Monday, 7 March 2011

The morning after the night previous - Fallacies behind the cure-alls!

They say that everything is best in moderation and that restraint is a virtue that we should all strive to master. So why is it that when it comes to a Thursday or Friday night, I so seldom listen! In the pub followed by a club or a session back at mine/friend’s house, I feel like the king of the world, I can drink like Oliver Reed, dance like David Bowie and ultimately drift into wonderful, beer induced dreams of cabbages and kings…then I wake up!

Bleary eyes, newly sprouted stubble, perhaps a bit of drool and a hairstyle swept slightly out of kilter by an awkward pillow angle – all symptoms that one has enjoyed themselves a bit to freely on the previous night! There was once an instance when I worked in Parliament: I got home, went to bed and woke up at 07:00 fully dressed, still wearing my shoes, jacket and tie (needless to say I did have a shower and change before I went if for a very painful Friday’s work)! I shall not be doing that again in a hurry, and it taught me a valuable lesson about getting three sheets to the wind on a ‘school night’… not to make a habit of it! I think by now you have by now guessed that this post is going to focus on that dreaded payoff you make when you drink too much: The Hangover.

 Whilst none of us would expect to wake up in the situation facing the three chaps in the fantastic 2009 comedy The Hangover, I have no doubt that many of us would prefer to wake up as fresh as a daisy (rather than spend the majority of the following day in a state of sluggish self-recrimination). How many times have I said -or have heard other people saying - that fantastically insincere phrase ‘ohhhh, never again…’ or ‘must make sure I drink less next time…’. In true form, these are always accompanied by: pitiful grunts and groans, a clumsy gait, over-relaxed shoulders and a general beeline to the kitchen in order to find some sort of relief for all the self-inflicted ill wracking your body!

Of course, each person swears by their own methods to get them over this most unpleasant of afflictions. Back in those halcyon days of the late 1990s, when Jamie was merely the cheeky Essex lad known as ‘The Naked Chef’, he was one of a number of chefs who implied that the best way to beat those Saturday morning blues was with an old fashioned British fry up. Whilst the idea sounds very pleasant and, to the hung over mind, the smell off bacon and sausages frying in a ton of grease is intoxicating, only the fool would venture to start tucking into this fat laden meal when they are still over the limit! I have made this mistake often enough and am now the wiser for it. I find that there is nothing to make your delicate state worse than the nauseous feeling arising from the stomach after swallowing a fatty piece of salty bacon! Some of you hardier souls will scoff, but I promise, fried foods on a hangover set you back ten paces and it will take longer to recover.

The hilarious, if incredibly dated Floyd on Hangovers VHS offer highly amusing if very ambitious advice for those feeling a little ropey! As much as I’d like to think that I would be in any state to prep and cook a Vietnamese Pho as soon as I woke, I fear that I would pass. Nor do I live in an area on which I can catch a fresh mackerel and eat it as sashimi as the great Floyd does before capsizing into the River Dart. I’m not sure the fish in the boating lake at Wimbledon Park are for the taking and might be a little muddy on the palate!

Next we have fad concoctions and cures. Of all the bizarre drinks that barkeeps, critics and general food writers offer, perhaps my favourite comes from popular culture. In my opinion, one of the greatest cinema creations of the last 30 years has been that of Doug Coughlin in the 1988 film Cocktail. The cynical Australian barman (played masterfully by the great Bryan Brown) teaches a na├»ve Tom Cruise all the right moves to become a top barman. In one of many great scenes where Coughlin propounds his philosophies (such as ‘Beer is for breakfast…’) he asks Cruise whether he can make a ‘Red Eye’ a seemingly vile concoction of which I will recount the recipe as I perceived it:

1 pint glass

½ pint Tomato Juice
½ pint lager
2 paracetamol
Lea & Perrins
1 egg

Method: Mix all the ingredients into the pint glass and crack in the egg.

The resultant slop should taste like beery tomato juice (which is not entirely awful). The real problem comes from the egg which adds a remarkably unpleasant viscosity to the whole affair making it a hard battle to get down. Just when you think you are through the fire you are hit with the grim realisation that you still have the red eye itself to gulp down. As it gets nearer and nearer you have to really summon up all of your courage and take the plunge. It slides down your gullet like a cold gob, it is all that you can do not to gag…And the result… sweet FA! I just felt even worse as that raw egg and tomato juice tied my stomach in yet more knots. Ultimately, a sad gimmick for a film in which more drink is poured and consumed than in any other, and yet they look so fresh, now I know it can’t have been because of the ‘Red Eyes’.

Another fantastic - if ludicrous - movie invention that plays the ‘hair-of-the-dog’ cure is ‘The Breakfast of Champions’ quaffed by Emilio Estevez in the Lethal Weapon spoof Loaded Weapon 1. A repulsive mix of Chocolate syrup, half a bottle of Jack Daniels topped up with irish whisky and vodka, I can hardly see how this would ever settle your stomach after a night on the razz! I have myself experimented with HOTD when I was a little younger and a lot more foolish and, as a result I cannot even smell Jack Daniels any more without feeling very queasy! I am determined to brave this particular drink over the week (scaled down to a glass rather than a stein) and I will be sure to let you know of my wellbeing after the event!

As fun or disgusting as these all sound, I am sorry to inform you, dear reader, that there is no miracle cure for a hangover! The best methods are, as is so often the case, the boring ones! Nothing beats continuous and gradual consumption of good old-fashioned tap water accompanied by a brisk walk in the fresh air, and perhaps a Berroca. My other (but this is highly subjective), favourite method is to sit outside in my dressing gown with a large pot of strong black coffee, a box of Villiger Exports (pressed) and Martin Jarvis reading an anthology of Just William on cassette tape. I think this is more a case of mind over matter, for I can hardly see how this method would do much for my physical constitution!

Whichever way you look at it there will be more and more outlandish and wild claims to cure hangovers whilst people continue to drink too much, excessively enjoy themselves and then feel guilty about it the next day. I am sure that you will all have your specific placebos that help you get over the day after the night before and I would be fascinated to hear them. So please post below on the comments board and let me know of your miracle cures!

Until later this week… Regards, H. 

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