A few days after peeing on a stick, I cringed when I realized that appeasing pregnancy cravings in Tonga would be like trying to sail a yacht down Montana's Blackfoot River. In other words, I had a snowball's chance in hell of fulfilling my food fantasies in this remote island nation.
Luckily, I've already had nine months of practice denying food cravings. When you're floating 2,000 miles from the nearest grocery store in the middle of the biggest ocean on the planet, you become adept at mind control. At forcibly changing the subject in your subconscious. At ignoring vibrant images of sumptious and delicious dishes that are well beyond reach.
The first month of our sailing voyage was the toughest, which also happened to be our longest leg at sea: 33 days without stepping on dry land. After week two, the crew's post-dinner entertainment aboard was to reminisce about all of the food that we wished we had just eaten. Cheese. Lettuce. Tiramisu. Steak. Anything that didn't come from a can.
After that trip, I learned to stop my mind from wandering into taboo food territory. If I start to salivate over a particular taste sensation absent from our ship's stores, I shut down the mouthwatering vision and transfer brain power toward picturing all of the food I COULD potentially consume that might appease that craving. It works pretty well, actually, and has made me a more creative cook.
Now, I'm pregnant. That means I have twice as much mental wrestling to do, particularly when enticing images of unobtainable American junk food nudge their way into my brain. I still live on a sailboat but it's anchored in the Kingdom of Tonga, relatively close to a small town. Unfortunately, that town is a 30-minute dinghy ride each way, which means enduring blazing heat, pounding rain, and/or choppy waves as we commute to and from the store—the cereal boxes are often soggy, and I've broken many eggs in transit. Plus, the supplies available in the few stores in Neiafu resemble a schizophrenic 7-Eleven back home.
In short, food is limited to essentials here in Tonga, and you can't exactly run to the corner market when you feel an urge for a soda or candy bar. When I crave sour cream and onion dip with potato chips, I'm ecstatic if one of the three restaurants in town is serving fried fish with mayonaise on top. When all I want is an ice-cold, carbonated ginger ale, I convince myself that not-hot water with a squeeze of lime is a treat.
Does it suck? Sort of. But the trade-off for my mental contortions to minimize food cravings is that I don't have to work, deal with traffic, or wear four layers of clothing to avoid frostbite. If I'm moody (which is like 22 times each day), I can simply jump in the ocean and swim away the hormones. And the abundant mangos, papayas and pineapples almost make up for the lack of sour cream and onion dip. Almost.
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