January 8th, 2013


Being pregnant and eating sushi

Now I'm eating raw fish. This pregnancy is going straight to hell.

Here's the deal: maybe some people don't like sushi but I freaking LOVE it. I crave it, and hate that I couldn't eat it while pregnant. I even bought my husband/cook a sushi making kit last year for Christmas and said "get to it"! and because he's a bad-ass, he TOTALLY did, and he's gotten awesome at it! He's gotten in great with the guys at the seafood shop at Central & Oliver who explained to him that, like, there's not really a such thing as "sushi grade tuna", but really freaking fresh tuna is fine to eat raw, and they can tell him when the fish they have in stock was thawed after being flash frozen per regulation to kill all the parasites that are theoretically what makes sushi dangerous... in the US, like the raw milk/soft cheese controversy I wrote about earlier, the real dangers have been made illegal. Nobody thought to tell the pregnant women.

Now, improperly handled food will still give you food poisoning. And I got food poisoning several months ago from a buffet dinner at a wedding at a nice hotel with professional caterers serving us, like, beef stroganoff. The food was hot, I was among the first in line, I had no clue it wasn't safe. But there was an outbreak... even the staff at the hotel reported being sick that weekend. I had to go to the hospital for IV fluids, to the tune of $800, because when you're pregnant being dehydrated is very dangerous and I got into an inescapable vomiting trap on top of my normal morning sickness. Just being sick really isn't dangerous, whatever MADE me sick wasn't the doctor's concern, babies are tough, but you have to stop throwing up. That's why it's best to avoid food poisoning when you're pregnant (because it makes you want to kill yourself) but you can get it anywhere, any time, from anything, so the whole experience made me wonder why I was giving up foods I loved from restaurants I'd been going to for years when all my care and attention did not spare me the misery I experienced that weekend!

Back to sushi: There's an interesting website I found called pregnant chicken, written by a plain old person but one who likes to do research into the REAL reasons we don't eat stuff. That's where I first read about the parasite myth. And she's the first person who raised this point with me: the no sushi rule may just be prejudice against a food that some people call "icky".

Then I got to talking to a gal in a members-only entry in livejournal's pregnant community who used to work in a high-end sushi restaurant. She said that when she was pregnant, and told the guys she worked with that it was no more sushi eating time, they were shocked. They brought up the point that in Japan, women celebrate their pregnancies WITH raw fish and are told that if you don't eat sushi, you're doing harm to your baby who needs the omega-3s and everything. What's more, they thought american's attitude towards sushi, as a risky, potentially "dirty" thing, was an outright insult towards the entire japanese culture.

Knowing Americans, I can see this.

The woman did some reading up about the parasites and flash freezing and concerns and realized that it wasn't dangerous, and started hitting the sushi bar whenever she darn well pleased, limiting the tuna because there is a mercury level thing but whitefish and salmon were ALL THE TIME. And today her babies are great kids.

BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE. I told her that I *had* been eating sushi, just sticking to the cooked stuff, like eel is always BBQed and crab is fake crab (marc and I jokingly refer to it as kay-rab, or krab) and she was like "Oh, I wouldn't eat eel. Here in the states it's always packaged in MSG and processed into a chemical shell of its former self, there's nothing good about it." Not dangerous. Just not healthy.

So, because of other people's "ewe icky raw fish" squeamishness, I'd been eating chemical crap instead of truly good things like salmon that will give my baby a powerful brain later in life. FML!

People who don't love sushi will ask me, "Can't you just eat cooked salmon, and skip sushi for a few short months? I mean is it really worth the risk?" But the thing with "risk" is, it's everywhere you want it to be. I drive my car to work every day, is it "worth it"? If I told you chairs that were painted blue were dangerous to pregnant women, would you still sit in them? Is it worth it? You can surely do without blue chairs for nine months, FOR YOUR PRECIOUS TINY BABY FROM GOD! But I just made that up! What else do you want to let the world just invent, to scare you, until all you can do is lay on your left side in a padded room eating toast starting two weeks after your last period? Isn't it better just to be informed and evaluate these things, so you don't end up eating eel like I did, naively thinking you're doing something good for your baby?

I swear, every day the media and misinformation can bring up a new "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario for pregnant women. So I'm going back to the basics.

1) Everything in moderation.
2) Eat at places you know and trust, pay attention to food handling.
3) Do whatever the hell you want.

Next entry: kegstands. Just kidding. But I am eating salmon roles when they're on the menu.