My wife, being 4 weeks away from dropping calf on our third child, has, surprisingly, not had any pregnancy cravings, strange or otherwise. No pickled pig snouts. No watermelon sushi. No salmon au gratin. Nothing. She enjoys one small bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios every evening before bed, but, I believe, this is only to curb her cravings for red wine and hard liquor.
My sister, who recently had a baby, hates bacon… or rather, hated bacon… until she got pregnant. In her entire life, she claims to have eaten only four or five slices, a statistic that, frankly, baffles me. As a constant purveyor of turkey bacon, which is supposed to be healthier, even I enjoy some thick slices of pork candy from time to time.
During her second trimester she called to tell me that she couldn’t stop eating it. She told me she was eating bacon every day, sometimes more than once a day. She and her husband (but mostly just She) were going through packages and packages and packages of this product that, three months prior, she detested and couldn’t even stand the smell of.
Nevertheless, it was somewhere during this phone call wherein she told me that she’d just read an article about pregnancy cravings and that, truly, I should be properly warned. “Cigarette butts,” she says, “Soap,” she says, “Dirt,” she says. “Women are eating these things.”
In my mind I try to imagine being pregnant and sitting alone at some kitchen table, an ashtray in front of me with a few stale cigarettes resting inside of it. I try to imagine what it would take to eat one. Not just the taste. Not just the texture. What would it TAKE for you to overcome every human nature and instinct and pick up an old cigarette butt and eat it? I imagine glancing suspiciously over my shoulders just to make sure no one is home. I mean, I know no one is home but still… I’m feeling a little guilty about getting ready to eat this ashy wand.
I pick it up in my hand and smell it, running it under my nose like a fine cigar or piece of garlic bread. Yum. I lift the cigarette to my lips and bite down on it. It doesn’t crunch but rather just goes limp in the middle where my teeth hit. I have to tear it in half like a piece of over cooked beef jerky. The filter is in my mouth and I’m chewing like a yak and the door opens and my husband (because in my imagination, in this specific scenario, I am a woman) says to me, “What are you doing?” and I say, “I don’t know,” and then I weep and fall into his arms and he holds me and strokes my hair and caresses my cheek and — never mind.
The point is, we all have things we love to eat that may appear strange to others. Personally, I like to take chocolate cake, put it in a bowl, pour milk over it, mash it up and eat it like a freaking gruel. However, conversely, I can’t stand peas. Overcooked, undercooked, raw, fresh, canned. My wife asks what I don’t like about them and I say, “Taste and texture,” which pretty much covers every quality there is about a pea, what with them lacking proper personalities and all.
But, being the dad that I am, when my wife prepares dinners and she uses peas, I choke them down my tightened gullet, fighting every gag reflex inside of me just to be a good example to my children. I figure that they’ll develop their own complexes soon enough and they don’t need me to help them along. But today, at this lunch, something is different. I just… can’t do it. I’m staring at the macaroni and cheese with peas mixed in on my plate and it seems like the ratio is all screwed up. It’s not a fair 80/20 split of noodles to peas, instead it seems closer to a 50/50 mix and… I close my eyes and take a bite. I try to smile but imagine I look more like a rapist trying to pass as a human in Christmas photos. My wife says, “What’s wrong?” And I open my eyes and she’s just staring at me. She puts her fork down and says, “Why do you look like a rapist?” and I say, “Uh… the peas. There’s just… so many,” and she says, “Well, I just want you to know that I wasn’t even going to make you lunch. You… were an afterthought.”
I mumble something to myself about “…afterthought you and pillow over your face while you sleep,” and she says, “What?” and I say, “I shall try my best to feast upon these peas. Long live the pea. God Bless You!” I ask my son if I can have a drink of his water and he says, “Nope. This is my water,” and, while I don’t agree with that statement or his decision, I do respect it. I encourage the children to share but don’t force them to. I say, “But I’m really thirsty,” and Rory says, “That’s your coffee,” and he points and he’s correct. Coffee with peas. Gross. I sound like a pregnant lady.
I take a bite and cringe again. Bugs are popping in my mouth, little beetles exploding. I gag and swallow and then begin to mechanically separate my food, peas from noodles, into two separate piles. “Are you… are you kidding me?” my wife asks, like I would think this is a very clever joke. I say, “No.” She says, “You’re setting a bad example,” and I say, “I know… I know… but I just… I just can’t. This,” and I wave my hand over my plate, “Is not happening.”
Jade turns to the kids and says, “You’re eating so good. You’re eating your peas so good!” and I echo her and the kids echo both of us and then, like lightning, an evil plot hatches in my tiny brain.
I turn to Rory and I say, “Rory… Rory, would you like to have some of daddies peas?!” and his eyes get really big because he loves eating anything that comes from my plate. “Do you want Daddy’s peas!?” and he says, “Yeah! Peas!” and I start shoveling them into his bowl, ladle after ladle, load after load. Jade raises her eyebrow to me, questioning my motives.
I say, “Good job, eat all those peas!” and he’s so excited to be getting all these little green gifts showered down upon him. His lunch goes from a fair 50/50 split to mostly just a mound of peas with a few scattered noodles… And then, like a snake in the grass, I slither in for the kill, “Daddy loves you so much! Daddy loves you so much that he wants to share his delicious peas with you! Daddy loves to share! Sharing is so nice!” and Rory says, “Sharing is nice! Daddy’s being a good boy!” and I say, “That’s right!” and my wife says, “Hmmmm….”
I finish emptying all of the peas into his bowl and I gently say, “Rory… Daddy has given you all of his delicious peas,” and he says, “Thank you, Daddy,” and I say, “You’re welcome… And all I ask in return, all I ask, is for a drink of your water.” And this boy that just moments before covetously gripped his cup to his chest in blatant refusal to commune with me, now eagerly grabs his chalice of life giving drink and thrusts it at me.
“I will share, Daddy! Rory a good boy!”
“That’s right,” I say, “You are a good boy.” And then I turn to Jade and I say, “And you were right as well. I am setting an example for the children.”
She raises another eyebrow and sort of half smiles while I wash the disgusting taste from my mouth and finish my noodles.