed) for producing energy if glucoses were found insufficient for that purpose. Our amino acid siblings were being utilized (consumed) in the production of sound (strong) proteins and glucoses, and of energy in cases of the unavailability of fat sources for use in the cells' structures. Excessive amounts of fat and glucose were being stored in these tiny cells. That is to say, I, who was a meatball at the beginning, was converted into water, carbondioxide and energy at the end of this painstaking journey. I was promoted (exalted) to the degree of humanness and rewarded a great deal of honor, as some parts of me became constituent of and some other parts of me assumed responsibility in vital cell functions of the human body.

After all these disintegrations and absorptions, some parts of us took their share in the structure of the body, while some others which were used in energy production including me were converted into a choky and dirty gaseous state called carbondioxide. We have been thrown back into the red liquid again since we would perhaps choke the cells we are within should our density increase very much. We have been brought to a marvellous and sponge-like factory named a lung, and composed of millions of vesicles, by being placed onto a molecule called hemoglobin, which is being pushed by a big pump. We have replaced the oxygen of the fresh air arriving to the lung vesicles. Now is the time for bidding farewell the human body. I thanked God, for I regained my freedom as a carbondioxide passing through and escaping from very dark and narrow places.

However, I was placed upon the leaf of a green plant after aimlessly roaming in the air for some time. After being filtered through the little windows (stoma) over the leaf, I was brought inside by the chlorophyll factory marvelously functioning inside these cells. Here, they forced me to unite with the water brought by tubules from the soil. Upon telling them that I cannot afford to do that, they instantly changed my true nature with solar rays and turned met into a chemical energy depot. I was no more a simple carbon atom; thus, I found a place for myself within an energy-emiting glucose molecule. I was in a position suitably convertible to starch, protein or fats in accordance with the true nature and genetic program of the plant I was within. Something incredible happened while I was swinging around on a green clover leaf. The leaf I was in has been eaten by a cow with real pleasure.

A new chapter has now opened inside the cow's body. I was assigned with certain duties within the muscle proteins of my new host after having passed through a number of chemical processes. And I really enjoyed them. I was feeling myself more as an animal protein than a simple grass. By leaving the grass for a cow's body, I was promoted (exalted) one more degree on the way to becoming manifestations of the divine attributes of God.

This blessed animal in whom I was assigned has been sacrificed during a Muslim feast of sacrifice, its meat ground into a meat grinder, and I have been served to you once again as a meatball.

Ali Uguz is a teacher of biology. He lives in Turkey.