I can handle most of these restrictions, save for cheese. I have eaten cheese at almost every meal of my life. I’m not kidding. My promiscuity regarding cheese was well known among my friends since I would eat almost any cheese with equal voracity. My close friends preferred to call me ‘Cheese Hoover’ as my inability to even attempt portion control is something to behold. I’m okay with this, of course. But you might imagine my infinite dismay to read at the outset of this pregnancy that soft cheeses were off the table. It was as I read more about it that I saw there was wiggle room. Cheeses made with pasteurized milk were acceptable. Raw or unpasteurized milk were unacceptable and had the potential to carry bacteria that can be harmful to both mother and baby and were thus considered a risk. This past week, at thirty-four weeks pregnant, I was presented with an opportunity to taste a new cheese made with ingredients of which I was unsure.
The cheese was from Lazy Lady Farm, a local Vermont farm. I had heard about this cheese maker from friends who were excited to find it on a cheese plate while out to dinner in New York and constantly looked for it when in Vermont but reported it was sometimes difficult to find. While at a farm stand this past week I saw the label in a cooler and knew I had to buy it. But I hesitated. I picked the cheese out of the cooler and inspected the information on the label. It did not say specifically whether it was made with pasteurized or unpasteurized goat’s milk. As I stood in indecision, the cheese hoover within got the best of me and I decided to feign innocence… it didn’t actually specify whether it was raw or not so surely I was fine, right? I mean, if unpasteurized milk is a danger than surely they would have noted it?
That night my husband and I devoured the cheese with a fresh locally made baguette. The cheese was called “La Petite Tomme”, a mild brie made from goat’s milk. I tried very hard to temper myself so that my husband got just as much chance to enjoy it but every bite seemed to dissolve on my tongue before I had a chance to fully experience it, forcing me to prepare another mouthful. My husband just laughed. Its creamy goodness spilled from the wrinkled white rind in such a way that compelled me to wipe the cutting board with the baguette just to get the last remnants. What is it about the flavor of soft cheeses? The smell is unappealing, the rind is unappealing but it still makes my mouth water and I wonder who is consuming whom, as I am beholden to it and not satisfied until it is all gone. And sometimes not even then.
Such is the life of a cheese hoover. Even a pregnant cheese hoover. But this cheese hoover was not without a conscience and that evening, bothered by the question of raw versus pasteurized milk and on the verge of anxiously manufacturing symptoms of an infection that I imagined unpasteurized bacteria might cause, I looked up the cheese on the farm’s website only to find that it was made from pasteurized milk and everything would be fine. But the nagging question was there, later that night, as I lay in my bed, ever wakeful to my constant bladder, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was going to be a selfish mother who would choose her own interests over those of her children. Certainly, my friends who were pregnant were more careful about these things, some changing their diet almost completely while pregnant. Would there be mothers like this whom I would meet later at kindergarten registration and find myself woefully inadequate to their mothering abilities? Their children would be perfect in every way, already know how to read chapter books, spend afternoons writing thoughtful letters in cursive to their mothers thanking them for their recent excursions to sophisticated museums where they had begun to understand the histories of obscure civilizations that I had never heard of and the like? They would be able to accurately distinguish the difference between Bach, Mozart and Chopin by ear, recognize elements from the Periodic table. These mothers would look at me and mine, note our insufficiencies, their eyes narrowing, understanding intuitively that I was given to my own vices before the vices of my children, that I was ‘that’ kind of mother, that I would give in to raw milk cheeses, if tempted.
But me, I would be safe in the knowledge that my children knew who I was, that I had interests and likes and things I could not and would not live without and that I was passionate about cheese and that everything is okay and that it is especially okay to give in a little, every now and then, to your inner hoover.