Nick and a pregnant Julie Anne Rhodes

I complained of feeling uninspired on facebook this past weekend, and as usual, I was greeted with the love and support of many, and messages like this:

Cynthia Zeman Godwin

So sorry to hear 🙁 You’re going through such a challenging recovery, you must have really down days. Hopefully soon to be offset by some of the best days! I just read your birthday tribute to Tatjana…I got really weepy! I hope I can be even half as wonderful a mother! Your writing is beautiful.


Cynthia is due to have her first baby immanently, and she sparked one of my funniest memories of being pregnant. This one is for you Cynthia…

In 1985 Nancy Huang, Nile Rodgers girlfriend back in the day, invited me to a wedding shower she threw for Madonna just before she married Sean Penn. Although we’d never met before, I was touched when I received a handwritten note from Madonna thanking me for the sterling picture frame a month later. We did have a lot of fun the night of her bridal shower… ending up with dancing at Palladium.
Sean Penn & Madonna
A year passed, newlyweds Madonna and Sean were in London making a film, and I was heavily pregnant with Tatjana. Nick took me to my favorite restaurant in Blakes Hotel desperately trying to keep his hormonal wife happy. It was as if someone suddenly turned on a faucet… there I sat sobbing for no real reason as the rest of the restaurant looked on at Nick in disgust wondering what he’d said to make the poor pregnant woman cry? Quite rightly mortified… Nick started saying silly things-whatever he could to make me laugh, but to no avail. Then he said “don’t look now, but I think Madonna is on her way over to say hello.”

Julie Anne Rhodes: pregnant in Yoshi
“Yeah right…” I shot right back.

“Hello Julie Anne and Nick” came the unmistakeable voice from behind. There I sat… a beached whale in my Yoshi Yamamoto for men (my idea of pregnancy clothes) with mascara streaming down my beet red face looking up at an exquisite Chanel clad, impeccably made-up Madonna asking me “what’s it like to be pregnant, Julie Anne?”

‘Ooooooooh g g g gre aaat” came my Lucille Ballesqe reply through continued sobs. Not exactly my most convincing performance.

Tatjana and Julie Anne Rhodes
Thank you Cynthia for reminding me that pregnancy was a bumpy ride too, and I did make it through. I may not have liked being pregnant, but the day Tatjana was born is without doubt the most joyous day of my life. This recovery is just another bump in the road before the good times to follow. Congratulations again on the baby! We all worry about being a good mom… especially with the first, but it all comes naturally if you let it.

None of this really relates to food… just a story on the side. I haven’t shared a side recipe for a while, so here is one of my favorite sides I serve with my award-winning Jewels Turkey-Jasmine Burgers.

Five Spice Sweet Potato Oven Fries

Servings: 4

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon five spice (cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns)
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, or more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce


1). preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2). In a large bowl, toss the sweet potato fries, five spice, and oil. Spread evenly over a sheet pan, and sprinkle with salt. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until browned and crispy.

3). Mix Ketchup and hoisin for dipping in hoisin ketchup.

Serving Suggestions:I serve these with myaward-winning Jewels Turkey-Jasmine Burgers, but they are great with any Asian inspired fusion dish.
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