We all have defining food moments in our lives. From our first experience with candy, to a fancy dinner in an upscale eatery, to the comforting joys of a familiar holiday meal, the sight, scent, textures, and, of course, taste, become inscribed on our memory. “Meals That Meant Something” serves as a personal pause button from the stresses of genetically-modified warfare, intrusions about the latest food supply dilemma, or news of what is or is not best for the body. I spend more time than I probably should thinking about how food affects my health and my life. These stories come from that place when I was doing the exact opposite. Health comes from informed choices about what goes into the body but joy emerges when food also nourishes the soul.
During my pregnancy, I ate a mainly vegan diet, with some fish or seafood thrown in occasionally for protein and deliciousness, and had eliminated sugar and gluten as well. The one Korean restaurant and the single sushi joint on our way to-and-from my birth center saw A LOT of us. I’m pretty sure I turned many a head when I walked through the Korean place at almost 42 weeks pregnant hoping some spicy dishes would help convince baby to arrive.
Alas, no diet trickery or otherwise could prompt Baby Bear to make his appearance. He was too damn happy (literally, as the midwife put it, “bouncing around in there”), and I had to have my waters broken as an induction method. Due to the fact that Bear was not yet engaged, our midwife felt it best if I was transferred to the local hospital, in case baby’s hand or the cord ended up in the way. She didn’t want to “walk [me] into a C-section,” so The Hubs and I, who was showing ZERO signs of labor, headed to the hospital. I was crushed. I had envisioned my peaceful, intervention-less birth in the birthing tub for so long, as well as the blissful bonding period spent snuggling in the cozy bed of The Blue Room following the birth. Our Celebration Meal of vegan mac-and-cheese sat waiting in the freezer of the birth center, never to be eaten there.
I have never been admitted to a hospital, so when the nurse asked about my diet, I thought it was purely for medical reasons (hahahahahahahahahahaha). Bear’s birth went smoothly (drug-free–woot!) and eleven hours after being admitted, we sat as a family of three in our tiny hospital room. When my “breakfast” finally arrived, it consisted of a banana, instant oatmeal, orange juice and two slices of sad-looking gluten-free bread. My parents, I knew, were on their way to the hospital to visit, so we made an emergency call: “Can you please pick up some food for us?!” As any first-time mama knows, those early hours postpartum are full of exhaustion, excitement, emotion, and EATING. I didn’t care what my parents brought me so long as it was hot, filling, and resembled nothing like what was on this hospital tray.
The only eating establishment on their way to the hospital was a sandwich shop that served breakfast sandwiches. My parents arrived with two egg sandwiches on bagels. (Two? Really? I just delivered an 8.5lb baby. I needed BOTH sandwiches plus sixteen more.) The bagel was perfectly NY-style, the eggs fresh, the cheese (cheese!) melty. Hubs and I devoured those things and whether it was the truth or not, it tasted like the best egg-and-cheese-bagel sandwich I had ever had. “Vegan mac-and-cheese…what was I thinking?”
Once we returned home, I returned to my normal dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, baby-reflux-trigger-free diet and all was well. But that egg sandwich reminded me that, sometimes, you have to relinquish control, lean into the moment, and not give a shit what you’re eating.