Saturday, May 17, 2008

Food for Thought

Hormones must do something to the taste buds, because there are things I eat now that I would never have touched before. I've not done any research on this, but noticed that my tastes have become more accommodating when hormones have been at work.

The first time this happened was a decade and a half ago, when I was at boarding school in England. Marmite on toast was common breakfast fare, and since we had unlimited quantities of bread to snack on in our common room, it also became a popular tummy-filler in the evenings and on weekends. I first tried it at age 14 and hated the stuff. Yuck! It was salty and sourish and smelled just plain strange. But a few months later, in the throes of PMS, I decided to try it again. And this time I loved it, and there began a love affair with Marmite that lasts to this day.

Always try everything twice. That's my belief, because the first time could be a one-off, and they say everyone, or everything, deserves a second chance. So I generally do try everything twice, from sports to food to even men in my dating days. Epicuriously though, I still never liked tongue or liver, and after a long flight was convinced I could never again stomach smoked salmon after they served it before and after every one of 4 stopovers.

Pregnancy and the Palate
In the first trimester of pregnancy most smells made me feel nauseated, so eating wasn't so much an adventure but a necessity to survival. The second and third trimesters I ate and ate and ate, but was limited by my OB-Gyn - no swordfish, marlin, tuna or salmon because of their mercury content, no raw fish, no raw eggs. That meant Caesar salad and sashimi, two of my very favorites, were on the no-eat list for the next 5 months. Sob.

Fast forward to post-pregnancy, when it was all systems go, although my husband still wanted me to keep away from potential salmonella-carrying foods (namely the raw stuff) because I was breastfeeding. Alcohol and caffeine were to be limited too, and while it didn't matter so much that I couldn't have wine, I would dream of cups of Earl Grey and chai.

As Little A got older, I got braver. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've had raw fish since giving birth, but do allow myself 2 or so cups of decaf or tea a week. I've had a few glasses of wine with no adverse reactions to Little A, and couldn't give up chocolate even if someone held a gun to my head.

However, the hormones had done their job again. Suddenly I find myself eating quantities of pate when any form of liver would previously make me gag. The texture of foie gras is no longer so disgusting either, and I can eat it now when I never could before. Tongues, kidneys and cooked liver I have yet to give another try, but am willing to - for the third or fourth time.

Healthy Eating
Maybe this is how certain people learn to eat vegetables as they grow up. I wish it would apply to men as well though, because Little A will no doubt ask when he is aware why Dad never eats broccoli or cauliflower (or most veggies, for that matter) when he and I do.

For the most part, we eat properly enough as a family, though I believe we don't have enough fish on the menu at home and fruit is sometimes abundant (when in season) and sometimes scarce. There is a vegetable dish with every meal, and we buy only lean meat. We went through a stage of mixing red with our white rice, but that stopped when polished red rice became hard to find.

Big A though, is not such a healthy eater. Aside from this aversion to vegetables and limited fruit consumption, he eats altogether too much red meat for a man in his mid-30s (client lunches and dinners have him ordering steak as often as he can, when he could opt for lobster instead) and way too much processed food. He has McDonald's for breakfast every morning at work, because he claims he leaves too early to be able to eat a healthier one at home. Grrr.

Growing up, we only ate healthy at my parents' place. An uncle who suffered a heart attack in his early 30s gave my dad a scare, and he promptly gave up red meat. Only fish and chicken were served in our house, with the occasional pork dish. As both sides of the family tended towards hypertension, salt was limited too. Veggies were a must. Since I was slightly anemic, I was encouraged to order steaks or red meat every time we ate out, which I gladly did.

Now I have my own home though, we eat beef 2 or 3 times a week, but I have switched to whole grain bread and veggie pasta and plan to serve these to Little A as well. Big A and I were very fit as young people - he was a national swimmer and I a professional ballet dancer before we both opted to become corporate rats. While we exercise much less now (actually, we don't anymore), we both still sport lean, toned bodies, though that is no indication of healthy arteries.

Goal for the family: to keep making sure we eat a good diet. There is too much pollution in our city's air as it is, so we need the rest of what goes into our bodies to be good for us.

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