A couple of days ago, whilst enjoying possibly the most middle class sandwich ever made – hummous, morbier cheese and smoked trout, with a squeeze of lime juice on top (naturally) – the satisfying result of rummaging in the fridge for leftovers from a ‘picnic lunch’ held to introduce my daughter to her grandfather, I was reminded of the mental list my husband and I had made of all the scrumptious food that I (and, on occasion, we) had been denied during the previous nine months.
There are many advantages to being pregnant in France. The standard of care, for example, is generally magnificent, and includes: scrupulous monthly testing for toxoplasmosis and testing for Group B Strep performed on admission to the labour ward (neither of which is undertaken routinely in the UK, as far as I am aware, although I may be wrong); an obligatory consultation with an anaesthetist and a gruesome video to watch before being approved for an epidural (despite my insistence that I did not want one); and a minimum three night stay in hospital after giving birth – both my husband and I were even required to sign a declaration stating that we wished to discharge our daughter early since Miss Chou-fleur was younger than the required three days old by two hours at the time of our (approved) departure. Yet there is one area where it is particularly difficult to be pregnant in France. Finding oneself surrounded by so much delicious food declared strictly off-limits to expecting mothers, and resisting the temptation to fall (or jump) off that particular wagon, is no easy feat. This is a country which celebrates local fare and which excels at ‘picnic lunches’ (where so much of the best cheese is lait cru and the meat viande sechée, and consequently forbidden during pregnancy). Temptation lurks everywhere – in our town’s local supermarket, in the weekly marché, and in the independent delicatessens. There are at least two wine producers in my town alone (one making a fizzy so delicious that Queen Victoria herself numbered amongst its early patrons). One of my French friends even commiserated with me when I told her that I was expecting my Chou, telling me how dreadful it was that I would have nothing to eat. She had faced the struggle herself a couple of years earlier, but fortunately had lived to recount her ordeal.
Now that I have survived my own pregnancies, helped greatly by crippling morning sickness which did wonders to dissuade me from eating anything I shouldn’t, I am guzzling my way through that list (supplied below as evidence of my plight) and enjoying every moment of it – pâté and pink fizz yesterday and duck on the menu today…Bon appetit!
- Fromage au lait cru – this includes such staples as morbier, brie (best eaten, I think, in a sandwich with cranberry sauce), camembert, most tommes, and local delicacies like Saint-Marcellin and Saint-Félicien. I spent a large part on my pregnancy fantasising about my hospital portion of camembert, cheese being served religiously at mealtimes throughout my two stays;
- Camembert and baguette in hospital
- Fromage à pâte persillée (including our local Bleu de Gex, as well as Bleu d’Auvergne, Roquefort, Bresse Bleu and Saint Agur);
- Seafood generally, and crevettes and coquilles Saint-Jacques specifically. My poor husband has suffered in this respect too – scallop gratin is one of his very favourite meals;
- Saumon/truite fumé(é);
- Pâté made from liver and all cured meat;
- Any and all red meat not scorched and charred to such an extent as to be all but indigestible, but especially steak and magret de canard (I had never eaten steak before meeting my husband and would feel sick and faint if I was served meat containing any trace of blood, but since he is very much the carnivore, through a mixture of politeness and wanting to make a good impression on my new boyfriend who had gone to the two-minute trouble of cooking for me, I allowed myself to become converted. I haven’t looked back.);
- Salad – France takes toxoplasmosis (a form of parasitic disease caught through eating poorly washed food, such as salad leaves and other raw vegetables, or through exposure to infected cat feces, which can be severely detrimental to the health of unborn babies) very seriously. My husband, believing it ‘better to be safe than sorry’, placed a temporary ban on salad since I have never contracted the disease and therefore have no immunity to cat poo – a condition I would be quite pleased to maintain…
- Raw or partially cooked eggs, found in numerous mousse-y desserts and in one of my favourite Summer meals, Caesar salad (forbidden on two counts – the eggs in the dressing and those potentially cat-infected lettuce leaves).
Mots du jour:
La grossesse – pregnancy gourmand(e) – A connoisseur of good food (a gourmet)/a greedy goblin or glutton Rebonjour- Hello again fromage au lait cru – unpasteurised (‘raw’) cheese viande sechée – cured meat marché – market Aliments interests – forbidden food Bon appetite! Enjoy your meal! fromage à pâte persillée – blue cheese crevettes – prawns coquilles Saint-Jacques – scallops saumon/truite fumé(e) – smoked salmon/trout magret de canard – duck breast