Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Trying to eat in France while pregnant

So there's this thing when you're pregnant that you're basically not supposed to eat anything. I initially wrote "not allowed to eat anything" but changed it to "supposed" because you can, of course, do whatever the hell you like.

I don't suffer much from guilt - it just isn't an emotion in my mood paintbox - so that is not the reason why I'm not smoking or eating the following (READY?):

- soft cheese
- shellfish
- pate I haven't made myself
- cold cuts
- raw or runny eggs
- undercooked meat
- those fish you're not supposed to eat. Shark and stuff... but when would you eat that anyway? In England I mean.

So it's not guilt. That terrible motherhood guilt thing just isn't happening to me. The little sucker is fortunate as hell already to have a mother who is so brilliant at impersonations and who is so good at drawing sheep. I don't feel guilty about a damned thing.

No, the thing with me is that I really really don't want to look like a massive tit. I don't want to eat as much pate and blue cheese as I like and then get listeria, which (I didn't understand this when I yammed down a stitchlton-based salad when I was a fortnight gone) you are like A MILLION times more likely to get if you're pregnant and then have a baby born with no head. I'd just feel like such an idiot.

I don't want to be like a woman I know who carried on boozing throughout her pregnancy thinking "Fuck all those sanctimonious fuckfashes" and then had a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome. TRUE STORY. This is an educated, middle-class woman with a job, people. At the time I bet she felt pretty cool and dangerous. But now she looks like a tit.

The other reason I don't just eat whatever the hell I like is because my husband is really strict. "No!" he shrieks, snatching an amuse bouche out of my hand. "It looks a bit foamy to me, like they've just egg white. Forget it."

And please, just en passant, don't give me any of that tedious shit about how French women continue to scoff blue cheese and pate when they're pregnant. They do that because a) they've eaten it all their lives and are, I heard, immune-ish to listeria and b) the general occurance of listeria in France is about 80% lower than any other country, or something like that. I possibly made that last bit up. Or maybe all of it. Anyway, don't be all over my ass about it. PLUS! There is some kind of birth rate crisis in France so I'm not exactly going to be slavishly copying their gestation techniques.

What was my point again? Oh yes, so what the hell does one eat when one is on holiday in France and pregnant? One answer is artichokes.

I always wonder, when I consider the general form of an artichoke, who on earth first discovered that it was edible only if boiled for half an hour. It must have been a brave man. Or woman. The only thing you really need to know about artichokes is how to get to the heart, which isn't that easy. My husband, fortunately, is a dab hand. (Pictures below). I boil artichokes for about 25-30 minutes until the leaves come away with a gentle tug and then dip the leaaves in melted butter and salt and scrape the fleshy bit off the base of the leaves with my snaggly teeth. You can, of course, also dip the leaves in vinaigrette. Up to you.

I think one artichoke between two is fine as a starter. And also really rather romantic.

Continue to scrape off the pubey bits with a spoon as shown above, strip the rest of the leaves, cut and eat.


  1. I agree re alcohol but i've never really understood all the hysteria and fuss... do you think pregnant Japanese women don't eat shellfish? PC gone made I say... PC GONE MAD!!!!... on the other hand my grandmother always tells a story that when she was pregnant with my mum she had a craving for cream cakes and ate them constantly... so much so that she says when she finally gave birth mum was so greasy she slipped out!.. make of that what you will...

  2. Japanese women eating shellfish comes under the same thing as French women eating cheese: you are simply less likely to get food poisoning in a country where shellfish is the national cuisine. In the UK and the USA there are bad prawns a plenty.

    And all the hysteria and fuss is because if you do eat a bad oyster and your baby drops out you'd feel like a fucking idiot. Didn't you READ my post?! Come come.

  3. knew I shouldn't have posted the bit about the Japanese women and just stuck to the sweet story about my grandmother... please don't eat any oysters... i'd hate the thought of your little baby dropping out... nonetheless I'm loving the 'angry pregnant lady' look on you x

  4. Hi - found your blog and love it. I'm 36 weeks pregnant and found the hysteria surrounding the whole food/drink thing, well, hysterical. I have to say I haven't denied myself shellfish, but then I haven't had the guts to have scallops in a restaurant either and I have steered clear of oysters, obviously. The most interesting thing I read was that your baby's tastebuds start to get their shit together at around 15 weeks, so since then I've been eating greens, olives, anchovies, curries - you name it - like a demon so he'll be properly educated when he comes out. Of course, he could well be in there with an attitude and 'oh for the love of god, does she have to have anchovies for breakfast?'. But if he's mine, he isn't.
    As for the drinking thing, my tastebuds changed so much I checked my reflection in the mirror each morning - wine and coffee became utterly repellent. Your saviour - spritzers in a restaurant and I found that - as disgusting as they might be to non-pregnant people - no- alcohol wines at least made me feel half-civilised. Try lo-no online. I just kept drinking coffee just once a week in a bid to re-educate my tastebuds and it worked. Although now I've had to stop a bit because he's too big for me to tolerate his caffeine high.

  5. I'm starting to get very worried - you've ramped the drama up really high already - my nerves may not last all the way through to the birth if things carry on like this! However I can see that it must be amusing to keep your husband on high alert by constantly toying with forbidden foodstuffs. Plus (and I hate myself for thinking it, let alone saying it) but .....no I won't say it after all, but it involves massive tits + pregnancy so work it out yourself.

  6. Oh God I remember all this when I was in France at 5 months pregnant... 4 years and 3 lovely (but naughty little girls) later, I can recall the waitress's frown when I gently pushed my complimentary mussels away. She then castigated my concern at eating them. Actually I should have been a lot more concerned about the kir royales I necked most nights and then wondered why my midwives back in London were so concerned at the rate of my baby's growth.
    Brilliant blog - great article in the Times last Saturday too. Enjoy the rest of your hols

  7. I'm feeling your pain - I was LIVING in Japan for the first 4 months of my pregnancy. And I don't actually speak Japanese. Every meal began with a quick game of charades to try and figure out what was edible. We used to buy what we later found out were these massive swordfish steaks and cook them at home on our tiny stove. And they only cost about $4. *sigh*

  8. Hello, many congratulations and hope you are having a wonderful pregnancy. I'm 31 and had my baby in Feb, and was also on holiday during the first trimester in Spain last year. My husband was the one-man PregnancyPolice, although he doesn't shriek - he banned me from having jamón ibérico bellota, runny frittata etc (while he ate for two) and was very sanctimonious about my caffeine intake,'Can't you even control yourself for 10 months', while he merrily sipped his triple shot lattes. I meekly did as was told (for once) because I DIDN'T WANT TO LOOK LIKE A MASSIVE TIT, too. You're absolutely right, not being overly cautious. You'll never know with babies, nothing was textbook and though everything turned out ok, I don't look back on those months deeply regretting the missed hams. Enjoy your artichokes & holiday. Please continue to share as your pregnancy progresses! xx ps. lovely pic of you in the Times last weekend, all glowing and smiley.

  9. Re: the hysteria about what you can eat while pregnant. I spent my pregnancy in Italy and I can tell you that other European countries - and I imagine Japan too - actually test women in the beginning of their pregnancy whether they are immune to toxiplasmosis and listeria, and if immune, you can eat whatever. If not, make sure you wash your veg and don't eat raw stuff... But obviously NHS thinks this is an unnecessary luxury.

  10. Anonymous, thank you for that incredibly instructive comment. If I have another baby I will get myself privately tested for toxithingy and hysteria. Merci.

    Esther x