Hangovers: How to Eat Yourself Better

It was a wonderful night. So-and-so was there—you hadn't seen him for years. And that-random-guy-from-across-the-street was looking better than ever. There may have been a moment (and this makes you cringe) when you gave what's-his-name, whom you truly can't bear, a warm embrace. At least you didn't start quoting Kipling or go through your repertoire of Bette Midler impressions.

Great party. But now it's head-swelling morning, full of bongo drums and referee whistles. What can you do to ease the pain, short of burying your head back under the sheets?

The best tip for hangovers, of course, is to tackle them before they hit. You should never go to bed without drinking at least two glasses of water. But it's too late now. You don't even remember going to sleep, so it's doubtful you would have had the foresight to fill a glass and drink from it, standing up.

As Robert Benchley observed, "There is no cure for a hangover, save death." Well, the outlook is not quite that bleak. There is hope—and it lies in your kitchen. If one of the following three suggestions doesn't pick you up, it's time to go back to sleep.


  • Hair of the dog. Accomplished barflies agree that the Prairie Oyster, a combination of 1 fresh raw unbeaten egg, 1 douse of Worcestershire sauce, 1 souse of whiskey or brandy, and 1 slosh of Tabasco is the pick-me-up of last resort. Doctors would say you are simply restoring the drunkenness.

  • Fried food. Serious partiers tend towards quantities of grease; a solid dose of fried breakfast foods like eggs, bacon and potatoes to still the body's jitters. There is medical support for this: grease coats the acid in the stomach like a blanket starving a fire of oxygen, while carbohydrates hack at the alcohol. Working men's cafes across Britain are filled with glassy-eyed revellers hunched over breakfast plates of eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, beans, mushrooms and fried bread. Diners off West Hollywood Boulevard are often the silent early morning scriptwriters who have been at the keyboard and bottle all night, bent over restorative plates of hash browns and eggs-over-easy.

  • Hot ’n’ spicy. Others, for reasons unknown, swear by chili and spice. Chicken soup also has its advocates. The great food writer MFK Fisher suggests gazpacho is "one of the world's best breakfasts for unfortunates who are badly hung over," while a good strong Bloody Mary combines hair-of-the-dog and spice—surely the best combination of all.

This is best made the night before so the flavors have a chance to mingle together. However, if you are not that organized, or don't always plan your big nights out in advance, just give it as long as you can. You can always go back to bed while you wait.

Serves 4

1 generous mixed handful chives, chervil, parsley, basil, marjoram (use any or all, but make sure they're fresh)
1 garlic clove
1 red pepper
2 peeled and seeded tomatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 mild onion, sliced paper-thin
1 cup diced cucumber
Salt and pepper
1 3/4 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs

1. Chop the herbs and mash thoroughly with the garlic, red pepper, and tomatoes, adding the oil very slowly, and then the lemon juice.

2. Add about 3 glasses cold water (or a good meat or fish stock) or as much as you wish.

3. Add the onion and the cucumber, season, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, then store in the fridge for 4 hours, or as long as possible, before serving.

Adapted from MFK Fisher, How To Cook A Wolf (Faber & Faber, 1963)

Bloody Mary
This classic recipe is a sure-fire way to get your head straight.

Serves 6-8

1 quart tomato juice
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Tabasco
1 tbsp prepared horseradish (from a jar)
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp celery salt
Freshly ground white pepper
1 1/2 cups vodka
Lemon slices, to garnish

Mix all ingredients in a large pitcher. Stir until well blended. Pour into ice-filled glasses, and garnish with lemon or lime.

French Toast
For those who crave fatty fried food with the grease inside, not outside the food, a sinful variation on French toast is a soothing option.

Serves 6

5 eggs
3/4 cup heavy or whipping cream
2 1/2 ounces Triple Sec
2 tbsp granulated sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
2 tsp ground cinnamon
6 stale plain croissants, cut lengthwise in half
6 tbsp unsalted butter
Confectioner's sugar

1. Beat the eggs and cream together. Add the Triple Sec, granulated sugar, orange zest, and cinnamon and whisk until well blended. Pour into a shallow bowl or pie plate.

2. Dip each croissant half in the egg mixture, turning once. Melt a few tbsp of the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add as many croissants as will fit and fry until golden on both sides. Repeat with the remaining croissants, adding butter to the pan as needed. Sift confectioner's sugar over the croissants. Serve immediately.

Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins, The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook (Workman Publishing, 1984)

Best BLT
To make 4 sandwiches: toast 8 slices crusty white bread and spread mayonnaise (and grainy mustard if you like) lightly on one side of each piece. You could also add tomato sauce and/or brown sauce at this stage, depending on the state of your stomach. Top with 2 large, thinly sliced tomatoes, lettuce leaves, and 3 slices crisp, cooked bacon per sandwich. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper to taste. Top with the remaining slices of toast, press together and serve.

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