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Piece of Pizza, Mom?

August 12, 2000|NORINE DRESSER | Norine Dresser's latest book is "Multicultural Celebrations" (Three Rivers Press, 1999). E-mail:

When students in a Brooklyn College food and culture class discovered that their teacher was pregnant, they deluged her with advice and eating taboos.

One student of Puerto Rican ancestry related that, in her culture, some believe that unsatisfied cravings could result in severe depression and lead to miscarriage. She cautioned that if, while desiring a food, the teacher touched an exposed body part, a birthmark shaped like the coveted item would appear on that part of the baby's body.

Birthmarks were of particular concern to many in the class. An Italian student related that her son was born with a triangular-shaped birthmark on his forehead. She was convinced that it resulted from denying herself a longed-for piece of pizza. She called the mark a voglia, meaning a longing or craving.

Trinidadian folklore includes a belief that eating too much liver while pregnant produces birthmarks on the baby. Certain foods can cause other abnormalities. Some Chinese accept that if a pregnant woman eats rabbit, her baby's mouth will resemble a rabbit's mouth.

Some Koreans believe in certain pregnancy food prohibitions, including rabbit, associated with harelip; duck, an omen of fused extremities; and eggs, a sign that the fetus might not have a backbone.

During their professor's pregnancy, students documented other colorful food/pregnancy associations. They analyzed her cravings and the shape of her body to ascertain the baby's gender. All but two were confident that she was carrying a boy. She gave birth to a healthy girl.

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