Kale, raw almonds, spray cheese, and a screaming neon bag of Sour Patch Kids. Those are the things that I carried, and unloaded, onto the checkout counter at my grocer’s. I read my receipt, looking for a note under my preferred card savings. Maybe something like, “Good luck trying to earn points when your shopping bag is full of shame.”
I don’t want this to be an excuse and I told myself I’d never use it but … I’m pregnant.
When I found out, I figured it would be easy again, like it was with my first. I’m a pretty healthy eater by nature – I don’t do organic because it’s costly (and I think anyone who lives on earth had better get used to digesting some chemicals) but I hit all the food groups and double-down on my veggies. With Baby Number One, I was Miss “Cravings? Don’t Know What You’re Talking About. Maybe I Want More Vegetables, If Anything.”
I’m surprised no one pushed me down a flight of stairs.
Now don’t get me wrong, even though I love a good salad, packed with greens and all the things you’re supposed to eat, I also have a sweet tooth. (And a salt tooth, sometimes. A cheese tooth, too. You know, I have a tooth for every flavor palate and some that haven’t been discovered yet.) But my first run at gestation worked well with my lean-protein leanings. I missed sushi and admittedly lunch meat (and the giant sandwiches I dreamt of eating it on) but I liked vitamin-rich things to begin with and just ate more of them. (Less virtuously, there was still a Diet Coke thrown in the mix each day but complete abstinence would have been akin to ditching oxygen.)
This time around, my first weeks of pregnancy coincided with the Easter holiday and the discovery of Brach’s bags of all-black jelly beans. Always a fan of this love-it-or-leave-it flavor, my devotion grew twelvefold. Lunchtime would come and I’d begrudgingly make a spinach salad, resenting each folic-acid-enriched bite until I could give in to my dietary film noir.
That was just the start. A couple days ago, woozy after another blood test, I made my way into the hospital gift shop and eyeballed the $1.29 Moon Pie, wanting it for both economical and oh-so-epicurean reasons. I knew the $2.50 bag of designer almonds were the proper choice, mostly thanks to the enthusiastic organic-type cashier pushing the “amazing” almonds on me, probably fully aware that I’d just done the blood tests for pregnancy. So I forked over more cash than I wanted to, with a forlorn final glance at the Moon Pie that got away.
The almonds were fine, really good even. But they would have been better as a chaser to that marshmallow cloistered in cookie and chocolate.
My schizophrenic tastes are nothing new. In normal, non-pregnant life, I’m a well-balanced eater who’s always harboring many fugitives – the expat gourmand, the mobile-home mama, the carnivorous queen.
There’s Little Black Dress me, sidewalk-cafeing in the Latin Quarter with a plate of mixed-greens and a leg of lamb or amuse-bouching her way to a squid-ink something on rue Lariston.
Then there’s me in a trailer park, cute but spent-looking in a halter top and cut-offs, curled up with a bucket of no-name cheese puffs, a Slim Jim, and a cherry Slurpee.
And don’t forget my ancient queen, painted and loin-clothed, loyal subjects dragging to me whole animals fresh from the slaughter. She’s licking her chops like a good carnivore. And forget anything fancy. She doesn’t need it free range or Whole Foodie. She just wants to know that it once lived and she’d like it served medium-rare, heavy on the rare.
There are others, too. The One Who Will Eat Anything Sold Off a Cart (or, in L.A., a Radio Flyer wagon with a sterno for a heat source.) The One Who Can’t Get Enough Goat Cheese. The One Who Wants to See All The Movies at the Arclight Just So She Can Eat Popcorn and Junior Mints Alone in the Dark.
My inner eaters are as varied as my wardrobe. The thing is, usually they emerge solo. But now these tendencies, latent within me, aren’t waiting for me to individually acquiesce. They’re all clamoring, forks, knives and spoons aloft. I want to give in to everything, all at once.
Let’s be clear, I don’t want to mix things together. I have no urge to put pickles in ice cream, or ingest Little Debbie Nutty Bars dipped in nacho cheese, things friends of mine enjoyed. I just want a steady tide of all the foods, emerging from some kind of conveyor belt dream machine of my desires.
Even before this, I’ve always thought if a wizened prophet looked into my soul and gave me a scary someday-it-will-come-to-bear nickname, that name would be The Girl Who Would Eat the World. Now, with hormones a-ragin’, she’s here.
All the personalities are swirling together, portending chaos and carnage, dressing on the side, please.
During a recent marathon of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, for every dish he ate, I thought, “Make mine a double.” In a neighborhood of Mexico City known as a place for lost souls, he ate a soup of unwanted pig parts. I salivated. In Lyon, with the world’s oldest, finest Michelin chef, he enjoyed a hare cooked in its own blood. “Cooked in its own blood? That’s ridiculous,” said my three-year-old. No, baby boy, that’s delicious.
One second, a Red Lobster commercial is revving my engines. The next, I’m fantasizing about the gourmet mozzarella bar at Mozza, so raring to go I’d gladly do Burrata body shots off Mario Batali’s belly.
I want morels and mussels and slippery escargot with a crusty baguette. If I had long-distance telekinesis, I’d immediately order a poppy-seed bagel from Zabar’s, and that’s after I just had to stop myself from finishing a whole box of Good & Plenty. And hey, if you happen through a McDonald’s drive-thru, I’d like a double cheeseburger and an Egg McMuffin. I know they stopped serving breakfast at 11. I don’t care.
It’s confusing, to listen to all these voices in my head, all ordering off a different menu.
For better or worse, though, I’ve learned that my hunger games have rules. Even approaching the first trimester’s end, I feel like crap most of the time and carnitas doused in Tapatio do not make things better. Most of the things I want the most do me in, making my stomach feel as smacked around as Gilligan’s doomed dingy, so I stick to the safe. Boring steamed veggies and starches, and the bloody meat that, thank God, seems to agree with me. (You don’t want to upset the ancient queen.)
I hope I can get a little more varied in the second trimester. And I hope all of this means my next child will be born with an adventurous palate. (Or at least, I pray she’s not demanding a can of spray cheese in lieu of a bottle.)
When I deliver, only one thing’s for sure.
That gift-shop Moon Pie is mine.
Can you relate? What was your craziest pregnancy craving? Share it in the comments below!