I pride myself on cooking well, and across cuisines, ingredients, and meals of the day. If someone can’t eat a certain kind of food—close friends know I never eat raw tomatoes—I enjoy coming up with substitutes, different recipes, and so on. Cooking to me represents an ever-shifting journey that feels at times like archaeology. There is literally nothing I can come up with in the kitchen that hasn’t been done by someone else before me, so I at least attempt to hold that history sacred when I’m fixing up a dish.
When I found out we were with child, after all of the excitement rolled through us, one of my first thoughts was that I’ll be able to adjust to whatever food preferences Susanne has for the duration of the pregnancy. And yet this moment marked the peak of my culinary confidence in this regard.
Staying away from the omnipresent What to Freak Out About When You’re Expecting, I read up on nutrition in pregnancy. Keep up the protein levels, push the nutritional content and stay away from processed sugar. Pregnant women only need about 300 more calories a day (it’s breastfeeding that demands a big increase in daily body energy). I thought up interesting, varied meals to put in front of Susanne and “the blueberry,” which became our first nickname for the fetus, based on a description I’d read of where we should be, back in week 6.
Mushroom risotto, made with organic chicken stock and fresh-picked, local cremini mushrooms. It was creamy, low in sodium, and easy to digest. Susanne pushed the mushrooms to the edge of her plate, as close to the end of the pottery as they could get without collapsing on the dining table. I inquired about why. Was it the texture? Flavor? The notion of consuming fungus?
“I like the flavor fine,” she said, as if an affirmative approach would suit me.
The next night, it was the onions as an undercurrent aromatic flavor in a sautee. They made for a little unhappy pile across the plate from where she sat.
I should have known better than to prepare chicken cacciatore—in-bone chicken pieces cooked up with onions, green peppers, olives, tomatoes, and a wee bit of red wine (don’t worry, the alcohol evaporates off before serving), served over long-grain rice. Susanne sniffed the vapors rising off of the food, and apologized. She offered that it would probably make for a lovely lunch the next day. Heading to the kitchen, she prepared a dinner of cut up Pink Lady apples and cheddar cheese.
An hour or so later, she asked if I would fetch a leaf of lettuce for her from the fridge. Lettuce? Plain lettuce? Yes, that’s what she wanted.
Munch, munch, munch, and in two seconds the green vegetable was gone, as if it had never existed. Hey, if that was what blueberry wanted, that was what I’d procure for it.
Half past midnight, my sleeping was interrupted by an unexpected noise: munch, munch, munch. On Susanne’s chest she’d piled 4 or 5 lettuce leaves. I opened a weary eye.
“Hi, honey,” she said, between bites. Nobody told me that pregnancy would turn my partner into a rabbit. She doesn’t even like rabbits, really.
We determined that there was something to the “blueberry” moniker. Maybe we were encouraging the fetus to become a vegan or fruitopian. This was no good—not in a household so fond of barbeque ribs from scratch with homemade sweet and spicy sauce, or roasted lamb shank. Determined to change course and avert food-related disaster, we have changed the nickname.
Our fetus from here on in will be called “Deep Fried Oreo.” How you like them caramel apples, little one?