Photo: via Sarah DiGregorio
"My daughter’s health needs changed the way I think about food, control and pleasure."
By Sarah DiGregorio
"If eating is about pleasure, at least for me, cooking is about control. Knowing how to make onions sizzle gently in oil and start to go limp, then transparent, then light brown, then sweet and dark. It’s a transformation that’s entirely predictable, a product of muscle and sense memory. If I pay attention in the kitchen, if I am careful, nothing goes wrong.
When I was pregnant, I worked at Food & Wine magazine. Editing recipes, the biggest part of my job at the time, is a meticulous and satisfying exercise in imagining all the mistakes that could be made in a kitchen and then trying to prevent them.
It was 90 degrees out as my stomach started to swell, but in the office we were cooking and tasting crunchy escarole salads, potato gratin, roasts and gravy, butter cookies and layer cakes. Summer at a monthly cooking magazine is about Thanksgiving, and then the holidays.
I liked to think of my daughter growing plump and happy and smart on everything I ate. Though I’d cut out alcohol, raw fish and cured meats, I ate everything else the test kitchen produced, imagining that this was the embryonic beginning of giving her a healthy, pleasurable relationship with food and her body. “Eating for two” is an irritating phrase, but I saw it as the first benefit of being alive that I could share with her.
Despite my well-laid plans, it turned out the placenta was failing.
My daughter was not, actually, living the fetal high life. My body was keeping all that good food for itself — the snow-white slice of coconut layer cake, the bitter sautéed winter greens. First she fell off her growth curve and then, a fetus slowly starving, her body ground to a halt. She was not safe inside me, so the doctors took her out nearly 12 weeks early, an emaciated, shivery bundle, a 1-pound 13-ounce creature of skin and bones."