It would be so lovely if I had something else on my mind today besides pregnancy. An epiphany about homemade butter, perhaps, or maybe a braised leek recipe. (I’ve never made braised leeks, and I expect any week now, the leeks I ritualistically buy at the farmer’s market will go into a dish starring themselves, instead of disappearing anonymously into some soup. At least, that’s my hope.)
But no. Today, it’s just the belly, and these things simply can’t be forced.
So. A quick summary of carrying your first child, if you haven’t done it already or don’t plan to: First, you blink. Then, when you open your eyes, your cat sleeps on a changing table with a stuffed giraffe, there is (by volume) more pillow than person in your bed (counting your partner), and you weigh 182 pounds.
This weekend, we told superneighbor we were off for a walk in Discovery Park, and she actually laughed. “’Walk!’” she sad. Giggle giggle. “Good luck. Have a nice waddle.” (I could hardly be insulted. She brought us hot cinnamon rolls from Mae’s, in the middle of a Sunday morning, for no reason at all. And, well, she’s right. I waddle now. These two things are possibly connected.)
Yes, it’s astonishing, how fast it goes. And doctors—they say the darndest things, don’t they? On Friday, mine said, “Those 35-weekers, they tend to do really, really well.” 35-weekers are presumably babies born at 35 weeks’ gestation. As opposed to the usual 40. As in, just under four weeks from where I am now. As in, one month left of life as I know it. How do you describe four weeks in meals eaten sitting down with no one in your lap? And what do you say to a doctor who tells you something you simply can’t believe?
The thing is, I still don’t really understand what the hubbub’s all about. I mean, I know it’s unusual for a person with lupus to go to full term, but please, people. I have seen the ultrasound photographs, and our child does not have a fuse. I sort of feel like if baby had an opinion about housing conditions, besides the usual square footage complaints, I would know. It’s not like baby and doctor can have a conversation without me around, right?
Doc: Baby, can I speak with you alone for a moment?
Doc: Yeah. We need to discuss your situation. Without her.
Baby: I’d love to, but it’s hard for me to get away. And the food’s good here.
Doc: Fine. But when are you going to tell her?
Baby: Tell her what, exactly?
According to baby, and me, things are still going swimmingly. But the fact that no one describes a continuum between notbedrest and bedrest still bothers me, so I’m still doing my halvsies thing, in hopes of avoiding treating the latter as inevitable—naps, and feet up, and less work, and quick dinners.
Okay, wait, that last part is sort of a lie. I am resting, and clocking outrageous numbers of hours sleeping on weekday afternoons, but I am not not cooking. I’ve tried, really. But it seems the harder I try to avoid the kitchen, the faster the ideas come. The other morning, I was just going to fry an egg or two, and suddenly there was a can’s worth of crushed tomatoes, simmering away with garlic and rosemary in a baking dish. I cracked a few eggs in, slipped the thing back into the oven, and they poached happily there, right in the tomato juice, soaking up little whispers of rosemary all the while. We ate the whole mess on toast, with crumbled goat cheese. It meant possibly 14 minutes on my feet, instead of the 10 it takes to cook eggs on the stove, but tell me: How could tomato-baked eggs with rosemary and garlic and goat cheese be bad for a person? Plus, from a pregnancy perspective, they were quite the thrill. They look like poached eggs, but the yolks are actually just gelled all the way through:
So yes, I’m still cooking. My kitchen is littered with little scraps of paper, recipes born illegitimately and recorded in haste, when I’m supposed to just be heating up soup. They will be outed, someday.
Thing is, four weeks is really not a long time. This weekend it occurred to me that I have stacks—stacks—of food magazines sitting on the coffee table, all marked with delicious-sounding recipes I want to try. But I’ll hardly be interested in cooking from the December issues in May, much less in August. It must sound crazy, since we just lept into spring, but four weeks is simply not enough time to get winter cooking out of my system. And goodness, what if I all-out miss asparagus season?
Course, when we enter the black hole called baby, we might not close off the entrance entirely. We might remain human. And it might not be four weeks from now, right? Last week’s doctor said she thought I’d be just a couple weeks early. And it might really be 9 more whole weeks. Or, goodness, 11. (In that case, will someone arrange a psychologist for my husband? He’ll need it, because I’ll be a basket case. I know few women know exactly when they’ll give birth, but I strongly feel that a roughly one-month timeframe is twice as fair as giving someone two months to juggle.)
Anyway. All I meant to say, sitting down today, is that on the food front, I’m finally starting to feel pregnant. Until now, I haven’t had much in the way of strong cravings. But it’s started. On Friday, I suddenly needed a bagel with cream cheese, the way a person needs a drink after saltines with peanut butter. Friday night, it was the meatloaf from this month’s Gourmet—which, for the record, is much sexier than any meatloaf I’ve tasted, with pistachios and prunes and that silky-smooth chicken liver. It seemed quite at home on a Sunday lunch table, with arugula salad and butter and mustard and pickles and plenty of friendly conversation, spread all around.
Today? It’s pasta. If I felt like being honest, I’d say what I really wanted was the box of generic-brand macaroni and cheese I’ve been craving for, oh, about 48 hours now. I don’t normally keep it in the house, but I wanted to watch the way powder sprays out onto the counter, no matter how careful I am, and hear the way the noodles make squeaky noises, like sploshy wet running shoes, when I stir the milk and butter in.
But, alas, no box. So I rustled up the homemade equivalent of what it seemed my body wanted-a whole wheat penne dish I’ve made four or five times now in my pregnant obsessiveness, one rich with cream and goat cheese, but not entirely lacking in nutrition. It’s what I’d have called a decent dinner, when I started sauteing kale and tomatoes the first time. Think the same, if you want-but by the time you’ve folded the vegetables together with leftover salmon, warming everything together just long enough for the goat cheese to melt into a velvety sauce, you’ll know it’s the kind of pasta dish that makes you want to eat alone, lest someone expect you to speak.
And yes, in fact, if you stir it really hard, it does make the squeaky mac and cheese noise.
If you find yourself shying away from buying fish because you’re afraid of wasting leftovers, shy no more—here’s a quick, creamy dish that makes second-day salmon worth saving. If you’re buying fish just for this recipe, buy a bit less than 1/2 pound and cook it while the pasta water comes to a boil.
You can use fresh or canned, peeled tomatoes for this recipe.
TIME: 15 minutes active time
MAKES: 2 servings
2 cups whole wheat penne, or other bite-sized pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 bunch (about 1/4 pound) kale, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 loosely packed cups flaked leftover salmon
3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
Put a pot of salted water on for the pasta. When the water boils, cook al dente according to package instructions.
When the pasta goes in, heat the oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the kale, and cook, stirring, until the kale is wilted, 5 minutes or so. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have lost most of their water. Add the cream and salmon, and simmer on the lowest heat.
Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup pasta water. Add the pasta to the salmon mixture, along with a bit of the water (more if you’d like a looser sauce) and the goat cheese, and stir over low heat until the mixture is warmed through and cheese is melted. Serve hot, with freshly ground pepper.