Womb with a view


I am seven and a half months pregnant and disappointed. Before I grew this bump, I thought my condition promised a banquet of weird desires. By now I should have been revelling in a basin of kumquats and salt-cod. I should be yearning for coal dust and out-of-season asparagus, for liquorice-soaked hams and play-doh, grenadine syrup and envelope glue. My stomach would become a second Sugar Club, a new Pacific rim filled with feta, melon and teriyaki, sweetbreads, smoked paprika and nectarine relish. I had visions of expeditions for the ultimate dusky loganberry to squash into the ultimate Venus clam. Instead, I lunch at home on Kraft cheese sandwiches and Royal Gala apples. I make tedious meals of roast chicken or spaghetti with tomato sauce. The only interesting thing I crave is craving itself.

On seeing my ballooning girth, most people ask about cravings. I feel a failure to have nothing to reply. It's true there was a nasty incident just before Christmas with some pork luncheon tongue. My yearning for this cheap charcuterie was so strong that I almost wiped out the supplies at my local Co-op. The Polish woman behind the deli counter thought it must be a queer British seasonal tradition. After she'd sliced a good hunk of the fatty block, she asked whether one served it with cranberry sauce and mince pies. In fact, I ate it au naturel, ten slices in a row, straight out of the polythene, before, thankfully, my hunger was sated. Since then, the urge for tongue has never returned, to my husband's relief.

If cravings are a sign of foetal needs, God knows what the tongue tells us. Am I harbouring a strange little offal-lover in my uterus? If only. Most of my hungers have been drearily sensible. I consume barrel-loads of fresh fruits - blood oranges, mangoes, clementines, grapes. And last week, a Rabelaisian mound of baked rhubarb custard. This makes more sense as a foetally driven impulse. Vitamin C helps the placenta get enough iron. But I'm still not sure this fetish counts as a craving. I've always loved fruit. As a little girl, I could eat oranges until my mouth went sour and my Enid Blyton library was splattered with yellow juice. And during pregnancy, I've actually eaten much duller fruit than before: a larger number of the aforementioned Royal Galas, and fewer lychees or persimmons.

Most mothers of my acquaintance only craved what they wanted anyway. One claims she desired shepherd's pie. One says she suddenly couldn't stand the taste of her husband's cooking. (There's a puzzle for you, Dr Freud.) Another used her pregnancy as an unbridled opportunity to enhance the profits of Cadbury and Nestle. But again, it wasn't really a pregnancy craving. Even now her baby's a bonny one-year-old, she still breakfasts on confectionery. The difference is, she no longer feels guilt-free. These nine months are a great licensing of women's agonised appetites.

Or would be, if there weren't so many things we can't eat. Without even mentioning the joys of morning sickness and heartburn, eating for two is a fraught business. Every mealtime becomes a cost-benefit analysis. You have to weigh up your future child's life against the pleasures of a soft boiled egg. Usually the baby wins, but it's a close-run thing. These are the things I really crave: a stinking Vacherin, a bloody steak, a carelessly washed rocket salad, a dozen oysters, a shiny mayonnaise made with raw eggs and olive oil, a listeria-ridden pate and a plateful of liver. Desire is wonderfully perverse. The most delicious food is always forbidden.