click to enlarge
As a food writer for Seven Days, it's my job to eat everything. Bear sausage, fish heads, chicken hearts and mealworms have all been on the menu, and I've devoured every last bite. Only olives gave me the ick — and I got over that with buttery Castelvetranos and O Bread Bakery's olive-studded ciabatta.
Until the first trimester of my pregnancy, that is. Up to week six, my biggest issue was trying to be sly about skipping Negronis and natural wine at social gatherings.
Then the morning sickness hit. Friends had thoroughly warned me, often with the classic joke, "I don't know why they call it that. It lasts all day." I was still surprised that the constant, nagging nausea knocked me out for six weeks; some days, it made my job impossible. I had more aversions than a beige-food-loving toddler, and even the beige foods didn't sit well.
The only time I actually puked was on my birthday. I lounged in bed, doing the Wordle and scrolling through baby registry guides. By the time I got up, my oh-so-empty stomach was in full revolt, and I was kneeling over the toilet. Happy birthday!
Another "present": a general sense of queasiness, hanging over my day like dreaded items on a procrastinator's lengthy to-do list. I was eating constantly, though never very much at a time: a bite of peanut-butter toast here, a handful of blueberries there. My concerned husband suggested smoothies — (supposedly) soothing sustenance that he read about online as he watched me choke down my 10th plain Eggo.
He quickly became a smoothie whiz, blending berries, bananas and yogurt in perfect proportions, or combining kale, ginger and apples to make sure I had something green. They were staple substitutes for breakfast or lunch, often both.
Still, to write about restaurants, I had to eat at restaurants. I started making reservations for 5 p.m., since 8:30 was my new bedtime. To make sure I could stomach the food I was supposed to be reviewing, I'd eat a granola bar and drink a lemon seltzer in the car on the way, especially if it was a winding drive. I chose straightforward dishes that I usually wouldn't and let my dining companions tackle the more adventurous items, prodding them for sensory details and sticking to a taste or two.
None of my strategies were working at an early dinner at Vermont Fine with my husband and in-laws. I dove into a slathered salad, forgetting that Caesar dressing typically includes raw egg, a pregnancy no-no. In a panic, I hid out in the very nice bathroom to compose myself — as much from the fear of poisoning my unborn child as from a wave of early-evening queasiness. Thankfully, both sensations went away — somewhere between the creamy polenta with braised beef and pastry chef Sarah Howley's excellent s'mores entremet.
After that harrowing experience, I realized that I needed to tell my food-team colleague about my pregnancy sooner than I'd planned. Around week eight, as we discussed our schedule over a meal of dumplings and fried turnip cake at Café Dim Sum, I let her know that stories about unpasteurized cheese, raw oysters, booze and cannabis edibles would be out for a while.
Recreational cooking was no fun, either. I fell victim to the pregnancy cliché of gagging at raw chicken; that ruled out chicken pot pie and our staple enchiladas. Leftovers, which I usually love, were gross. The only home-cooked food I looked forward to for six weeks was the birthday lasagna my mother-in-law made when I said I was too pooped for a party.
The start of week 12 was circled on my calendar. While not true for every pregnancy, that was the magic date I kept reading about, when the morning sickness might go away, aided by a doctor-recommended combo of Unisom and vitamin B6. When it did — like clockwork — it was replaced with a persistent fear that something must be wrong. The nausea, it turns out, was a reliable reminder that things were on track.
Several scans and reassuring heartbeat sounds later, my focus is firmly on avoiding the list of things pregnant people aren't supposed to eat and getting enough of the things we are. Kale smoothies are back to being a novelty (and an important source of iron). I have enough second-trimester energy to slowly simmer a stew or bake a pie, and enchiladas and leftovers are both back on the menu.
I was a little overzealous filling out the three-day food diary for my 16-week appointment. I noted serving sizes in ounces and explained that fonio is an ancient African grain full of complex carbohydrates. Next to a midday Dirt and Worms creemee from ShireTown Marketplace, I wrote, "For a story!" My midwife laughed at that and graciously said creemees didn't need to be justified.
Now halfway through my pregnancy, I don't freak out about the occasional runny egg. I'll even admit to ordering the falafel Benedict at the Grey Jay in Burlington, just once. It was for work, after all.