I find that Im not eating many meals these days.
Oh, Im eating. Every few hours, Little Bean wriggles in my belly, sometimes in quite a concerted fashion, and I know its time for food. Im happy to comply, with shreds of fresh mozzarella with herbed sea salt, or a handful or Rainier cherries, or a wild greens salad with chevre and sunflower seeds. Whatever my body tells me I want to eat, Im reaching for it.
Its just the full-meal deal that eludes me now. I dont remember the last time I sat down to a multi-course meal, or even an appetizer and a dessert.
Theres a rather large baby sitting on my stomach right now. (And my bladder, but thats a different discussion.) And the presence of Little Bean effectively blots out my hunger. The gnawing, ravenous feeling of having not eaten in hours? The keening that calls for great food and quite a lot of it? That has all but disappeared around here.
It feels a little strange.
When I was suffering from the worst throes of celiac, and was eating gluten without knowing the damage it was doing to me, I completely lost my appetite. My stomach sent out a consistent flat-line signal. Nothing going on there. And then I was repulsed by food. I had never experienced anything like it in my life. I hated it.
These last few weeks of pregnancy dont feel like that. Im still actively enjoying the food I eat. The spicy lamb tibs I scooped into injera bread at lunch with my friend Karen and her mother today? I tasted every prickling of jalapenos, the spicy red sauce, the chew of each piece of lamb. For hours, I felt deeply satisfied. Little Bean did a happy dance in my belly afterwards too.
Im still in love with food. Especially now that I know that what I eat feeds our Little Bean.
But I just dont have the active stomach space once open to me that I once did.
Since the summer has fully arrived complete this morning with the rare Seattle lightning storm Im only interested in ingredients. Blueberries off the bush, strawberries stolen away from their stems and popped into my mouth, whole milk yogurt with watermelon cubes. A single pork sausage, roasted in the oven, sizzling, and ready for my fork. Nibbles of cheese. Sugar snap peas eaten raw.
It feels strange to be working on recipes for the cookbook when I have no interest in this heated condition to be blending and pureeing and sautéing. Just give me food.
But isnt this what summer feels like anyway? We strip down to our essential selves, suits and ties flung away, the tank tops emerging from our drawers. An outfit that would have seemed shocking in January shorts, sandals, short-sleeve t-shirt feels boringly normal now. We show so much skin that we become inured to the allure of sun upon it.
With all this sun, the zucchini plant in our garden has grown to monstrous proportions, reaching toward the sky with its thorny stems and enormous leaves. Each time I look out the back door to check on its progress, I shake my head in amazement. Soon, well have squash blossoms stuffed with goat cheese. And after Little Bean arrives, well probably have such a plethora of zucchini that well sigh and wish that we had a little less.
Everything wants to live this time of the year.
With all this bounty, who needs meals?
BROWN RICE WITH TUNA AND TOMATOES
If I must, I can be persuaded to put fresh vegetables and other ingredients into an assemblage and call it a meal. This is a play on a dish my dear friend Meri made for me years ago, after I had abdominal surgery and only wanted soft, healthy foods. Good brown rice, fresh tomatoes, and tuna. The textures blend into a lovely soft chew, nothing sharp or unexpected. It always left me satisfied.
Tunas controversial in general these days, but particularly with pregnant women. The mercury levels are enough to give anyone pause. Some women swear off tuna entirely. My choice? There are times that the lean protein really appeals to me. And so Ive eaten maybe the equivalent of three cans of tuna over the course of the entire pregnancy. And each of them was high-quality tuna, caught in a sustainable fashion. All things in moderation feels the right way for me.
Im not going to give you a recipe here. That feels ridiculous. Just the ingredients.
Cooked brown jasmine rice
Light-meat tuna, drained of its juices, and dressed with a light vinaigrette (lemon juice)
Fresh mozzarella, shredded into bites
Ripe heirloom tomatoes, tossed with olive oil and sea salt
Assemble these together in any fashion you wish. If you choose the finest ingredients, in season, that you can find, you wont need anything else besides this.