Miss Migraine: How supporting local agriculture helps my migraines

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The Adventures of Miss Migraine is an ongoing column about my life with chronic migraine. This post appeared first on my blog of the same name on August 10, 2012.

First, I chop the potatoes and add them to the broth. Then I peel the carrots, slice them, and send them in after the potatoes. Next comes a whole miniature purple cabbage and a medium yellow onion, roughly chopped. Then two fennel bulbs chopped willy-nilly and and a small, fat zucchini that had been hiding out in a corner of the fridge and was nearing the end of its edible life.

Organic vegetable soup

A bowl of Whatever-I-Have-In-The-Fridge-Soup. Photo by Kelly Lynn Thomas.

I love the rhythm of chopping and slicing vegetables, the knife in my hand, moving up and down, the steady collisions with the cutting board. The fennel is the most difficult to attack. Layers fall away as I work at it, preventing an easy pattern. The rest require varying applications of pressure: the knife slides easily through the zucchini without much help from me, but I must push it down to separate each slice of carrot.

All of the vegetables and herbs come from Kretschmann Organic Farm. Each week, we get a box of fresh produce and other goodies delivered to a pick-up spot in our neighborhood. We don’t know what we’re going to get in advance, and we can’t pick anything out (though we can order extra things like blueberries, peaches, chicken, beef, cheese, coffee, etc.). To me, this is a relief. It means fewer trips to the grocery store, becuase we only need to buy dry goods, and we can buy them in bulk. It also means less time spent in the grocery store.This translates to less energy expended and less stress, and less of a chance for the harsh lights, strong smells, and screechy carts to exacerbate my migraine.

Looking at the soup’s color, I decide it needs more orange. Three more sliced carrots go into the broth. I let it simmer for awhile — I don’t bother to time it. Eventually, I take my tomato knife out and dice four juicy, perfectly ripe tomatoes. When I feel especially motivated, I tear piles of fresh herbs from their stems: rosemary, thyme, parsley. This time, though, I let bunches of dried herbs steep in the broth for a long time before I started cooking.

It’s 86 degrees Fahrenheit, but I don’t care. My Whatever-Vegetables-I-Have-In-The-Fridge-Soup requires no thought, no planning, is easy to prepare, impossible to mess up, will last for several days, and is delicious and healthy. This is my favorite thing to cook. Sometimes I add beans, but this time I simply forgot.

local, organic vegetables from a CSA

A selection of vegetables, fruit, and herbs from this week’s produce box (beets, swiss chard, red onion, cabbages, peaches, dill, cilantro, tomatoes). Photo by Kelly Lynn Thomas.

For someone with a constant headache, the routine of picking up a box of veggies at the same time and place every single week is comforting. The food we get from Kretschmann is a higher quality and fresher than what we get from the store. Fresher foods have less tyramine, a compound that develops as foods decay and that can trigger migraines for some people.

My husband and I sat down in the living room with our big bowls of fresh soup and a fan blowing our way to keep us cool while we watched the first season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I had finally convinced him to watch with me. We ate slowly while Buffy fought ugly-faced, toothy undead. I can’t speak for him, but I was content.

There are subscription-based programs like this, called Community Supported Agriculture or CSAs, all over the country. To learn more about them or find one in your area, visit www.LocalHarvest.org/csa. I’m not getting paid to talk about CSAs; I simply think they’re a great way to help the environment, the local economy, my body, and my migraines.

What do you do to make cooking and food preparation easier?

#PhotoFriday: The Pittsburgh Zoo!

We went to the Pittsburgh Zoo last weekend. I spent most of my time there hanging out with the seal and sea lions, because they are my favorite animals. They are like sea puppies, and they even play like puppies! Here are a few photos of them. I hope they brighten your day!

A seal in the water.

I’m pretty sure this is Coolio, a rescued elephant seal pup. He has limited vision, but he still loves to play!


Seal swimming.

Here’s Coolio swimming above us. We hung out in the aquarium room a lot.


A polar bear swimming.

And here’s the polar bear! We were lucky to see him swimming. According to the fact card, he only spends about 10% of his time in the water.


Zoos do important conservation work. If you happen to be in town, check out the Pittsburgh Zoo!

Why I didn’t march this year

Last year, I went to the Pittsburgh version of the Women’s March on Washington after Greyhound failed to provide buses to D.C. (even though I’d bought my ticket a month in advance, and so had many of the other people left stranded in Pittsburgh). I knew there had been drama behind the scenes, where white women were putting black women down and calling them “divisive” for voicing concerns and opinions.

Another group (Black Femme Excellence Co.) held an intersectional march across town, but after being up until 2 a.m. waiting for a bus that never came, having a migraine, and having to rely on sketchy Sunday public transportation, I didn’t have it in me to take multiple buses to East Liberty.* The main Women’s March was just Downtown though, which is only a 10 to 15 minute bus ride from my house. That, I felt capable of doing. So I went, and I marched. I even made a stupid pink pussy hat in a misguided attempt to show solidarity.**

Found on Facebook. Will update if original creator is found. (Yes, it contains erroneous apostrophes. That’s not the point.)

In the moment, it felt important to make a statement. To do something. Anything. And I do believe protests are an important part of resisting right wing extremism. I hope, sincerely, that the statement made by last year’s (and this year’s) Pittsburgh’s Women’s March overshadows the behind-the-scenes bullshit. I hope that statement is ultimately one of inclusion and acceptance and love.

But this year, after the organizers showed more of the same behavior toward women of color, I couldn’t in good conscious be a part of it.

I don’t want to march behind people who tell black women to essentially shut up because they aren’t focusing on “important things.” I don’t want to march behind people who don’t listen when they get called out on their mistakes. I don’t want to march behind people who think it’s okay to exclude trans women and their experiences (and feelings) from the conversation.

Now, I’m not by any means saying that people who went to the march last year or this year think any of those things or have engaged in the same behaviors as the organizers. I wouldn’t have caught the same drama unfolding if not for my sharp network of badass feminist friends. I can even understand knowing all this and still feeling a need to go, to march, to demonstrate. I respect that. But I couldn’t do it, not this time around.

(Don’t get me started on the pink pussy hat some jackass put on a statue of Harriet Tubman in Harlem. Like, seriously?)

On Sunday, instead of marching, I worked on the 2017 VIDA Count, tallying bylines by gender and recording names so that we can send surveys for the Intersectional Count. I gave (a little) money directly to black mothers who needed the help. I cooked good food for myself and my partner. I told my friends I love them.

I will keep calling my senators and congressman. I will keep sending emails and filling out comment forms online. I will keep making art. I will keep resisting.

But I refuse to leave anyone behind while I do it.

*Chronic illness can really complicate activism. There’s an essay there. I’ll suss it out at some point when my head doesn’t hurt.

**There’s another essay about my feelings regarding pink pussy hats. Maybe next week?