Hair of the Dog
Originally I was intending to write a character piece today. However, since Matt did such a fine job of laying out the P’s and Q’s of drinking preparation in light of St. Patrick’s day, I thought it responsible to be here to pick you up and dust you off the morning after with a discussion of the price we pay for indulging the uisce beatha, the water of life, what the Irish call Whiskey.
It was once believed in old English hedge medicine that the bite of a rabid dog might be cured by placing fur of the same dog in the wound. And this treatment was largely ubiquitous throughout much of Europe, supposedly extending out of Shakespearean license on an old poem by Aristophanes. With progress, this barbaric practice was foregone in place of the more civilized science of leaching, but its legacy was fossilized in the colloquialism we know today which refers to curing a hangover the morning after a night’s heavy indulgences by consuming more liquor upon waking. I would like to discuss this among other curatives for alleviating that condition second to knowledge of good and evil in its ability to cause misery in men.
Curative 1- Ice Cold Water
The other, more literal Water of Life, don’t underestimate the restorative virtues of a tall, frosted mason jar full of crisp, clear water fresh from a few minutes’ chill in the freezer. This advice may seem so obvious as to be unnecessary to mention here, however, it is often overlooked and is perhaps the best tool for warding off and alleviating a hangover.
The temperature and serving measures are important in this case because you are looking for something that is not only refreshing for that terrible whiskey palate that seasoned drunks have upon waking, but also sensually jarring enough to enliven the senses and wake the brain as it feebly dog paddles its way ashore from it’s swim in partially metabolized ethanol. I find that that cold glass of water gives me something to look forward to when I wake up, which is important here given that my first instinct is a groaning wish for death, or at least a less permanent sleep of similar depth.
As a good rule of thumb for general living, I drink an ice cold glass of water before and after all notable activities. It is returning to the stuff we are made of.
Curative 2- Turkish Coffee
Science tells us that caffeine, as a diuretic substance that elevates heart rate and increases production of the metabolic hormone cortisol, does not relieve but rather exacerbates the symptoms of a hangover. This is further evidence that science is not all it is cracked up to be. As a body of observable correlating relationships between phenomena it serves well enough. However, it still has yet to explain the physical mechanics of a bumblebee’s flight, yet to find the Higgs Boson, and yet to disprove a fictitious God whose moral relationship with mankind is explained in terms of magical fruit. Science can run along and fuck itself, because when I am hungover I want coffee.
Specifically strong, black, Turkish coffee. Not some fruity faux Italian Frankenstein concoction of milk and hazelnut, the recipe to which is trademarked by a company that believes individually packaged biscotti to be a good idea. No cream, no sugar. One doesn’t water down medicine when in want of potency, so it makes little sense to ruin coffee with superfluous bullshit. Turkish coffee in particular embodies what all coffee is supposed to be- a thick caffeine soup with a sludge-like consistency whose heavenly aroma is at odds with its bitter taste, creating a shock to the senses that revives a man from the consequences of too much drink. Acceptable additives include oregano, freshly grated nutmeg (I keep one in my pocket, and use the file on my multitool), and liquor.
Much of my adult life can be understood in terms of an arms race between the strength of my coffee and the severity of my hangovers. If you’re inclined to pull a face about a bitter drink because you’d rather have cream and sugar, remember, our project here is not to have a pleasant time but rather to cure a condition. So smile and take your medicine.
Oh, and eat the grounds at the bottom of the glass. They’re good for you.
Curative 3- The Prairie Oyster
Many cultural variations exist of this little protein hello and good morning. The basic recipe consists in:
- 1 raw egg
- A half-jigger of worcestershire
- Pinch of salt
- 3 grinds pepper
- 3 liberal dashes tobasco
The Prairie Oyster is drunk all in one go, sometimes with weary prayer or a sign of the cross. Personally, I like to recall some small act of rudeness or indifference from my past that I regret, hold it in my mind, then earnestly and sincerely forgive myself right before taking the gulp. This leaves me free to set to breakfast with a cleaner conscience.
Granted, its effectiveness may be entirely psychosomatic- still, I stand by it nonetheless. Given that historical invention of the Prairie Oyster is attributable to P.G. Wodehouse through the auspices of the character Reginald Jeeves, butler and gentleman’s personal gentleman, I’m inclined to yield to a little self-deception. Particularly given that the oyster remains one of the sole legacies of a liquor culture which once endorsed mixing whiskey with beef bullion.
Curative 4- French Bacon
Nobody loves bacon like Americans love bacon. And rightly so. Bacon is the perfect food- mixing sweet, salt, and savory flavors while combining a texture which is at once both crisp and substantively chewy. Still, for all their love, Americans often do a disservice to bacon, which is never more apparent than when a hungover man orders bacon in a restaurant. Where we hope for that perfect slice, crisp, meaty red, with a slight shine and glisten, we are often disappointed with bacon that is too thin, mostly fat, and either on the near or far side of perfect doneness.
The reason is largely in the cut. Americans tend to use cured porkbelly for bacon, which yields a fattier, stretchier, less substantial slice of bacon than other cuts like the loin, the side and the back which they reserve for other uses. Europeans on the other hand tend to use these other choicer cuts for their bacon, leading to a general superiority in consistency and taste and making bacon a far different experience for Europeans.
The history behind this difference is largely traceable to the advent of refrigeration and the spread of a heavily regulated and industrialized consumer food industry in the United States during the 50’s. Bacon is a cured meat, and curing was a process of preserving meat in a world before refrigeration, a process that became a deeply ingrained tradition in Europe over thousands of years and became enough a part of the food culture that it persisted past the spread of refrigeration. America, whose history is only a couple centuries deep, lost touch with its constituent bacon heritages, much to the dismay of American drunks.
And as many American drunks will tell you, nothing cuts through the bleary morning hangover quite like a nice dose of salt and fat. Scientifically, both salt and fat work to interfere with the intestines and liver absorbing and metabolizing the congeners and ethanol in liquor that cause hangovers, ameliorating the effects over an extended period of time. But perhaps more powerful is the psychological effect, that primal warmth in the deepest recesses of our lizard brains that goes “UNF” whenever we pile salty, fat-soaked meat into our mouths. Whatever the cause, the effect is plain, earning thick slabs of prime cut European bacon a place on the go to list of small somethings that reclaim the body for the sake of the mind.
Curative 5- Corned Beef Hash
If bacon is the perfect food, then corned beef hash is the perfect dish. It has basically everything you could ask for from food- salt, savory, variety in texture, and the ability to stick to the ribs without being a damned greasy mess.
There are quite a few regional variations on the dish. New York diners serve a hash that tends to be more beef than potato, with the beef shredded and tenderized into a paste that is then fried to a crisp cake. Chicago and Midwestern diners trend towards larger chunks of fried corned beef mixed in with browned Longshore potatoes. The southern take features larger chunks mixed into smashed potatoes, the admixture of which is fried to a delicious golden brown. All variations include the crisp exterior, creamy interior, and salty corned beef goodness- and in most cases, the dish is served with a fried egg on top with the yolk lending further richness and creaminess to the experience.
Now, besides making for a delicious excursion to fat and protein heaven, corned beef hash’s primary ingredient is fried potato. While potatoes get a bad rap for carb content, their chemical composition is uniquely able to help mitigate the effects of a heavy night’s drinking. The primary carbohydrate in potatoes is the polysaccharide known as starch, which holds its constituent glucose molecules together in a chemical bond. When prepared correctly, up to 25% of these bonds in potatoes remain unbroken, meaning that they are resistant to the digestive enzymes in the stomach and thus act more like complex carbohydrates like fiber which get absorbed slowly in the large intestine.
How does this translate for a drunkard? Well, the quickly absorbed glucose gives you a nice pick me up of immediate energy, while the undigested starch provides for a slow burn that prevents the immediate crash following so many other hangover restoratives. Combined with protein and fat, corned beef hash provides a lot of the raw material the body needs to repair itself after a night of heavy imbibing.
Curative 6- The Hair of the Dog
Similia similibus curantur; the Latin motto of “like cures like”, known better by the Shakespearean adaptation of fighting fire with fire.
This curative represents the big guns of getting over a hangover and is not typically recommended in today’s woefully sober world of clearheadedness and commerce barring unusual circumstances, like weddings, wakes, and comedy troupe reunions. The Hair of the Dog involves perhaps the most effective means of overcoming the detrimental effects of liquor- more liquor.
Because Hair of the Dog is the nuclear option, I try to muster a bit of class whenever I treat with it. While I have certainly had occasion for the rise and shine whiskey or the Dark Eyes vodka and Denny’s coffee cocktail, as my experience and means have grown I have come to prefer a few restorative beverages over alternatives.
First and foremost is the Bloody Mary. Much along the lines of the other curatives, the Bloody Mary stirs the senses and enlivens the mind with a mixture of sweet and heat. Strong spice kicks the metabolism into gear without causing heart palpitations. The acid sweet clears the palate of that lingering dry sourness. The vodka softens the edges of your day and allows you to enjoy your breakfast while you go about the task of returning to fighting form.
In second place is the Mimosa. A mix of champaign and orange juice, this perky little fellow is light and deceptively potent. Sweet without being saccharine, it bubbles and fizzes and complements pretty much every breakfast dish there is. Further, it is basically impossible to engage in self-pity for your hungover state while drinking a fizzy, sweet, alcoholic beverage- the pop of a champaign cork serves as Pavlovian signal to the human brain that fun is nearby.
Tied with the Mimosa is the Pimm’s and Limonade- similar in form and function to the Mimosa. An old East Coast tennis refreshment, a collins glassful of this stuff is strong enough to perk up a morning while lessening the chances of an early afternoon crash courtesy of too much dog hair in the wound.
In third place is the brunch-time beer. This option is not always appropriate for extremely hungover individuals experiencing indigestion or reflux, but for hangovers of lesser severity it can serve as a pleasant tiding over for more drinking later that evening. Less a restorative than a lubricant, the brunch-time beer has its place alongside a filling meal, preferably with one’s bleary eyed companions from the evening before. Guinness is my beer of preference for this purpose, much for the same virtues highlighted by Matt in yesterday’s post.
Curative 7- Being Woken by a Beautiful Woman
Nothing cures that crushing sense that you’ve woken on the wrong side of the soil as the holistic warmth and peaceful breathing of a woman in your bed beside you. Ideally, she will ask you what there is by way of breakfast, and if life is kind, she may even call you tiger.
WARNING: No hangover is so quickly forgotten as when a nude or mostly nude woman calls you tiger.
I will fight the man who claims otherwise, as well as his father and all his brothers, so that the whole family is shamed. Afterwards I will drink a glass of water, and sit down to a breakfast of bacon and corned beef hash, with Turkish coffee. Afterwards I shall drink a Bloody Mary, and the world will know that man for the worst kind of fool.
Posted on March 18, 2011, in Adam Kornya, Lists and tagged alcohol, bacon, breakfast, coffee, corned beef, corned beef hash, curative, hangover, hangover cure, hash, irish, liquor, mimosa, Pimms, restorative, whiskey. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.