It started the morning of a rum cruise. Two little lines on a stick that would forever alter my life—not to mention my ability to enjoy a refreshing bespoke punch while sailing through Charleston Harbor beneath a scorching August sun.
Of course, in a town such as this—so full of fine fare and drink, with a whole history backing them—rum wouldn’t be the only thing that I’d be sacrificing for the next 40-odd weeks. According to doctors, magazines, blogs, and the ever-frightening Google, gone were the days of tuna tartare and rosé; prosciutto-and-cheese sandwiches; and, seemingly, everything at brunch.
I learned about the midday no-nos early on. Those without a growing embryo might not be aware that menus offered between the hours of 10 and three o’clock on weekends feature nothing but deliciously soft farm eggs perched atop an array of bases—frisée clusters, steak, ham, biscuits, chorizo, rice, you name it—just waiting to be struck with a fork and ooze warm, potentially salmonella-filled gloriousness. And don’t even bring up lox. What I’d give for a salty, buttery slab of cured salmon....it’s enough to join a convent and preach abstinence on the next go-round.
I also learned that being discreet about my new and quite demanding womb resident would be a bit of a challenge. In addition to being a culinary heaven, Charleston is a place in which reputations are known. And as the associate editor for Charleston magazine at the time, I was a familiar face amongst some food-and-beverage circles. So when I, a—to put it gently—social drinker, refused a fantastic wine pairing at a multicourse dinner (why waste generous pours?), eyebrows raised. “I have to drive home,” I said, rather unconvincingly. And, “I have some work to do later. Plus, I’m on heavy antibiotics.” I wasn’t fooling anyone.
Another set of eyebrows raised when I ordered an iced tea at happy hour with a close coworker (who knows all too well my penchant for signature cocktails), just as eyes narrowed when, on a sunny afternoon with friends, I was seen sipping a glass of water—at a brewery, for goodness’ sake.
For the next few weeks, I respectfully declined invitations while I counted the days until trimester number two, when I felt more comfortable disclosing the news of my very hungry tenant, if pressed. Then, the invitations couldn’t come fast enough. While my husband and I decided not to learn our baby’s gender, one thing is sure: just like its mama, it likes to eat.
Still, the sacrifices didn’t stop—even in unexpected places. Who knew that asking a barista for decaf is a request-of-shame at highbrow cafés (read: non-Starbucks)? And when the pour-over cup of decaf Americano took roughly triple the time to make as a regular house drip, I learned a new meaning of the word “patience.” Real coffee connoisseurs apparently never get pregnant.
But, of course, that’s not true, and plenty of expecting mothers around the globe are likely to enjoy a glass of wine, smears of soft cheeses, a cut of tender pink steak, or a bite of raw fish. So while anyone may argue against me (I’m a writer, not a doctor, after all), I am led to believe the increased concerns of food-borne illness may be, in part, a result of our highly processed, factory-farmed, overly packaged food culture. And though I haven’t headed to BiLo for a lunchtime sushi fix, nor did I have more than a thimbleful of red wine during the holidays, I have made a few exceptions.
Exceptions in the name of Le Farfalle: savory prosciutto cut off the bone; Drawing Room: thinly sliced lionfish ceviche; and McCrady’s: the tasting menu. In fact, it was while experiencing the latter that I put aside the mommy-blog caution tape and indulged in decadent foie gras, caviar, and a Parmesan-smothered quail egg yolk. Call me crazy, but when a certain acclaimed chef personally delivers a tray of oysters on the half shell, one can’t just send it back to the kitchen. Maybe women of stronger wills could, but I’m sorry, little fetus, you’re stuck with me, your mother who has a weakness for mollusks and soft cheeses and cured meats. I’m sure you’ll turn out just fine—perhaps even with an overly developed palate, courtesy of your hometown.