Thanks to bookninja for pointing me to a fascinating article over at something called phsyorg.com. According to a study soon to be released in the scientific journal, Psychological Science, reading may just be the original "virtual reality."
A new brain-imaging study is shedding light on what it means to "get lost" in a good book — suggesting that readers create vivid mental simulations of the sounds, sights, tastes and movements described in a textual narrative while simultaneously activating brain regions used to process similar experiences in real life.
When I was about 10 years old I was sitting up in bed one evening reading a novel about a forest ranger in Canada's north country. After a particularly well-written scene in which the hungry ranger fries up some bacon on an open fire, I went down to the kitchen and made my father cook me some bacon. That may explain more about my eating habits then what I choose to read, but I will always remember the ferocious hunger that took hold of me with no other stimulation beyond words on paper.