Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Sacrifices of Motherhood Include Really Good Cheese

Being pregnant and finding the right balance of what to eat is not an easy task. That task is made doubly hard when you're a finicky foodie like me. Now that I am in my second trimester and the all-day morning sickness has passed, I am able to move beyond cereal, bananas and buttered rice for nourishment. My appetite is increasing, but I am restricted from many of my favorite foods. With all the advancements and knowledge available in pre-natal care, eating has now become a highly regulated part of life for pregnant women. I want to know I am doing everything I can to provide the best start for my baby, but all the codes and restrictions at some point seem overwhelming and a little obsessive.

It's funny but I feel women of my mother's generation must think pregnant women my age just need to relax. No one told their generation to limit coffee and chocolate, avoid alcohol, stay away from soft cheese, ban all deli meat and bacon, seek and destroy all preservatives and nitrates and that you're already a bad mother if you drink diet soda. Times may not have been better for pregnant women of their era, but they sure seem a lot simpler from my vantage point. Somehow our mother's managed to get most of us into the world without too many problems.

Although I have been pretty much following all the guidelines given to me by my doctor and the many pregnancy books I own, the sources can be downright confusing. My doctor says it's fine to eat soft cheese as long as it's pasteurized and I'm confident that it's been stored properly (to avoid any chance of getting listeria that might be growing in there), most sources say to avoid it altogether. So that leaves me to devise my own rule system. Currently my rule (as approved by the other half of this project, my thoughtful yet concerned husband) is that I limit what is undoubtedly my favorite food category -- and when I do eat blue cheese, brie and goat cheese, I do so only at highly regarded restaurants and from meticulously inspected packages of cheese purchased from respectable retailers.

Although most cheese in the U.S. is supposed to be pasteurized, some cheese are allowed to be made with raw milk if they are aged for a certain amount of time. Also, I have noticed several restaurants recently offering raw-milk cheeses on cheese platters and in appetizers, so I've found it necessary to ask the waiter more questions if I am not absolutely certain I know how the cheese was made. It makes fine dining less thrilling when you have to cut out a large portion of your ordering options and feel you must beg your spouse for the tiniest sip of wine. (Sorry, I could go on for days.)

Don't get me wrong, I am so thankful to be pregnant and know I have many rewards coming at the end of 9 (what is really 10) months. But, it would be nice if expectant fathers got the same dietary guilt trip or if the Italians would create the perfect non-alcoholic prosecco. But, at the top of my foodie wish list is a lift of moratorium on really good cheese. Even when I eat it now, I still feel wary because of all the warnings I've seen. In my mind, though, I have this comfort -- how could Velveeta possibly be as good for a baby as a runny triple-cream that's been made with small batches of fresh milk, by producers who put their heart and soul in to the cheese and that is aged naturally without all those frightening-sounding preservatives. That's pretty sound logic to me.

A bistro for Thai in Geneva, IL

Still missing the neighborhood Thai restaurant we loved in our former Lincoln Square apartment, we set out with excitement to check out Bistro Thai (on State St.) in our new stomping grounds in the Western Suburbs. The restaurant opened just before the holidays, right across from one of our other favorites, Stockholm's. You never know when a restaurant has a fusion name like Bistro Thai if its cuisine might take more influence from one culture over another and what the end result will be. We were delighted to find that really the dessert menu, decor and the overall presentation was what was truly Bistro about Bistro Thai -- otherwise the food is familiar Thai dishes done well. Because I am four and a half months pregnant and currently craving lots of spice, I was excited to get some authentic curry, and the green curry with beef didn't disappoint. It contained ample green beans, eggplant and red pepper and was served in a beautiful wave-design bowl. The appetizers we ordered were a little over-the-top for two people, but were a lot of fun to try. Called the Bistro Thai sampler platter, it included rice-paper wrapped and fried tail-on shrimp that contained a chiffonade of Thai basil; Thai vegetable egg rolls; Golden Crab (fresh-tasting Crab Rangoon); tempura vegetables; deep-fried potstickers; chicken satay; little cakes that seemed to have chopped shrimp and coconut in them; and three sauces for dipping: peanut, a sweet soy sauce and a traditional Thai-style sweet-and-sour sauce. There was so much on the plate that I might be forgetting something. Jeff had the Panang Curry, and was pleased with it as well.

The atmosphere was just right and the prices were reasonable as well. Although we still will always wish we still had Chicago's Yes Thai right around the corner in our new home of Aurora, Bistro Thai in Geneva makes it much easier to find great Thai with a city atmosphere in the burbs.