Samui Wining & Dining
The Pudding Club

When it comes to pregnant cravings, strange longings often come down to basic nourishment!


20Take a simple case of ‘the munchies’. One of my friends used to swear by a theory that put the reason for the munchies somewhere between leprechauns and demonic possession. His reasoning was; they’re all out there, somewhere. Hobgoblins, pixies, demons even, just awaiting their chance. And, usually after one has spent a convivial hour or so imbibing substances (all of them conscientiously legal, of course), then one becomes open to whispered suggestions on a psychic level. Such as an overwhelming desire for a curry after six or seven beers. Or, more subtly, the sudden lust for orange-flavoured wafer-thin mints following the sipping of a superlative Sauvignon. And the more under the influence one becomes, the more compelling are the jostlings and whisperings. Which neatly brings me to the subject of pregnant women.

    When it comes to food-fancies and snack-whims, as my already-mentioned friend would put it, “ . . . they become, like, you know, total stoners.” An insight not wholly without merit. Take, for example, singing superstar Beyonce who, when she was still carrying her colourfully-named daughter, Blue Ivy, suddenly launched into a diet of ketchup-dipped bananas, alternated with croissants microwaved along with fruit and nut chocolate bars. Or Halle Berry’s desire for Peperoncini; an Italian pepper pickled in vinegar, even the juice of which she slurped with, err . . . relish. Speaking of which, it’s a sure bet that diva Mariah Carey’s husband, Nick Cannon, bought a season ticket to 7-Eleven while Mariah was expecting twins, Moroccan and Monroe, as cherry-flavoured Slurpees were at the top of her cravings list.

      It’s a funny old world alright. Not least when you return home to find your pregnant partner sitting down to a nice plate of coal. Or, perhaps paint flakes, chalk, cigarette butts, laundry starch; even potting compost. This is less usual than other cravings, but it does happen and with bewildering frequency. It’s a condition known medically as pica. This is far less cute, and can be a sign of a disturbing psychological moire, such as an ex-smoker who refuses to take up the habit again and so sublimates the urge into chewing cigarette stubs instead. Or it might be the result of physiological changes such as sudden salivation – hence the desire to nibble on sticks of chalk. In most cases this is a passing distraction, although it’s not something to be ignored. On the other hand, nearly all of these curious cravings have their origins in something that’s quite significant – the body’s subliminal need to restore a nutritional balance, or to compensate for elements that it’s lacking.

      When it comes to the reasons which lie behind these dietary cravings, expert opinions vary. Yet all are agreed that they’re due to a slew of hormonal changes combined with basic nutritional needs. Not surprisingly there has been a lot of research into this phenomenon, and one of the acknowledged experts in this field is Janet Pope, an associate professor of nutrition and dietetics at Louisiana Tech University. “A craving for milk might mean you need calcium; a craving for fruit may signal the need for vitamin C. In fact, fruit, milk, and milk products (as well as chocolate and salty snacks) are the most common pregnancy cravings,” Dr. Pope explained. “But one thing that’s indisputable is that the body has a greater need for calories when pregnant.”

       Which is where the entire plateau of being pregnant and craving curious foodstuffs begins to go a bit flaky. Because, interwoven with this, are both cultural influences, and also social and peer pressures. Taking one simple example – the number-one top craving for pregnant women in America is for chocolate. Whereas in European countries it’s much more of a mixed bag. The suspected reason? America is a country where everyone, everyday, talks about and counts calories. Chocolate is taboo, banned; illicit. And, when an American body is pregnant and in need of calories, what better trigger could there be to explore the deliciously illicit realm of chocolate indulgence?

       The final stir of the spoon, into the mixture of why, really, any of us does anything in the 21st century, is the ‘times in which we live’. Social Media. Facebook. Twitter. The Internet. Today we all (pregnant women included) not only have instant access to a huge amount of global information, but also are constantly connected to a large number of personal ‘friends’ and their opinions. Receiving a bombardment of well-wishing advice from friends (particularly those who are liked and respected) will invariably colour our response, as will a consistent stream of advice from ‘experts’ on online forums and blogs. And anecdotes that we’ve heard about women eating pickles for breakfast, or our friend’s description of her nine-month tomato mania may cause us to have similar urges of our own.

      Like Beyonce’s chocolate croissants (much-needed calories plus a delight in having a reason to be rebellious). Or her ketchup-bananas (bananas are rich in potassium and fibre, and ketchup is sinfully sweet and calorific.) We’ve read about it so we know it’s okay, and so we do it too. Is nothing, today, simple any more?

      No it’s not! Today there are layers within layers of complexity and influences and pressures which we’re not even aware of, far more so than ever before. And yet, of course, we keep on going. We absorb it all and go about our lives. And, as ever, as always, some of us get pregnant, along with all the longings and cravings that accompany this, for whatever the reason. And for those of you, pregnant or not, who can go along with this, I say – welcome to the club!

Rob De Wet


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