Cravings are well-known to be related to pregnancy, but let’s not forget that food cravings happen fairly frequently to “normal” people as well. Most of the women I know have encountered menstrual cravings (chocolate comes to mind). And cravings usually make sense. If your body needs a certain ingredient (or is addicted to, and thinks it needs, a certain ingredient), you’ll start craving a food that contains that ingredient. For example, women on their period – and therefore losing iron – will often crave chocolate or red meat, which contain iron. Athletes might crave salty or sugary drinks, because they’ve been sweating a lot.
Back before I was pregnant (which seems like eons ago now, despite the fact that it was only a few months),when I was particularly active and my body was working hard, I would crave mustard. Just regular old yellow mustard. These cravings were especially strong while I was a missionary, because I was making hard demands on my body all day long. I kept hot dogs in the fridge, and often just cut one up into a small bowl of mustard to get my mustard fix. There was one occasion when I ran out of time or hot dogs, and just snuck a spoonful when my companion wasn’t looking.
That was the point when I decided I needed help. I had to figure out what ingredient I was looking for in this mustard – because I just couldn’t go on any more as a closet mustard-eater. I started checking out the ingredients list, which was basically just mustard seed, salt, water, and vinegar. When the cravings came back, I started trying other foods with salt in them. Didn’t work. So I moved to vinegar. Lo and behold, my cravings were easily shifted to dill pickles or chips and salsa! And both of these foods looked far saner than eating a spoonful of mustard every night before bedtime.
Ethan and I have tried to satisfy my pregnant cravings using this same technique: whatever I’m craving, we’ll break it down. Is it sweet? Salty? Tangy? Bitter? What exactly is the ingredient that I’m craving? The trouble is, rational thought was a lot easier when I was only sharing my brain with one body. Now that most of my being is consumed in creating another living thing, apparently the little part of my brain labeled “Thinking Cortex” is just out to lunch. A very specific lunch.
I’ll start feeling faint, and realize I need to eat. (More often than not, I’ll start acting stupid, and Ethan will tell me I need to eat.) Ethan asks what I can eat. I don’t know. “Do you want something sweet?” Umm. “Salty?” Umm… no? “How about…
“Chicken nuggets.” Aha! My brain did a thing! Somebody up there in the Thinking Cortex finally woke up and decided to do their job! I’m so proud of myself.
“We don’t have any chicken nuggets,” Ethan will say.
I’m completely stupefied. What do you mean, we don’t have chicken nuggets? But that’s what I can eat! Why don’t we just go buy some right now?
But Ethan has other, saner ideas. “Well, you probably need protein. Would you like some beans, or something with hamburger in it?” Ethan starts listing off all meat- or chicken-based foods we have. “What category are we looking at here?”
At this point, my brain is done compromising. The game of Jeopardy inside my brain that normally has things like “Foods That Contain Vinegar” and “Quick Sources of Iron” now has five categories across the screen that say things like “Nuggets That Are Chicken” and “Small Chicken Pieces, Battered and Fried.” Chicken nuggets have consumed every category. “Umm, I’ll take ‘Bite-Sized Battered Poultry’ for 400, please, Alex.”
Today, I managed an impressive compromise by eating fried chicken wings instead of chicken nuggets. I still consider it a stretch. As this pregnancy progresses, we may develop a few patterns, based on the foods I most frequently crave. Chocolate milk is one: we now have instant breakfast mix in the pantry, two gallons of milk in the fridge, and four (4) bars of Lindt chocolate in the fridge that Ethan pounced on in the clearance aisle. We might have to stock up on chicken nuggets, but we’re not really convinced yet that this is going to be a consistent thing. So far, I haven’t once considered pickles and ice cream. I’m thinking this is still a good sign. ♦