Comfort Food

Comfort Food

I craved healthy food when I was pregnant with Mikey. I remember sitting on our brown leather sectional, barely 14 weeks along, with a bowl of clementines in my lap. I ate a 5 lb crate of clementines in less than a week. How fortunate for me that is was December and they were in season. Aside from my craving for clementines–only clementines, not citrus–I craved bean, rice, and cheese burritos from Miguel’s Jr. Never in my life, before or since, have I wanted a bean, rice, and cheese burrito. I like beans, I like rice, and I like cheese. I don’t like them fraternizing in my mouth or my tortillas.

Years later, I ordered a BRC burrito from Miguel’s Jr. out of curiosity. I remembered distinctly how good they tasted when I was pregnant. They were so good, my mouth would water as I unwrapped the burrito and I savored each bite until I hit pay dirt: that end of the burrito where the tortilla is double thick and rolled into itself.

To my empty womb, the BRC tasted like baby food, which is exactly how beans, rice, and cheese burritos always taste to me. I can’t get behind food you can eat by pressing it against the roof of your mouth with your tongue. I just can’t. Vile, mushy food.

And then, Nico.

Two things happened within seconds of Nico’s conception. I got heartburn and I craved McDonald’s chicken nuggets. No, it was worse than that because it wasn’t an isolated nugget craving. I craved nuggets, fries, kielbasa (??), pizza, hamburgers, junk food of all kinds, and beer. It was like I was gestating Bluto from Animal House.

This is all apropos of nothing, except that Mikey is sick and all day yesterday he wanted a salad. That’s all he wanted. That, and eggs. I didn’t have all the ingredients for a salad, but I must have made him 4-5 eggs throughout the day. His favorite comfort food: crispy fried egg over black beans. The black beans I saute in coconut oil and Herbamare seasoning.

Mikey and Nico have opposite taste in food. Mikey likes watery foods like salad and fruit. Pizza. Tacos. Or, casseroles. Cheesy, gooey, rich casseroles where everything is all mixed up and touching. (The horror, the horror!) Eggs are a favorite, but that goes without saying. So are beans, rice, and cheese all mixed up like pudding.

Nico likes things plain and solid. His favorites are roasted garbanzo beans or tofu, both over brown rice. (Don’t be too impressed–the beans/tofu are hardly low fat by the time I’m done with them.) Hamburgers with mustard and pickles, no cheese. Pizza. Anything fried. Sweets of all kind, especially chocolate. He likes sour condiments like pickles and mustard (Mikey despises both) and absolutely, positively despises anything rich and…{{shudder}} creamy. Yogurt, melted cheese, and eggs have all caused him to vomit on sight. I wish I was kidding. The Mister thought Nico was exaggerating two weeks ago when he said he couldn’t bring Mikey’s plate to the kitchen without throwing up. He wasn’t. One look at Mikey’s slightly dried out scrambled egg crumb had Nico head first in the trash can. Later on he thought about it–just thought about it!–and barely made it to the bathroom.

Sometimes, because we’re terrible people, we like to tease Nico and tell him we’re having cheesy scrambled eggs with a side of yogurt for dinner.

Speaking of food, I still haven’t finished our last book club pick. A nonfiction book about food: it’s like I was begging for failure.

The book was great when I read it, but as I read it I also experienced that heightened level of stress I always get when the conversation turns to dieting or, in the case here, not dieting. When New Year’s came, I got all wrapped up thinking I needed to eliminate everything bad always and forever. Luckily, I was able to talk myself down from the ledge before I dipped my toe in a pool where I should never, ever swim. Every time I get the urge to diet, God nudges me. A girl confides that her mom calls her fat and that she needs to diet or no one will like her in high school. Another girl tells me she’s on a diet because she’s fat. Nowhere, on any planet in this galaxy or the next, is she fat. Then there was that Biggest Loser shocker.

And then the most recent nudge, which came while writing this post. I was link hopping, looking for a good Biggest Loser link, and found the link above. I watched the video thinking it was about Rachel, but no, it was about Jillian getting in trouble for giving her contestants caffeine supplements. Jillian refused to admit wrong doing and stated it was no different, and probably better, than unlimited coffee consumption. The pointed look she gave the other team makes me think that’s essentially what they were doing.

Unlimited coffee? Caffeine supplements? That’s a pro-Ana trick, and quite possibly the oldest one in the book.

I’m glad I’m no longer dieting and happy that I walk every day. I just need to keep reminding myself that 30 years of dieting mentality isn’t going to resolve itself over night.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.


  1. Adeline says

    Well that got me rather disappointed in Jillian. :( I generally find the Biggest Loser to send a good message (as far as reality TV can..) but there have been a few instances where I found things a bit contradictory (my pet peeve is encouraging people to eat stuff like fat-free dairy). Caffeine supplements though? That’s crazy.

    Back to food and texture, ouch poor Nico! Eggs make me feel a bit funny and I CANNOT stand touching raw egg, but yikes that must be tricky to deal with. I do remember refusing to eat anything other than plain cucumber slices with salt when I was sick as a kid. Drove my parents nuts considering I’d get sick in winter and off-season cucumbers weren’t exactly something we could afford.

  2. Phaedra says

    Ahhhh.. pregnancy cravings. The one and only craving I had was for super hot Chinese hot mustard. I wanted whatever they had, but hotter. Which made no sense whatsoever because generally I was sick the entire time (right to delivery date) and didn’t want any food at all. I thought perhaps it would turn out that Ava would like spicy food, but, although not overly picky, she prefers a low to average spice level. She does not like any sauces, dressing, overly creamy or cheesy things and we do a lot of ‘component meals’ where she eats each thing individually that would otherwise be mixed up (the way I’m eating them). *I don’t serve separate meals, just allow her to eat the same foods on their own. Luckily we do not have the ‘vomit on sight’ issue. YIKES! Poor guy. Poor you guys!

    on that note, I don’t diet. I was just talking with a friend about why I try to never use that word in this house, especially because I have a girl. I like to serve a meal and eat the same meal with her. Not her eating and mommy popping caffeine pills for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Poor form BL. I don’t watch it and I can’t say it surprises me really, but badly done on their part. What is THAT telling the viewers? Oh, even after you eat carefully, and workout for HOURS a day with trainers, it’s not enough? You also have to pop caffeine pills (and who knows what else)? *sigh*

    • says

      Exactly! These people are working out for hours per day and eating like monks. And still that’s not enough. I’m sure people at home must wonder why they should bother.

  3. Jenn says

    While pregnant with my first I had a peanut butter sandwich phase, followed by a spaghetti with shelf stable parmesan phase, followed by a bean burrito with cheese phase (!) and at some point a grapefruit juice phase. I would stop by the store after work and drink half of a 64oz juice in the car. With my second, I also had a peanut butter phase. I ate less sugar with my second because I had to be screened twice for gestational diabetes with my first.

    In our house, three of us would prefer to dine with Mikey. (That picture just gave me a lunch idea!). My older son would prefer to dine with Nico. He is picky, likes sweets and likes to keep his foods separate. It is too bad I am not a meat and potatoes type of cook. My younger son loves savory food, and is not at all bothered by messy foods.

    • says

      I’d say it’s the messy appearance that bothers Nico, but then I think about his room and desk at school and realize that couldn’t be the issue. :)

  4. says

    The degree to which I NEED TO INGEST MILK every day is ridiculous. I’m still not sure if it qualifies as “craving,” but just the thought of a pint glass of ice cold milk does make my salivary glands act up a little bit. I keep wanting to be all “I CRAVE FRENCH FRIES” and get away with eating ridiculous junk food for the next 3 months, but honestly it’s…not so. (However, while I was still in my first trimester, the only things that sounded palatable were potatoes and cottage cheese. I ate a lot of fries while I was road-tripping 500 miles by myself for my friend’s bridal shower and then her wedding the next month.) I have, however, made my husband run to the store and get two gallons of milk because it’s snowy and I’m a beyond-terrible snow driver. I have been able to take down two gallons of skim by myself (husband is a former vegan who doesn’t do cow’s milk for drinking) within a week.

    I also need to eat citrus, but not as much as I need milk. I learned to segment a grapefruit and did an entire bag which ended up being part of salads, or even just something to accompany my breakfast in the mornings. It’s not as present (I go through mini-phases, and then that bag of oranges gets a little dried-out and sad when I’m not needing them as much), but I guess it’s there? I could probably eat 8 clementines RIGHT NOW, shoot.

    I hope Mikey feels better soon!

  5. says

    I always find food cravings and likes fascinating. My house full of eaters doesn’t have me running around cooking too much, but I do have to vary the amounts of things on their plates. Why do my oldest and I love cabbage and the rest can’t stand the smell? Why does raw onions send my husband running away and me towards? Can I tell you that I almost fell over when one of my bread loving sons confessed he really didn’t like bagels?
    Weird. It’s all very weird. Someday they will find the likes and dislikes gene, but until then I’m going to go with the theory that they eat what their body needs. Must be related to the gag reflex in your house. Does he have an aversion to slimy non-food things?
    Why one son could live on salad and apples and another on pasta and brussel sprouts stumps me and awes me to no end.
    For the record I ate hummus and tabouleh for lunch everyday for months with pregnancy #1 and he isn’t the one who gorges himself on it now….

    • says

      I find it so fascinating, too! I actually enjoy learning about their likes and dislikes. To me, it means they are growing up, developing their own personalities.

      I don’t make separate meals. I generally cook what everyone likes, or at least include one item I know everyone will eat. For example, on the nights we have tofu, I make sure to make a larger salad for Mikey. When we eat casseroles, which is rare, I admit, because I hate casseroles, I make sure the side vegetables are ones Nico likes.

  6. says

    I remember getting in trouble with my doctors because I hardly gained any weight when I was pregnant but I went from eating crap food (McDonald’s, pizza, chinese take-out, and dear lord TWINKIES) to wanting NOTHING but hard boiled eggs and vegetables when I was pregnant. The amount of salad I ate is unreal. It’s hard to gain weight when all you want to eat is vegetables. I miss those days when that is all I wanted to eat.

    For now I’m trying to learn that I’m not bad or good based on what I eat (or weigh) but healthier choices do help me sleep better, have more energy, and fewer mood swings so I try to keep that in mind without obsessing. WHY IS THAT LESSON SO HARD?!?

    And last, Mikey’s comfort food sounds LOVELY to me.

    • says

      I will say this about Mikey’s comfort food: it’s *sounds* like comfort food. When I think of comfort food, I think warm, soft, rich, etc. Strange that I don’t like them!

  7. Susan G says

    Sorry – I can’t get past anything after the Nico/egg/throwing up thing. I can occasionally eat eggs out – and like them – but cook them and then eat them? I’d be right next to Nico. And the whole family knows if they dare to cook eggs in the house they BETTER NOT LEAVE THE DIRTY PAN in the sink, because I will get sick.

    • says

      Yup. That’s Nico! Do not show him bits of old/left behind food. Lit bits of yogurt at the bottom of a cup (he can only eat the yogurt that comes in a tube, so he can’t see it), dried egg, a dirty sink of dishes…all NO GOOD.

  8. says

    Oh my gosh, I’m just imagining Nico and the eggs. I’m kinda meh about eggs but my girls abhor them. My four year old fake throws up every time cooked eggs are around…but I can’t handle real throw up. So, we’re a pretty egg free house, except for baking :)

    I don’t watch The Biggest Loser but was still disappointed to hear that Jillian was giving her contestants caffeine supplements. It seems to be the exact opposite of promoting healthy living, encouraging people to take a stimulant to lose weight.

  9. says

    I thought that photo was chocolate chips and an egg! I’m so glad it wasn’t. Nico is my spirit animal, I gag when Zoe makes eggs and I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT.

    I’m off to buy some salad, I have a coupon.

  10. says

    I’ve been fascinated by the Biggest Loser thing ever since I saw people exclaiming over it on facebook. I am surprised it has taken this long (this many seasons) for someone to overdo it to the extent where it is so shocking. I know that people overdo it to win- meaning, exercise and restrict in a manner that is not sustainable or healthy- but seeing this had me thinking “how has this not happened before???”.

    Hopefully she can check “win the money” off her list and now enjoy eating and healthy exercise again. But just like a 30 year diet mentality doesn’t change overnight, neither does a laser-sharp intensity of exercise and diet. Ugh. I hope she is well.

    Not that you need my affirmation, but I’m way impressed and glad for you that you backed off the dieting ledge. Great job listening to the nudges- that’s not easy.

    • says

      I’m surprised, too! 15 seasons and this is the first person to go to extremes. I hope she is well, too.

      And, actually, I DO need affirmation. Every day I wonder if I’m doing the right thing.

      • says

        I think you’re doing incredible. Challenging 30 years of dieting mentality is extremely difficult and takes guts. It’s scary to try something counter intuitive.

        The concept of listening to and trusting my own body has been a long journey, but I have freedom and movement now that I did not have before. Like- I’m not obsessed about it all the time anymore. Just sometimes, but that’s a billion times better than this time 10 years ago. I wrote a little about the exercise part of it once here:

        If you would like a daily affirmation email/comment/fb post, I will happily provide it:) Stay the course, Jules.

  11. says

    Hi Jules,
    I read your blog, and enjoy it!, often, but I never comment. Until today, when you made me google ‘pro-ana.’ I had never heard of it, and what I learned stopped me in my tracks. I’m a college professor so I’m around 18-21 year old girls every day. Obviously I know eating disorders exist (I teach media studies, no less). But at least at my school girls look healthier now than they did 10 years ago. And then I read about the support groups, and the publicly posted diet plans of 0-500 calories per day… Shocking. And very, very, saddening.

    • says

      Yes, I didn’t link to it because it can be triggering/upsetting/depressing to people. On pinterest they have “Thinspiration” or “Thinspo.” It’s bad. Lots and lots of tips on how to be an anorexic coupled with images of very, very thin women.

  12. says

    Ahhh I only had one pregnancy craving – guacamole-flavored tortilla chips with my daughter. I ate 3/4 of a bag in one sitting and have never been able to stomach them since. I don’t know how people handle multiple cravings. It would have driven me mad.

    Moving on… I agree, it is SO HARD to get past that “I need to lose weight and look like THAT” mentality. I’m struggling with it, too. My body shape is not what I want it to be, nor will it ever be without surgical intervention. It is hard. I applaud you for addressing it. Thanks :)

    • says

      Thanks, Sarah. :)

      Guacamole chips! I loved those when I was in college. I bought them a couple of years ago on a whim and almost died. What was I thinking?

  13. says

    When I was pregnant with my son, I ate meat like King Henry VIII. In fact, right after he was born, my favorite breakfast was a ChickFilA bagel sandwich (multigrain bagel/chicken/egg); I can’t even stand the thought of ordering one now. With my daughter, though, it was all about healthy snacks with a side of candy. M&Ms, preferably. Again, not something I love now. What’s up with that?

    I have trouble wrapping my head around my kids separate food aversions, especially since they are completely different from my own (and each other, for that matter.) Also hard: trying to instill healthy habits in them without giving them a complex. Harder still: not messing up their own natural healthy habits with my crummy, too tired to think about healthy habits meals. Clearly, my head is a mess. Baby steps are important. Stay away from the ledge, Jules! Your walking habit is an inspiration in itself.

  14. Sarah says

    Recently, my gym has started a weight loss challenge. In my head I’m making it a fitness challenge and more about getting stronger. One of the instructors pulled a bunch of us together after class one night and said that the gym owner was giving away supplements to people in the challenge , BUT she thought we should not take them. She told us all that we would lose fast, but it would all come right back. She also thinks they are dangerous especially to people who have heart problems or who drink a lot of caffeinated drinks. It really boosted my opinion of that instructor, and lowered my opinion of the gym owner. As far as BL goes, I think that winning $250,000 when competing against those big guys was a huge motivator for her. I don’t think she looks healthy at 105 lbs, but I can see how all of that money would be a lot motivation/ pressure. I’m wondering of they will revamp the show.

    Pregnancy craving…. For about a week in my first pregnancy, I had to have canned beef ravioli . Ick. No way I would eat it now. I had bad heartburn with my last baby, and ate a lot if cheese. That was hus main protein source up until he turned 5.

    • says

      I know they made an effort in the past to account for the male/female weight loss discrepancy, but I think this extreme loss was a matter of time. I’m surprised she’s the first one to go this far. I hope is was a one time thing, but then what does that mean? If it was *just* for the competition, she’ll gain a fair amount of that back.

  15. Rachel says

    The tofu and rice dish sounds great. It reminds me of my favorite dish from a vegetarian restaurant near my work which closed and I have never been able to duplicate. Do you mind giving us the recipe? Thanks!

    • says

      Sure! Here’s what I do. I take super firm tofu and cut it into squares. Sometimes, if I’m feeling meticulous, I toss it in a little seasoned flour. More often than not, I skip this step. Then, in small batches I saute the tofu in oil (coconut, EVOO, etc.) until it’s nice and crispy. I wouldn’t call it frying because there isn’t enough oil for the tofu to swim. I cover the bottom of the pan with oil, maybe a little less.

      When it’s crispy–or at least almost crispy to the degree I like it–I toss in a generous amount of nutritional yeast, salt, garlic or garlic seasoning, etc. I toss to coat, making sure the nutritional yeast “cooks” or toasts. Raw nutritional yeast is pretty bland.

      That’s it!

  16. HeatherL says

    I am much more like Mikey with my food preferences ( although Nico’s sound good too, I just don’t have his aversions to Mikey’s food)–I could eat eggs everyday, but there is a certain mush-line that some foods cross for me. My husband once made sweet potato enchiladas that were definitely in baby-food territory. Same thing with peanut butter sweet potato stew (and I love sweet potatoes!)
    I hope that Nico outgrows the gag reflex with the eggs. My mom is pretty close to that–she can’t stand eggs or anything creamy. I can’t tell her if there is yogurt in baked goods. I am usually all about full disclosure with what I make, but I know she CAN eat yogurt (not allergies) but the thought of it will turn her off if it even if she can’t taste it.

    Over the last two years I have had several health issues (including two surgeries) and I learned that doctors seem to focus more your healthy habits (such as exercising and not drinking excessively or smoking) than what your BMI is unless the weight is causing a particular problem.
    When I started to realize that exercising was the goal and not just a means to an end, it made such a difference. There are many benefits to doing any sort of exercise that go beyond just losing weight. That’s why they had any patient who could doing laps around the hospital the morning after surgery.

    • says

      This is so true about exercise! I’ve been reading the studies, and they all say the same thing. Daily exercise, no matter how light, makes an incredible difference and reduces the incidence of so many diseases. That really changed my view on walking. I always felt bad because it was “just” walking.

    • Susan G says

      “When I started to realize that exercising was the goal and not just a means to an end, it made such a difference. ”

      Thank you for this! I have fallen off the eating well wagon, and that “allowed” me to stop exercising as well because it “wasn’t going to do any good” since I am eating so poorly Well, I need to STOP thinking that and just get out there and walk or go to the gym. This was just the reminder I needed and I so appreciate it.

  17. says

    hi Jules (from the other side of the pond),
    when I was a child my mum was always dieting – and she is a petite and svelte European size 40 so didn’t need it at all. She always had body issues because, growing up, her mum was always dieting. And of course she sort of passed it onto me too, which made for extra super awkward teenage years (not helped by the fact I was obsessed with fashion and models). Luckily I got over it and now I do everything I can to not pass any insecurities about body shape on to my own daughters. They’re only little, so we’ll see how that works out when peer pressure starts to come into the equation.
    I don’t believe in dieting, just healthy eating habits. I’m sure you’ve read him, but I quite like Michael Pollan’s approach: ‘eat food. mainly plants. not too much.’ That about sums it up for me. Seems to be easier to stick to in summer than in winter though…

  18. says

    Popsicles, but not just any sort of popsicle, my first baby desired those red, blue, white rocket popsicles. Never had anything been so satisfying as those damn popsicles. I wanted to not want them. I wanted to want salad, fresh fruit and vegetables, but no, flavoured ice-water, and baby wouldn’t be denied. With the second nothing. No cravings. Why? Please tell me, why?
    I have an aversion to fresh tomatoes. I hate that I hate them. Can’t stand the smell, but moreover, it is the appearance, they are just too heart-like. There, I said it. But, my girl loves tomatoes, so lovingly, I cut and chop them, feeling like a cannibal, with each slice – these actions are my sacrifices towards sainthood 😉
    Anyhow, I am so glad that you are still walking. My work here is done.

  19. Connie says

    Jules, your post reminded of a Time cover story of a couple years back, which basically said that if you want to lose weight, it really is about the food and that exercise should be viewed as an end in itself, to be appreciated for its own, separate benefits. I asked a nutritionist friend straight out about this and she sheepishly nodded, and confirmed that this is well understood within the nutritionist community, but no one wants to say it because they don’t want to discourage people from exercising, even if it’s with the “wrong” goal in mind. Funnily enough, just hearing that inspired me to exercise as nothing else ever had (nothing major, just walking, some stairs, dancing or jumping rope with the kids), as suddenly it could be enjoyed and appreciated for its own sake and the benefits would be immediate (unlike weight loss (-: ).

    Also wanted to share my own pregnancy experience with twins. I, too, craved fruit as never before (normally I gravitate towards sweets rather than fruit and actually prefer vegetables to fruit as well). Couldn’t get enough of it, especially peaches and berries. Suddenly couldn’t stomach ICE CREAM, or any sweet for that matter. Unheard of in my entire life, before or since (god, how I wish that one had lasted). My other craving was for In-n-Out burgers and fries, especially the burgers. Now I’ve never been a meat eater; I’m not a vegetarian, but my protein of choice would normally be of the chicken, turkey or lentils/beans/tofu variety. Anyway, I now have a daughter who is fruit-mad (salads, too) and a son who, if given free reign, would live on fast food. I guess they were both conveying their very distinct desires to Mom while in utero…

  20. S says

    Nico and I share similar taste in foods. I go in for texture and strong flavours, and hate to mix foods – I eat the food on my plate in order – least favourite to most. I adore anything vinegary (baguette dipped in strong balsamic vinaigrette is one of life’s simplest pleasures), mustard, horseradish, HP (‘brown’) sauce, bitter homemade marmalade… My food hell is anything bland and mushy: mashed potato, cottage/shepherd’s pie, lasagne, casseroles and stews (everything all mixed in together!), most soups, and my nemesis, rice pudding. My mother used to cook it for me and my siblings when we were children, and I found it utterly abhorrent. She would add a big spoonful of redcurrant jelly to mine just to make it palatable enough for me to swallow, but nonetheless, I always dreaded it. Ugh! I also detest cooked fruit – that watery, mouth-burning mess when you bite into stewed plums or a peach tart. I’d much prefer to eat them fresh.

    I’ve become a bit more tolerant as the years have advanced (I’m 26 now), but there are still many foods I wouldn’t choose to eat.

  21. says

    I totally wish I could crave healthy food any day! Ugh! -_- I want to be healthy but I sure don’t eat or exercise like I do. If I don’t see results soon enough, its like I lose motivation or something.

  22. Becca says

    The joys of pregnecy. Currently and frankly I go through phases. When I was super sick all I are was steamfresh veggies and chicken nuggets. Then there was the French fries with ketchup and ranch phase. The I have to have salad or die phase and currently the frozen lasagna stage. Sigh. What’s horrible is I have leftovers from each phase and no one to eat them as my husband is deployed and my 4 year old tries to live on fruit, yogurt and cheese….

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