Philly Blunt

Freelance writer. Editor and web-video producer. Former Atlantic City Press and Philadelphia Weekly staff writer, City Paper managing editor/columnist and Dougherty for Senate campaign manager. Comments welcome here or emailed to brianhickey9 [at] hotmail. Now on: Facebook (Brian Hickey, in Philly) Twitter at Flickr at Be sure to check out Hickey on Divorce Court:

03 June 2008

So Smooth

So, I turn 35 today. Old man. If only I had a sea to go battle marlin in. Alas, all I have is the Schuylkill. And Krupa's. Which, if I were still a young chap, I'd already be lining up outside to get a start on a mission of one shot fewer than three dozen. And if I were so inclined, which I'm not, I'd carry a copy of last week's New Yorker with me, for, in an uber-pertinent piece entitled A Few Too Many, Joan Acocella delves deep into the phenonmenon we know as the hangover, offering reasons why they happen and how to go about fixing them.
The latter, of course, is worth the $4.50 cover price if you're not a subscriber. And I excerpt:

Many people advise you to eat a heavy meal, with lots of protein and fats, before or while drinking. If you can’t do that, at least drink a glass of milk. In Africa, the same purpose is served by eating peanut butter. The other most frequent before-and-during recommendation is water, lots of it. Proponents of this strategy tell you to ask for a glass of water with every drink you order, and then make yourself chug-a-lug the water before addressing the drink...

When you get home, is there anything you can do before going to bed? Those still able to consider such a question are advised, again, to consume buckets of water, and also to take some Vitamin C. Koreans drink a bowl of water with honey, presumably to head off the hypoglycemia. Among the young, one damage-control measure is the ancient Roman method, induced vomiting. Nic van Oudtshoorn’s “The Hangover Handbook” (1997) thoughtfully provides a recipe for an emetic: mix mustard powder with water. If you have “bed spins,” sleep with one foot on the floor.

Now to the sorrows of the morning. The list-topping recommendation, apart from another go at the water cure, is the greasy-meal cure. (An American philosophy professor: “Have breakfast at Denny’s.” An English teen-ager: “Eat two McDonald’s hamburgers. They have a secret ingredient for hangovers.”) Spicy foods, especially Mexican, are popular, along with eggs, as in the Denny’s breakfast. Another egg-based cure is the prairie oyster, which involves vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and a raw egg yolk to be consumed whole. Sugar, some say, should be reapplied. A reporter at the Times: “Drink a six-pack of Coke.” Others suggest fruit juice. In Scotland, there is a soft drink called Irn-Bru, described to me by a local as tasting like melted plastic. Irn-Bru is advertised to the Scots as “Your Other National Drink.” Also widely employed are milk-based drinks. Teen-agers recommend milkshakes and smoothies. My contact in Calcutta said buttermilk. “You can also pour it over your head,” he added. “Very soothing.”

Elsewhere on the international front, many people in Asia and the Near East take strong tea. The Italians and the French prefer strong coffee. (Italian informant: add lemon. French informant: add salt. Alcohol researchers: stay away from coffee—it’s a diuretic and will make you more dehydrated.) Germans eat pickled herring; the Japanese turn to pickled plums; the Vietnamese drink a wax-gourd juice. Moroccans say to chew cumin seeds; Andeans, coca leaves. Russians swear by pickle brine. An ex-Soviet ballet dancer told me, “Pickle juice or a shot of vodka or pickle juice with a shot of vodka.”

Many folk cures for hangovers are soups: menudo in Mexico, mondongo in Puerto Rico, işkembe çorbasi in Turkey, patsa in Greece, khashi in Georgia. The fact that all of the above involve tripe may mean something. Hungarians favor a concoction of cabbage and smoked meats, sometimes forthrightly called “hangover soup.” The Russians’ morning-after soup, solyanka, is, of course, made with pickle juice. The Japanese have traditionally relied on miso soup, though a while ago there was a fashion for a vegetable soup invented and marketed by one Kazu Tateishi, who claimed that it cured cancer as well as hangovers.


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