Dining while pregnant births lessons for all eaters.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
As a food writer, I’ve long been conscious of what I put in my mouth – from an umami-filled bite of soy-soaked shiitakes, to caramelized pork belly and its unctuous mouthfeel, or the delicate balance of zinfandel jelly layered atop chocolate mousse.
However, in the last nine months I’ve become even more hyper-aware of what passes through my lips. Yes, I’m eating for two. Unluckily, I never got to the point where I could literally eat for two as morning sickness merged into heartburn. All I got stuck with is a topsy-turvy diet.
First, there were days when the mere sight of the stove made my tummy turn somersaults. And while cold salads and canned soups were adequate, they do not a healthy mommy-to-be make. Then came the no-no’s: No rare steak. No sashimi. No foie gras. No alcohol. No deep-sea fish.
So what’s a poor pregnant gourmet to do? Well, needless to say, I’ve learned to manage and keep my job as well.
• GRAZE AWAY. Eating five to six small meals a day has helped me ease morning sickness and heartburn. Research shows grazing prevents overeating, balances energy levels, and boosts metabolism.
• SOUP UP. Traditional Chinese medicine has held that soup made with the silkie chicken (a breed thought to originate in China, with silky white plumage and dark blue, almost black, flesh) is curative, especially when combined with jujubes (dried red dates), fresh ginger, ginseng and/or orange peel (see recipe, below). While prescribed to postpartum mothers to restore energy, this concoction is also beneficial to anyone under the weather and seeking a jolt of liquid penicillin. Silkie chickens can be found at Asian markets; if unavailable, a fresh free-range chicken will do.
• READ BEYOND FINE PRINT.
WARNING: Consuming raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs or seafood may increase your risk of food-borne illness.
You’ve seen this scary disclaimer on restaurant menus. Everyone is susceptible to food poisoning (coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella) but trust me, having the runs while pregnant is just a wee bit more uncomfortable. In my third trimester, I’ve been a little more brazen (I’ve stolen a spicy tuna roll or two from my husband’s plate) but only eat raw fish or undercooked meat at a restaurant I trust. And I always ask questions: Is the Hollandaise made with pasteurized eggs? When was your shellfish delivered, and from where?
• PROGRAM PICKLES AND ICE CREAM 2.0. I like my pickles minus the ice cream, thank you very much. But it’s true that strong, sharp flavors are somehow very appealing when you’re in a semi-constant state of nausea. This could be you, too, when you’re recovering from a massive hangover, or suffering from a bad bout of food poisoning. And good news for all: pickled and fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi are chock full of good bacteria that promote digestion and boost immune health too.
• WATCH SEAFOOD. Large predatory fish like swordfish and shark end up with the most toxins like mercury (which affects baby brain function and development), industrial chemicals and pesticides. Smaller species lower on the food chain, like sardines, do not, and they are also a very sustainable option because they reproduce rapidly and contain Omega-3 fatty acids to support brain development in my little bundle of gestating joy.
• PROCEED GINGERLY. The reason pregnant and postpartum women are advised to eat lots of ginger is pure and simple: flatulence. I, for one, can attest to its effectiveness at relieving gas and indigestion. When your digestive system needs a boost, simply make a tisane with ginger and honey.
Being a human incubator has given me a new perspective on food and diet. It has made me a more responsible eater, as every bite I swallow impacts not only me but this little bub that’s growing inside me. Perhaps you’ve learned a thing or two?
Author Pat Tanumihardja gave birth to 7-pound, 3-ounce, Isaac Wheatley last Saturday, Feb. 20.
Silkie Chicken Soup
Extracting all the goodness from a silkie chicken requires long, slow cooking. Be patient and you will be rewarded. You can also cook the chicken in a slow cooker for 6 hours.
1 silkie chicken (about 2 pounds), whole or halved
3 (2-inch) pieces ginseng root, soaked in water for 1 hour
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, smashed
2 large cloves garlic, halved
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
Soy sauce or salt to taste
Chopped green onion for garnish
In a large pot, add the chicken, ginseng root and soaking water, ginger, garlic, and peppercorns. Add enough water to cover, about 6 cups.
Bring to a boil and skim the scum that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer until the chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender, 2 to 4 hours. Add soy sauce to taste.
Strain the soup and debone the chicken. Divide into individual bowls and sprinkle with green onion.