Friday, May 27, 2011

The Perils of Being Pregnant

Computer refusing to upload photos but imagine a big plate of raw oysters right here.

The daily temptations of the local specialties shops notwithstanding (from creamy unpasteurized French cheeses, various forms of raw meats from aged prosciutto, salami, tartars and sushi to anything from the deli counter basically), I now have to dodge children and raw vegetables. My rubella antibodies have gone from "weak" during my first pregnancy to below acceptable levels in this one. Apparently this happens. And so, what follows? Yes, a fellow mother from my children's kindergarten just informed me that there is at least one confirmed case of some sort of rubella, aptly also called German measles, currently circulating among the little miscreants. But children are not this pregnant woman's only nemisis: there has recently been an outbreak of something referred to as EHEC, a form of E. coli bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics and causes a series of unpleasant and potentially fatal intestinal and kidney malfunctions. They have just announced that a leading research institute in Germany has traced the source to raw vegetables - the one thing that pregnant women are told to ingest in large quantities. AND they have traced these vegetables back to... yes, of course, northern Germany.

While grocery shopping I feel like I am in a minefield: tomatoes about to go off all around me, who knows what's lurking under that lettuce leaf, and the potential pitfalls of choosing the wrong red pepper. ACK! What is a veggie lover to do? Cook them, the experts say. Peel them, boil them, fry them, sauteé them, bake them, just get them hot enough to kill whatever might be on them. But it's summmmmmmeeeeerrr. The season of flip-flops and cut-offs and tube tops and RAW vegetables, of hierloom tomato salads with (raw milk) buffala mozzorella, green goddess dressings made of thousands of fresh herbs, crudités and dips, cold soups made of simple pureed RAW vegetables. Raw, naked, in their natural state. Not baked in cheese and cream, not breaded and fried, not soaking in oil, just plain. Plain delicious.

In the course of my travels, I have had just about every amoeba, parasite and bacteria from giardia to bilharzia and taken every drug from cipro to hard core antibiotics. Of course this is because I've drank water from puddles full of cow shit in Mauritania, risked "Delhi-belly" by sampling the wares of numerous street food vendors throughout India, eaten fish from still water lakes in Afghanistan and kebobs from dodgy road side stands in Jordan; what I mean to say is, I deserved it. I have thrown major caution to the wind when it comes to taking triple-dog-food-dares. And I paid dearly for it. But this time, the game has changed. My intestinal track is weathered and can hack a little EHEC, I wager. But the fetus - I would like to give it a little more time to prepare before exposing it to all  of the intestinal evils of the world.

So yesterday as the woman scans my items at the check out counter  I am practically blushing. I will admit it: I am a bit of a grocery snob. I judge other people by their groceries. I imperceptibly shake my head at the mother who puts a pile of sugary yogurts, Chef-Boy-Ardee-like ready made pasta mixes and nothing-natural-about-them cookies on the conveyer belt; I feel sorry for the middle-aged man who lays out his mayonaisse-laden deli prepared "salads" and his frozen pizzas; I chuckle as I remember when I was one of those students stocking up on ramen noodles and cheep beer. Total snob, I know.

But as I stand here watching my groceries slide by, I realize I am a conglomeration of all of these people. It's painfully obvious that I've completely shunned the produce aisle, even though signs hang above the arugula, spinach and iceburg saying "E. Coli FREE"; instead, it looks like I am preparing for an impending storm - almost everything is either processed and packaged or pasteurized. Artificially flavored hazelnut cream filled cookies, sour cream and onion Philadelphia and my biggest weakness which I usually deny, those something of Hannover honey mustard pretzel bits. They always give me a stomach ache because I eat too many of them but they are crack-like addictive. Nutritional value of my purchase: negligible. E. Coli risk: 0. Sometimes you have to pick your battles.


  1. HA! I had a brush with rubella during my 1st pregnancy and 2 months into this one there was a Hep B outbreak at 0's school.... all melons in Honduras were recalled for salmonella during P1 and of course that was what I was living on at the time! Beware the health official who tries to take my street tacos away this time around!!!

  2. Ja, i am sure this EHEC thing in Germany is so miniscule compared to everyday life elsewhere but as of today, hospitals in northern Germany are over capacity, 11 dead and can't find a cucumber anywhere. It's starting to freak me out. Sticking to my Schneiders of Hannover and Oreos for now... your taco truck would be a safer bet at this point!