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Here to Help

Tuesday, 21 July 2020 11:01

By Rachael Lucas

Did you know migraine sufferers have been suffering a little extra lately? 

Experts and news-watchers alike can agree that the probable culprit for escalated migraine cases is stress.  However, as these types of headaches are quite the anomaly, it is difficult to pinpoint exact triggers.  They can be caused by stress, of course, but they can also be due to vision issues, blood pressure, hormones, food sensitivities, even shingles in unmentionable places, and who knows what else.    I am one of these people; I have endured excruciating skull tectonics these past few months.  Working in retail and being in no way impervious to the insanity that we currently call existence, I am certain stress is a factor.  However, I have an inclination that food plays a role.

Rachael Lucas wirh glasses Picmonkey 

Food, after all, is my story’s protagonist.  So rather than ingesting strong medication to treat possible causes, I opted to commit to a rigorous yoga regimen and conduct a migraine elimination diet.  This entails eight weeks of unprocessed foods, no grains (including rice, corn, or whiskey), and no refined sugar.  The idea is to eliminate these foods from the body, and if one’s migraines retreat, then the likely cause is one of those foods that have been omitted.  If the headaches persist, then the cause (if it is indeed food) is something the person is still ingesting.  I was petrified that the migraines would continue after beginning this diet because dairy is a common trigger--I would be lost if I could not eat cheese anymore.  I am currently more than three weeks in, sans headaches!  All the while, butterfat has coursed through my veins.  The challenge has been finding ways to incorporate cheese into dishes to help bulk things up, so that I do not feel like I am deprived of all those foods that I cannot have.  Challenge accepted.

Since we are in the teeth of summer, an abundance of fresh produce is at the ready.  When I make cheese boards, I usually do not use bread or crackers anyway.  I prefer to taste firm cheeses on their own and softer ones, if not tasted with a spoon, can be spread on fruit.  Anything sliceable is fair game.  Year-round, apples and pears are a good choice, but Washington peaches have arrived, and it would be a shame to not devour as many of those as possible.  Instead of a bowl of ice cream, a halved peach with Crème Fraiche dolloped in the centers delivers the same fatty mouthfeel that one enjoys from that creamy, (temporarily) forbidden sugary goodie, but the acids in the peach makes for a playful textural experience.  Another summery flavor/texture blast is a watermelon salad with feta and mint.  Trust me.

As summertime is when ruminant animals are grazing on pasture, enjoying wildflowers, herbs, and lush grass, this is the optimal moment to eat fresh cheese.  I have had a blast toying with local chèvre and fresh sheep’s cheese.  A few recent stand-out bites have been Lost Peacock Creamery’s chévre rolled into a ball and wrapped in lemon verbena from my garden (paired with a crisp Semillon, naturally) and Black Sheep Creamery’s fresh sheep cheese flavored with vanilla and honey on juicy strawberries—it tastes like cheesecake!  With nature’s candy, it has not been as tough to avoid sweets as I anticipated.

The hardest part has been creating dishes that are healthy yet filling without the accompaniment of so many foods that I relied on in the past to heft up my dinner plate.   I have added Ferndale Farmstead fresh Ciliegine (cherry-sized) mozzarella as a little post dinner side dish.  Cottage cheese has turned into a fridge staple (my grandma would be so proud), and Parmigiano Reggiano has been an all-star cheese--now and always.  Caesar salad croutons are replaced with home-made parmesan crisps, and broccoli gets a gloriously oily encrustment of the stuff in the oven.   The best part about Parmigiano Reggiano is that you can turn it into taco shells.  If you are like me and feel a little uneasy without a weekly fix of Mexican food, you are in luck!  Just grate Parmigiano Reggiano onto a sheet pan with a non-stick surface like parchment paper, a silicone mat, or foil.  Place cheese in mounds so that they form circles.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  If you have a taco shell rack, quickly place the cooked cheese rounds into the moulds to form shells.  Otherwise, you will have to improvise.  Who cares if the shells are not perfectly shell-shaped; they’re made out of cheese!  Once the cheese has cooled into its new shell form, fill it with taco stuff.

Some other indulgences include sweet potato fries dunked into a warm soft-ripened cheese like Camembert or Jasper Hill’s Harbison; julienned apple, Manchego, lemon, chive, and pepper salad; and a Labneh and berry parfait with shaved almonds. Even though I am by no means on a keto-type regimen (I love honey and fruit) I have found some great food ideas on Keto diet websites.  A new favorite is a pickle sandwich:  hollow out a pickle and fill it with sandwich filling—nothing processed--and voila (!) I can still eat a sandwich sans bread!   

Not having warm, crusty bread with Cherry Valley Dairy summer butter or a spicy, greasy plate of cheese enchiladas has not been easy, but if you experience migraine headaches, then you already understand why I am willing to do whatever I have to in order to keep these episodes at bay.  Finding creative ways to keep my palate and tummy sated has been a fun project.  Besides an absence of headache misery, I feel fantastic physically, and I am not mad at my summer bod!  If you are also a migraine sufferer and consider doing the elimination diet, please remember that cheese is here to help.

Rachael Lucas with cheese wheels MUG

 

Editor’s note:   Rachael Lucas is an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional (CCP).  She also has the distinction of being one of forty-six people in the country with the ACS C.C.S.E. (Certified Cheese Sensory Evaluator) accreditation.  You can most often find her cheesemongering in the Seattle area.  When she's not working with cheese, she's eating it, talking about it, reading about it, writing about it, and dreaming about it.  She can be reached with inquiries about fromage and food excitement in the Seattle area at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Last modified on Tuesday, 21 July 2020 11:12

 

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