Eating was the original science, the original study of the environment. Kids, just like primordial life-forms, learn about reality by putting it in their mouths. This mouth knowledge knows no abstracts. The world is either sweet or bitter, smooth or prickly, pleasant or unpleasant. Mouth knowledge comes with gut-level certainty. So to eat is literally to know.
But to know what?
It is to know self from nonself. Mouth knowledge taught us the boundaries of our bodies. When, as babies, we sucked an object, such as a pacifier, we felt it only from one side, from the side of the mouth. When we sucked our thumbs, we felt them from the outside, through the mouth, and from the inside, through the feeling of the thumb being sucked on. This mouth knowledge—unlike later school knowledge—gave us a glimpse of our paradoxical nature: that somehow we are both the subject and the object of our own experience.
We gave our species the name Homo sapiens. That name makes good sense. The word sapiens is Latin for both “to know” and “to taste.” Yes, we are knowing animals.