CRAVINGS during pregnancy is something I have long forgotten and banished to the dusty archives of my mind.
But it came hurtling back recently when I met an elegantly pregnant woman who had travelled all the way from a far-flung corner of the British Isle, in search of cincaluk.
Yes, cincaluk. To have a craving is something, but to have a craving for something that is almost impossible to get, is another thing altogether.
Before venturing out to London where Oriental supermarkets store almost everything on their chaotic shelves, she had sent me a message to point her in the direction of the coveted item.
I, the least adventurous person where food is concerned, could only point her in the direction of Chinatown, to which she dutifully went with hopes of bringing cincaluk back to grace her dinner table. Alas, after going in and out of several shops there, she had to leave empty-handed and disappointed.
She had been disappointed once before when all the postman delivered to her front door was a letter from the Customs to say that they had confiscated the bottle of precious cincaluk that her mother attempted to post.
But she wasn’t about to give up, or rather her hormones dictated that the normally intelligent and reasonable person with a pretty sensible head properly screwed onto her shoulders, shouldn’t give up.
These hormones can make a Jekyll and Hyde out of the most placid person on earth. They can change tastebuds overnight, making a meat-loving person into a vegetarian and cause a normally diet-conscious person to throw caution to the wind and eat stuff that she would usually throw out the window. They can reduce a professional and tough decision-maker into a weeping wreck or a monster just because she can’t get what she craves for.
I could certainly identify with these people. During my first pregnancy, I cried buckets because I couldn’t get the correct mee goreng mamak — correct being the way it was cooked by the mamak pushing his cart at exactly 5pm along Light Street in Penang.
I sulked throughout the night just because my husband mentioned salt beef and chopped liver and there was no way he could pacify me because it was already midnight. He watched helplessly as I sat crying before a container full of prawn sambal that was flown in all the way from that a particular stall in Kampung Baru, KL, but had gone off during the 12-hour flight.
During another pregnancy, attempting to make the keropok that I was craving for, he gallantly rolled up his sleeves for the culinary feat, only for it to turn out to be keropok lekor, which I totally disliked. Why couldn’t I just crave for asam boi or some pickle that could be easily obtained from Chinatown?
Sure, there have been studies to suggest that the body craves what the body lacks but why does this render one to be almost obsessive especially in the quest for the forbidden?
A friend knew what coffee beans would do to her and the baby in the womb, but throughout two pregnancies, she chewed handfuls of coffee beans as she would peanuts.
One baby turned out to be hyperactive and the other had a skin allergy although this was not conclusively linked to the coffee beans.
My eldest sister pined for duck hanging on the rack in a non-halal restaurant. All she wanted was a bite of the meat dripping with fat. This is nothing compared to the woman who ate charcoal and another who chewed pencils.
Looking at some studies carried out in attempts to explain why women had different foods cravings, I came across one conducted in Sri Lanka and published in the Indian Journal Of Public Health. A total of 1,000 women took part in the study which noted that “pregnancy cravings were significantly higher in women who married after a love affair than in those who had an arranged marriage” as well as in “women who were superstitious (e.g. believed in devil dancing) than in those who were not.”
Considering how inconsiderate and ridiculous some of the demands made on the helpless husbands are, I am inclined to support the finding linking love marriages to pregnancy cravings.
What else can explain the long journey into London and the futile search for cincaluk?
This piece was first published here.
Kak Teh's other Obsessions:
Picture from Connie Martin's.
Picture from Connie Martin's.