My husband and I recently moved to rural North Carolina (actually, I guess it’s not really all that rural, strictly speaking, but it is quite a departure from our last three home cities: Seoul, Chicago, and Memphis) because he took a job teaching English at a local college. When we came here, the question of what I would do as far as work was a hot topic, but we settled on me taking some time off and during that time *hopefully* get pregnant. For us, it didn’t make a lot of sense to buy another car, which we would need because the scant public transportation in our town doesn’t extend to where we live. With an additional car, I could then go on interviews that may or may not yield a job that I would have to take time off from essentially immediately after starting. So the plan was for me to hold down the fort at home by preparing delicious food, taking care of bills and budgeting, and working to make our home more green – an interest we’ve had for a long time and are now able to start really implementing. The last box had literally been unpacked days before I missed my period, took the test, and realized I was pregnant. Our bodies really were more efficient than we ever could’ve thought. Only two and a half months after starting to try for a baby, one was making itself at home. For once in our lives, our plan was working, maybe a little too well.
In the last five years or so, food had become a pretty big part of my life. Soon after I got married, I quit my job writing copy for an industrial supply catalog and went to work at a three-star restaurant in the Chicago suburbs. I had several reasons for this. One, because there’s only so much you can say about foam insulation and sheet metal and it’s difficult convincing one’s superior of this when said superior is quite possible a certifiable lunatic. (I feel like this needs expounding on; maybe someday!) Two, because I had just discovered how roasting a tomato really makes it taste good. I had the sneaking suspicion that not only tomatoes but other foods could too taste good if they were properly prepared. Amazing. Three, I could do it. I had never waited a table before but I just wanted to. So I went to my new job and learned to love love love food and wine, and I learned to really appreciate the expertise needed to prepare it properly. I never intended to become a chef myself, but as I am continuing to understand even more to this day, you don’t have to go the whole way with a new interest in order to profess it and to perform it well. So I started making new things at home with ingredients I had seldom if ever used before, and I loved it and my husband loved it too.
Before we moved to North Carolina, I was beyond excited to finally have the time and energy to explore tons of new recipes I had been wanting to try for a long time, and when we arrived it was a food bonanza every day. My husband was (and still is) an endless encouragement. Nearly every meal we sat down to he deemed “the best ever.” When we ate we discussed the food, compared how it was better than what we had experienced before, what we might change for next time, or how we might improvise and fuse the dish with something else. Then the news of the pregnancy came and we went gung-ho trying new dishes saturated with folate and other good things for our baby’s developing organs. The first week was great. Brussels sprouts, asparagus, kale salad along with numerous other tasty dishes that tasted extra yummy because they were going towards our baby’s awesomeness. Sheesh, what are these women talking about wanting to eat garbage food for the first trimester? That was the first week.
Then reality set in.
Just writing this makes me queasy. No more Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and kale, please. Vom-it. Can’t handle it. Soups of nearly all types are out because they smell and taste like pee. Recently to be added to my shit list is chicken, which now just wreaks of bad eggs and is far too slimy and wretched. I can do beef, but only in flecks and it has to be high-end and natural colored. The only green thing that is palatable right now is that green-dyed ketchup and, on a good day, spinach. And by “on a good day” I mean a 20-minute window within that day. I seem to be OK with dairy products, but I’m just waiting for those to become nauseating for me too. Nearly everything I eat has to be drowned in Tabasco sauce, possibly because the atomic heat detracts from any real flavor I could glean from the meal. Whole grain breads and grains are sadly shelved for now, too.
The other day while watching TV, a commercial for one of Pizza Hut’s newer heart attack-inducing concoctions – the P’zone – elicited from me an ordinarily bizarre response: desire. I told my husband and he just said, “Yeah, if you’re definitely pregnant.” It’s a sad day at my house.
I feel as though I am at war with food and cooking, two things that have meant a lot to me for a long time. This time in our new home that I looked forward to for so long simply because I would finally have time to cook the way I wanted to is virtually being ruined by my first trimester food and odor aversion. It’s making more of a psychological impact than I would’ve thought, which I guess is just the fleshing-out of yet another early pregnancy woe: weepiness and moodiness. Sometimes I feel as though I’ve ruined a lot of my favorite foods and will never want to eat them again because I made the mistake of trying to prepare and eat them during this first trimester.
I’m going ahead the only way I really can, though. The way of optimism and the knowledge that in a few weeks the first trimester will be long gone and I will be able to eat like an adult again and not like the picky child who I am determined not to raise.