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Cooking, My New Hobby

Since I stopped devouring books and using the computer much (because reading triggers migraines), I’ve been bored. I hate being bored.

Every hands-on craft I try causes wrist pain that I haven’t been able to conquer. Baking is fantastic, but consuming all that I make isn’t a smart dietary strategy. So I’ve decided cooking will be my new hobby.

Although deciding to do something I’ve never particularly liked for fun is a little weird, it makes a lot of sense. I’d love to have a hobby again. I like food, I need to eat, and eating better food would probably make me feel better.

By approaching cooking as a hobby instead of a chore, I hope it will be fun, not the high-pressure job of reforming my diet. Ideally cooking will become something I want to do, not have to do.

These are the guidelines I’ve established so I don’t exhaust myself. Is it contradictory to set goals for a hobby?

Use Simple Recipes
I’m currently taking Mark Bittman‘s (aka The Minimalist) no-nonsense approach: Make better food in less time with fewer ingredients. I’m starting small with his very short cookbook, How to Cook Everything: Quick Cooking. It isn’t an overwhelming tome, but a short introduction to tasty basic recipes. A perfect housewarming gift for someone in their first apartment, the book includes variations for the more experienced or adventurous cook. I’m supplementing with The Minimalist Cooks at Home for variety. (It’s out-of-print, but is available used.)

I’ve owned it for four years and have liked the few things I’ve made from his books. Now my plan is to approach it methodically. Like Julie and Julia, where blogger Julie Powell set out to make every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking. The Minimalist’s goals are much less lofty, but the idea is the same.

Buy Ingredients for One Meal at a Time
This is to avoid wasting food and feeling like I’ve failed. I broke this “rule” one day into my plan. Because this is a new hobby, not a resolution, I’ve no need to beat myself up. Good things hobbies don’t have rules. Besides, I still think I can do it.

Learn New Techniques
This is the part that turns work into entertainment. I’ve always been reluctant to cook meat on the stove. In fact, I’m reluctant to cook meat at all. Not only do I get to produce an edible product (however bad it may be), I expand my skills and learn new recipes. This will make my hobby more fun in the future.

Tomorrow I’m taking the knife skills class I’ve wanted to take for years. It’s a morning class, so I’m confident I’ll make it this time. I’m already daydreaming about future classes.

Do It
I made my recipe plan yesterday morning, then Hart called to say he had a work dinner. I felt crappy, so it was fine, but my motivation is far weaker than 24 hours ago. I hope applying the techniques of the knife skills class will boost my overall motivation.

Clearly there’s little difference between my new hobby and a New Year’s resolution. Since resolutions usually fail, I’m relying on the power reframing. It’s an essential skill of every optimist.

I hope simple cooking will become a frequent topic on The Daily Headache. Nutrition and ease are some good topics for a headache blog.

Photo by Joe Zlomek.

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Drastic Elimination Diet for Migraine Triggers: What Was I Thinking?

File my plan for a drastic migraine and headache elimination diet under “What was I thinking?” In the innumerable elimination diets I’ve tried — whether based on eliminating common headache triggers or foods I tested intolerant to — I have never found a food trigger. Never. Even when I stuck to the diet for three or four months.

I discovered that peanut butter, beans and legumes, nuts, and now berries are triggers for me by noticing how I felt after eating them. Keeping my diet to “real” foods without additives makes this easier. Having already identified and eliminated some triggers that were prominent in my diet probably helps too. Eating foods in their regular role in your diet is much more accurate than trying to isolate variables that are impossible to separate.

Another reason I’ve decided against the diet is that inadequate nutrition for even a short time can contribute mightily to headaches and migraine attacks. The link is unmistakable for me.

Eating is a fundamental part of life. Something you do so often shouldn’t become a just-because-I-have-to experience. Food is inherently enjoyable and brings people together. Nourishing yourself with food is part of taking care of yourself in general. I can’t overlook the immense importance of that, particularly because I’m not so good at self-care.

My friend with celiac disease mistrusted food so much that she didn’t want to eat. She became so obsessed with ingredients that her behavior was the same as if she had an eating disorder. I can see how easy it would be for me to follow the same path. Now that she’s eased up, she feels pretty much the same and is a voracious eater for whom eating is a pleasure.

Not only is it physically and emotionally unhealthy to deprive yourself of the vast majority of foods just because they might be a problem, the diet’s efficacy is suspect. I may be fed up (ha, ha) with migraine, but moderation is laudable. And probably more useful.

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The Comfort of Casseroles and Home Cooking

It’s my first day blogging in a month and I’m obsessed with finding casserole and other Midwestern home cooking recipes. I haven’t written a new post in weeks (I scheduled them all before my vacation) and have to respond to tons of comments. But I need to make the perfect beef mac and cheese to be ready to tackle my life.

Yes, I know this directly conflicts with the drastic migraine/headache trigger elimination diet I described Thursday. As many times in a day I decide to eat only rice, chicken and lettuce for a few days, I dismiss the crazy idea.

Today’s Googling is part of my long-time preoccupation with finding easy meals that are won’t clog our arteries and are free of additives and other triggers. Vegetables would be a good addition too. Maybe you can benefit from my obsession.

The culprit, beef and cheese macaroni, doesn’t have veggies, but sometimes simple comfort food is the best. As long as I substitute regular cheddar for American, I can justify making this at least once. Right?

From mac and cheese, I moved onto casseroles and other comfort food. Only a couple caught my eye. Do you have any favorites?

When I’m slightly more ambitious, I cook from The Big Book of Casseroles or Moosewood Simple Suppers. I modify Moosewood a lot to fit my diet, but the basic recipes are really good.

Then I got caught up in grilled cheese. The best part is that making it on the George Foreman grill drastically reduces the need for patience.

What are your favorite easy recipes for fall?

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Drastic Migraine Elimination Diet: It’s Time

Update: I didn’t even start this diet before I realized how absurd it is. I’d be starving myself of nutrition even though elimination diets have never helped me find food triggers. Read the post linked to in the last sentence for details.

I’ve been on elimination diets that avoid the major and minor food triggers of migraine on and off with little success. There’s much debate on the role of foods in triggering migraine, and I’ve always fallen on the skeptical side. The general acceptance now is that about 25% of people have food triggers.

I’ve revised my position drastically: I’m nearly convinced that all foods are migraine triggers for me! No matter what I eat, a migraine comes on 30-60 minutes after eating. Not always, of course, but the vast majority of the time. I know my conclusion isn’t realistic, but it so often feels this way.

This is a slippery slope to mistrusting all food and not wanting to eat. A friend with celiac disease and other unknown gastrointestinal problems restricted foods so much that she couldn’t eat anything without obsessing over the ingredients. It got to where she felt like she had an eating disorder.

To avoid following the same trajectory, I’m trying a dramatic diet. I’m going to go extreme up front to quell my suspicions more easily. For three days, I’ll be down to chicken, oatmeal, or rice and a green vegetable. I’ll slowly add foods back in to see if they are problematic.

Even this diet isn’t foolproof. Because triggers seem to add up to reach a threshold, something that’s a trigger this week may be benign next week. It’s worth a shot.

I’m tired and I hurt. I can barely think. The diet is extreme, but I’m sick of screwing around. I’ve got to find some way to reduce the severity of my migraines and headaches. I still love my life, but there’s so much more I want to do. I hate sitting on the sidelines and I miss being able to think.

Now I have to decide when to start. . . .

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Food Triggers for Migraines and Headaches

Food_trigger The Daily Headache on Food Triggers

Bloggers on Food Triggers for Headache

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