Eating For Two

I’m 5 months pregnant. Actually, in baby speak, the language they communicate in here in the land that I suddenly find myself in, that’s referred to as 20 weeks pregnant. It is quite an experience, has its ups and down’s as any woman with child will tell you. And as my first crack at it, I have to say that I am astounded every day that something so scientifically magical can take place pretty much without intervention, at least when all goes well, thankfully. My body keeps rolling along, expanding and stretching and creating a little life that will pop out in a few months like a cake hot from the oven. Which brings me to the point of all of this: FOOD.

I can, with all honesty and confidence, tell you that my relationship to food has always been a strong one. My work, my life, my self is intertwined in the subject and has been for as long as I can remember. I write about, I make it, I sell it, I eat it, I think about it all the time. So when something like getting knocked up occurs, silly me assumes that my food self will stay the same as always. I’m healthy, I listen to my body, I eat a very balanced, clean yet delicious diet, so what could change? And why would I need to change anything? Well, things do change, and it has led me to ponder some big questions in a way I never have before.

One of the main things I keep running into has to do with cravings. And it’s not at all a cliché to say pregnancy causes cravings. It really does, in a primal, needful kind of way like a wild animal must have. (It also causes really abrupt aversions, so drastic that once-favorite flavors can cause a gag reflex practically overnight). So what happens when a person, let’s say me, who ardently promotes seasonality and supporting local farmers and producers (like my own business), finds herself craving pineapple. So desperately that she has to leave work to go hunt one down. I know it sounds dramatic, but it happens. This brings me to think about moral dilemmas that become less important in the name of nutrition.

I must have needed potassium or Vitamin C. Pineapple also is high in fiber and actually contain large amounts of serotonin, according to “The New Complete Book of Food, A Nutritional, Medical, and Culinary Guide,” by Carol Ann Rinzler. The week or two of pineapple gorging that I had was enjoyable, but I kept having this somewhat guilty feeling as I looked at my counter, otherwise piled with seasonal bounty like Oro Blanco grapefruits and Meyers Lemons from our orchard. The Costa Rican Pineapple (it was organic, at least) stood out like sore thumb. And then there was the weird carob craving, despite the suspicion that the “grain sweetened” (i.e.: malted barley and corn) carob covered almonds I was wolfing down were not organic and most likely contained GMO ingredients, not to mention the soy lecithin, which is a whole other topic.

I’m actually not a crazy, uptight, hyper-vigilant person. I acknowledge that you can never avoid everything harmful or know how to fix everything. I don’t live in a prison of restraint or try to preach it to others. But when you do know certain things, about food additives and politics in this case, it is hard to let yourself go blind to it, especially when you are consuming the very same “bad” thing for two. Yes, I could have maintained stronger willpower and breathed through the cravings, but then I would be ignoring an important voice that my body was literally screaming at me to obey.

Another issue I have come across has to do with food restrictions. Every pregnant woman in America has been told to avoid certain things. Mainly, the list consists of unpasteurized cheeses and dairy products, caffeine, a wide variety of fish (and never raw), and alcohol. We take all of this as scripture, baffled that there was once a time when doctors advised you to limit your prenatal martini intake to only two at cocktail hour. How many of our parents came out just fine, relatively speaking? And I’d love to see some statistics about how many French women refuse to eat genuine Camembert for nine months, or Japanese women who bypass their daily fish diet. What about all the female winemakers or relatives of them, in any of the hundreds of winegrowing regions across the world? (Seriously, if anyone finds stats on this stuff, send it to me…). I’m not disregarding the proven hazards or nutritional research to these dietary recommendations; I’m just bringing up the extreme black and white nature that is often the standard of western medicine.

The point of this diatribe, I guess, is to bring attention once again to trust and intuition. We are all just struggling along in our own little worlds, navigating through life the best we can. The importance lies in letting ourselves listen to ourselves, trusting that our decisions will guide us, and not getting lost in the quagmire of information that is hurled at us every single second in this day and age. So let yourself eat a tomato in Maine in January if you absolutely need it (remember that it won’t taste very good though) or order a milkshake knowing it isn’t organic once in awhile. Just listen, and come back to yourself.

 
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Tartine Bread Project

Three days later...

Getting chickens saved my starter. I know it sounds weird, but because I chose to start the starter in early spring and because our wood heated house never has a constant ambient temperature above 65-degrees unless the fire is blazing, my homemade starter was in a sate of stasis…no bubbles, no smell, no life. Then we got ten baby chicks. They lived in a large cardboard complex in our living room, and a big red heat lamp hovered above them non-stop. Just like the babies, my starter needed warmth to live. I realized that I could station the bowl of starter in close proximity to the lamp and soon started to see signs of life. The chicks and the native wild yeasts thrived together.

First step: Leaven

I received the Tartine Bread cookbook as a christmas present right after it was released. I had pined away for it and a couple of my loving co-workers had noticed. I’m not sure if I should be thanking them or cursing them, because it is not the simplest of undertakings, at least not in the beginner. By now there are hundreds of blog posts about Tartine bread, if not more. I could probably do a whole post just listing all of those posts. And now I’m one of them. Funny.

Mixing

I’m definitely not bread baking expert. What I’m writing here is about my first and only attempt at the Basic Country Loaf recipe so far. I had every intention of doing this project on a regular basis. In fact, it was one of my New Year’s resolutions. Making Tartine bread and my own yogurt regularly. I have prevailed, for the most part, on the former. But for the bread, this is it. I’m not going to get into the details much here, like hydration ratios, bench rest or turning technique. If you want the recipe, buy the book. It’s totally worth it, even if you never make any of the recipes. The photos are gorgeous and the story is inspiring.

Hot out of the oven

Despite some minor hiccups, like running out of regular white flour (instead of 10% whole wheat, mine ended up being 40%), the bread turned out amazing. I was glad that I had a three day weekend, because tracking the progress of each step took some time, patience and diligence. I’m sure as you get more familiar with the process and your own climate changes, the recipe becomes second nature. I will keep at it, but at this point I can’t really see how someone could do this on a day to day basis if they work away from home full time. Regardless, I ate bread for breakfast, lunch and dinner last weekend and loved every second of it.

Crumb