Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Food and drink: Let the hangovers begin

A handful of good Canadian tips for getting over the party



Well, folks the party's over and I don't know about you, but I'm feeling a bit glum these days, hovering between the ho-hum of hopelessly boring routine and the Eeyore-ish hope that the Paralympic Games will relieve same.

Forced out of our collective hoopla, we're now left to manoeuvre alone the sticky wickets of exactly when it's culturally appropriate to remove those car flags stuck to our vehicles and stop wearing all the Canadiana dug out from the bottoms of drawers and closets - the moth-eaten Hudson Bay coats, the curling sweaters with elbow patches, the red and black checked lumberjack shirts, the second-hand Canadian hockey jerseys, and, of course, anything red and white including that scarf Aunt Betty knit for you from nasty electric-red acrylic.

The second cultural dilemma to negotiate is, what happens to the gear once we've ditched it? Will anyone be upset to find my Go Canada Go! banner in the Goodwill box? Will we all see small kids wearing maple leaf T-shirts the next time we trek through Guatemala?

And so it seems a good time to offer some balm for the collective community consciousness, and the hangovers.

I see two kinds of headaches and reflective lows around, the emotional ones that swoop down from on high and the boozy ones that just swoop, as in carrying out a sudden attack.

Irony of ironies is that good hard exercise is one of the most effective ways our bodies generate endorphins, the feel-good chemical produced by our pituitary glands and the hypothalamus in the brain. Usually tagged as "runners' high," this can be manifest by any type of prolonged, strenuous physical effort, including the ones we've all been cheering on the past two weeks and are now withdrawing from.

Feeling bad? Get off your butt and get moving.

Another technique: eat your way to fine. Most of the time this means downing carbs like a true Olympian.

Comfort food? Go, Canada, go all the way to the check-out stand with boxes of Kraft Dinner cradled lovingly in your arms. It was no coincidence KD was advertising on TV throughout the Games.

Or mash up some potatoes. Try fancying them up with any combo of real butter - tons of it - a dollop or two of horseradish and/or plain yogurt, squeeze in some minced garlic and finish them off with a generous sprinkle of good ground parmesan cheese, and I don't mean the Kraft kind. Hooray for mashed potatoes!

Make lots so you'll have leftovers. Tomorrow night add in a beaten egg to about two cups of mashed potatoes plus a small onion, minced, and shape up some potato patties much as you would hamburger patties. If they're too moist, add a bit of flour and fry them up over medium low-heat - I like mine cooked in a half-half mixture of olive oil and butter - and you're off to the races.

"Pepper-heads," a.k.a. the folks who love to eat hot peppers, claim that capsaicin (formerly called "capsicin"), the stuff that makes chili peppers hot, triggers the production of endorphins in reaction to the pain that the capsaicin causes our little nerve endings wherever it happens to touch down - mouth, tongue and the odd eyeball or two if you unwittingly rub same after chopping up hot chili peppers.

While there's no scientific evidence to support the capsaicin/endorphin claim, you might want to add a few chili peppers to your recipes regardless. Some studies show that they may release brain signals that make us feel less hungry and more satisfied.

There's no doubt, however, that you can trigger endorphins through the Big O (and I don't mean Olympics), prolonged stress, acupuncture and float tanks, or getting pregnant and breast-feeding. Since the first option can become repetitive, the second not recommended, the middle ones expensive or unpalatable, and the latter impossible for some and too radical for others, I suggest chocolate.

Contrary to urban myths, it does not contain endorphins. But chocolate, bless its dark little heart, does deliver a combination of alkaloids that trigger serotonin production, and that makes us feel good. More good news if you drink a lot: serotonin also helps repair liver damage, but I'm not sure I'd count on over-consumption of Hershey bars to bail me out on that one.

The caffeine chocolate carries also offers a gentle pick-you-up when an espresso or cup of coffee might prove too much. As for curing a boozy hangover, it likely won't affect much.

Francis Bacon, the painter known as much for his disconcerting portraits as his disconcerting drinking binges, decided that suicide might be the only panacea for that. Since that has its limitations, you might want to consider other options.

If you're lucky, you will have been born with the right gene pool and optimal liver size to minimize the downside of alcohol. About 25-30 per cent of people seem to be resistant to hangovers. Barring genetics, and not drinking at all, there are a few things you can do to keep the "delayed alcohol-induced headache" demons at bay. These, however, primarily fall into the "minimize the damage" mode before rather than after the fact.

Drink more slowly and, if you're into the hard stuff, drink the lighter-coloured liquors, like gin, tequila or vodka. The darker the alcohol the worse the hangover concluded a 2009 study that indicated that the fermentation process for darker-coloured liquors produced more by-products called congeners, which exacerbate hangovers.

Eat a good meal before you plan to drink. And drink lots of non-alcoholic liquids, before during and after, all with the aim of staying hydrated. Some people go by the one drink, one glass of water rule. You know those pickled eggs you find in bars? They might help you stay hydrated, too.

But, like Bacon, don't hold out too much hope for staying in this dimension and hangover-free.

Taking a hair of the dog and all the other folksy suggestions and "cures" posted on-line - the vitamins, the bananas, the greasy food, the weird drink combos and rituals - are just wishful thinking, concluded a study in the British Medical Journal .

The reality sandwich is there is no, repeat, no scientific evidence to suggest you can prevent or treat a hangover - except by not drinking.

So get over it just like you did the last party, and keep your eyes on the ball for the next one. And, BTW, hang onto all that Canadiana gear at least until after the Paralympics. You'll be glad you did.


Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning freelance writer who has never been able to down a pickled egg.