Wising up

Friday night I got another migraine. I was cooking supper, feeling all sorts of splendid because it was Friday and I was making a kick-butt supper and Mr. Handsome had taken all the kids with him to run some errand because I couldn’t stand to have them under foot for one more cotton-pickin’ minute, when I suddenly noticed that my kitchen was peppered with bright lights and black spots. This time I knew exactly what was happening and I didn’t waste a second. I popped a double dose of painkillers and then called up a friend to pick her brain for more preventative measures. She recommended natural peppermint oil in water, which I did. And then, even though I knew intense nausea was in my near future, I ate.

I really couldn’t help myself. I was so excited to eat. (Picture an impatient puppy dog bouncing about on the balls of his feet while he waits for you to scoop out his portion of Puppy Chow. I’m like that puppy. I get all tail-waggy when food is around.) Plus, I was hungry and I still felt fine.

So I scooped and forked, scooped and forked, and then when I figured I had eaten more than my share, I took to hovering around the stove top, taking my “just one more” tastes straight from the cooking pot.

My stomach stuck out to China and I didn’t care.

The headache pain did come then, but it was dulled, thanks to the pills and peppermint, and there was no sign of nausea, glory be. I took a leisurely soak in a hot, epsom salt-infused bath. (Though thanks to childbirth, tub soaks always bring back sharp memories of sore bottoms—the mere act of easing myself into warm water makes me feel All Ouch. My children have ruined me. They should be arrested.) And then I crept between the covers and slept for 10 blissful hours. A low-grade headache persisted the next day, but it was nothing compared to the last miserable round. Nothing. I may be wising up.

There’s something else I’m wising up about: pumpkin pasta. Or rather, a creamy pumpkin sauce over pasta. That the sauce, the one I was making when I lost my vision, coincided with my victory over a migraine is just that, purely coincidental. But it feels providential. I mean, really, there were fireworks. I saw them!

I’ve seen recipes for creamy pumpkin sauces all over the place, and I’ve even tried one or two, but I was never very impressed. The pumpkin sauce was always too bland and/or watery and/or pumpkiny. (The one that I already have on this site has sausage in it—not the straight-up pumpkin sauce I’ve been looking for.)

But then I made this sauce and, well, you’ve already read about the pot-swiping and repeat-dishing. It’s nothing short of stupendous, richly flavored with Parmesan and rosemary and bolstered beautifully by the addition of a little vinegar. I know! Vinegar! I never would’ve thunk it, but it dost sparkle up the dish considerably.

Pasta with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce
Adapted from the November 2007 issue of Everyday Food

I used butternut squash for this recipe (directions for roasting are here), but I think a combo of carrots and sweet potatoes could be blended up along with the pumpkin.

1 pound short tubular pasta, like ziti or penne
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
2 cups pureed squash or pumpkin (or 1 15-ounce can)
1 garlic clove, minced
½ cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 cup grated fresh Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt

Cook the pasta, drain, and set aside. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water.

In a heavy-bottomed pan, fry the rosemary in the olive oil, but do not let it brown. Scoop the rosemary out of the oil and set it on a napkin to drain. Carefully (the oil is hot!), stir the remaining ingredients into the oil. Stir in a cup of pasta water, adding more only if you want a thinner sauce. Taste to correct seasonings before tossing the sauce with the pasta. Garnish with the fried rosemary and extra red-pepper flakes.

This same time, years previous: steel-cut oatmeal


  • Lindsay

    I used to take Imitrex for my migraines, but it made me so sick it wasn't worth it. I now take Maxalt, which does much better for me! I would recommend a book called Heal Your Headache. It has lots of helpful information on possible causes of migraines. For instance, I narrowed mine down to caffeine, MSG, and barometric changes. Granted, I can't change the weather so I get most of my migraines in the spring and fall when the weather is changing. But I avoid caffeine and MSG like the plague and it helps me! Other causes can be citrus, cheese, fresh bread, and the list goes on!

  • Misha

    I am looking for peppermint oil asap. Thank you. The nausea with my migraines is atrocious. I take a cocktail of meds, too, if you want any more advice. It sounds like you've already got some got input, though.

    I'm sorry you get them. I consider them more painful than childbirth and I had some rough births!

  • Jennifer Jo

    All this migraine advice is SO helpful. I need to assess the situation and make plans now so I can be prepared for the next one.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, this recipe is good. We had it for supper tonight. Only thing is….I couldn't taste the rosemary and I do love that flavor. Next time I'll add more.


  • Angie Carson

    My neurologist recently had me try a new migraine drug that really, really worked. I checked with my insurance, and it would cost me $85 a month for that one, while Imitrex only costs $5 a month. I read the ingredients list on the new one, and guess what? It is Imitrex and naproxen, the same thing as Aleve. I'm more than happy to buy the naproxen part OTC and take it with Imitrex, and save $80 a month. 🙂

    Your pumpkin pasta sounds lovely. I'll have to try it on my family, and just not mention that it is pumpkin until after they've said how much they love it.

  • Margo

    what a great recipe – I'm all game to try it. We adore the Liberian Pumpkin in Simply in Season, but I don't always have sausage on hand.

    glad to hear migraines can be bested.

  • Suburban Correspondent

    Using something like Excedrin Migraine (a mixture of tylenol, aspirin, and caffeine) works way better than straight Advil/Motrin/ibuprofen. And the sooner you take it, the better. It really has saved my quality of life the last few years.

  • Anonymous

    Oh my goodness, S- ( think you're my sister, right?) I didn't know feverfew did THAT. I'm going to give it a try next time I feel my head starting to feel less than fine. Thanks for the tip.


  • Anonymous

    those sick headaches are the #1 reason I always allow at least one Feverfew plant/weed to grow in my flowerbed. As soon as I begin to see those terrible spots, I RUN out and grab a leaf and chew/gag it down (awful bitter). sometimes it removes the migraine altogether, sometimes it simply dulls it. But it is in the top ten plants I grow, for this reason. (Note: once the headache has fully commenced, it doesn't touch it)
    Another nice thing about it is that it has green leaves just about all year round. I think it is a biennial and it readily reseeds itself. Handy!


  • Anonymous

    Your recipe sounds good! I get migraines too and hate them, but I want to take prescription drugs. As soon as my vision starts going, I take 4 advil, 2 tylenol, and try to eat a banana. It all helps. It's not a cure, but it lessons to badness of it.

  • beth

    Sorry about that migraine. I HATE those things! Have you tried Maxalt? If you have a presciption medicine I advise taking it RIGHT away when the migraine comes on. Don't wait to take it. At least that's what works best for me. Mmmmm. I'm going to try that recipe. looks yummy.

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