Photo: Courtesy of Meg Giles
My daughter is, among other things, a crab-stuffed squash blossom from one of New York's best restaurants, Chanterelle. I ate there the day after I learned I was pregnant, at the insistence of my friend Michael. I suggested that perhaps we should postpone the celebration for a few months, fearing another miscarriage, but Michael responded, as I should have known he would, that we would celebrate now and in three months. This is what we do on momentous occasions, he said, we go to Chanterelle. And so, we did.
It was a night of nights: There was the famous sommelier, there was the gracious owner, there was talk of who the baby might be, there was, after all, the food. The four of us ordered nearly everything on the menu. We urged perfect forkfuls of our dishes on each other, each bite a revelation. "Here, you must try this seafood sausage—stop what you are doing, have the steak and potatoes with a dab of the creamed spinach—no, no, taste this halibut in its asparagus corral" (yes, that's right, corral; though we longed for an asparagus chorale, a short musical number performed by a local, seasonal vegetable).
My daughter is made of the squash blossom that we shared. She is steak, halibut, the cheese cart, and every dessert they offered; she is a fine meal in Tribeca on a May night; she is Michael's soaring faith in the future, his extravagance, generosity, wit, and she is also this: strawberry soup.
In wine it is called terroir: the peculiarities of the soil, the water, the very angle of the sun, the land that makes a wine distinctly itself. "I am now terroir," it suddenly occurred to me, "I am someone's terroir." Pregnancy transpires, somewhat insultingly, without effort (unlike conception, which, for me, required almost heroic effort). The only input I had was what I was eating. The phrase "you are what you eat" leapt to mind, then quickly morphed into "Kid, you are what I eat."
The simplest rubric for eating while pregnant focuses naturally on healthy, fortifying foods, but those guidelines, in their rectitude, have become punitive, shaming, and somewhat alarming, steeped in the language of fear. Pregnant women are now told to beware of deli meat. But I suspect that if a turkey sandwich were going to take down mankind, we'd have disappeared long ago. I wanted my child to be healthy, and more: I also wanted to eat with a mind toward who I wanted her to be. If I was, indeed, creating another being, what should be on the ingredient list? Which foods? What qualities? I set about dreaming up a recipe for my kid.
Any child of mine, I decided, should be made of the #2 turkey club sandwich at the Sugar Bowl in Scottsdale, Arizona, my hometown. My father ate lunch at the counter for 20 years every Thursday at 1 P.M., so predictably that they put in his order for the #2 before he sat down. The turkey club, I figure, is our legacy. I put that on the ingredient list.