The Mourning After: eating away the post-drinking blues in different parts of the world

I was a late-bloomer, I have to admit. I remember opening my eyes the morning after and thinking: so this is what it feels like.

My very first hangover.

It was the day after my 19th birthday and I got so drunk on Martini that I vomited straight down on the downstairs neighbours’ balcony and possibly on their cat too (luckily it was raining that night), collapsed, and missed out on my own party. Ever since I have not been able to tolerate the taste, smell or even the thought of Martini as my first hangover brutally welcomed me to the World of People Who Appreciate a Drink Every Now and Then by lasting no shorter than a week. A week! This week included classic signals such as dehydration, headaches and general misery, but also more worrisome ones, like signing up for a free trial at the gym. Shit seriously hit the fan.

But of course I survived and learned my lesson. How else would I have discovered that a cucumber is not a good stomach liner for a night of drinking and that the aforementioned brand of vermouth is pure poison, and not the good type?

Amateur as I was back then, I was yet to be familiarized with Hangover Emergency Aid. Now, eight years and countless hangovers later, I discovered that remedies actually differ per country and that each region seems to have their own way of dealing with the ‘man with the hammer’. Since I just moved to my 8th country of residence (and when I think of it, at least half of the countries I have been living in are notorious for their high alcohol consumption), of course I had to be prepared for new hangover cure experimentation.

Sure, it is a personal thing as well, but which places are best equipped for the badly hungover? And, more importantly, what should one eat or drink there?

Let’s start by looking East because, let’s be honest, the DNA there is Darwinism in its purest form. You are very likely to overestimate your alcohol tolerance in Poland and surrounding countries, but as this region has a rich tradition in binge drinking, they have carefully developed and tested hangover solutions for centuries. Their answer: sour stuff. Pickles are a generally accepted hangover food, but those who mean business also drink the pickle juice, straight from the jar. Another solution is cabbage soup (see ‘Eat, Drink and Loosen your Belt: an Ode to Polish Cuisine’) or solyanka, another comforting salty/sour soup. Basically just anything sour. Be prepared by always having a bottle of vinegar in your kitchen cabinet for emergency scenarios.

Had a bit too much Sangsom whiskey or finished the whole ‘bucket’ by yourself? Lucky you- in Thailand you can treat yourself to a deliciously spicy concoction on any street corner. A classic is pad kee mao or ‘drunk noodles’: broad noodles stir-fried with meat, vegetables and whatever else you fancy when in a hungover state. The essential ingredients are fish sauce – for your salt fix – and lots of bird’s eye chillies to sweat that hangover right out of your system. In case this doesn’t help, try nature’s gift to alcoholics: fresh young coconut water. It will replenish and rehydrate you and it tastes terrific, too!

In Anglo-Saxon countries, one tends to crave a lot of grease and salt in the form of classics such as a full English fry-up, poutine and bacon and egg-related dishes. And with good reason, as Newcastle University concluded that a bacon sandwich is the best thing to eat the morning after due to the combination of carbohydrates and proteins, which apparently offsets some complex chemistry in your body. All scientific stuff aside: it just tastes good and therefor does not need any kind of explanation. Period.

Now, let’s have a look at the country where even Immigration greets visitors with a bottle of wine, so just you might as well just accept the fact that you will feel hungover at some point during your stay in Georgia. Nil desperandum, because the Georgians have some tricks up their sleeves to deal with this necessary evil. Some of their cures are not for beginners though: khashi, for example, is tripe soup with milk and garlic and traditionally served in the mornings only. Of course its magic works even better when combined with a shot of Georgian grappa. Not feeling that adventurous? Borjomi is a drink of Gods (and Soviet leaders) and this salty, mineral-packed sparkling water will put you back up on your feet in no time.

Mongolia, the answer to the world’s favourite self-inflicted wound is simply a glass of tomato juice with a pickled sheep’s eye in it. Don’t reject the idea just yet, because isn’t it just like a different interpretation of a Bloody Mary? (No.)While a considerable part of the rest of the world probably picks up some Turkish style fast-food on the way home after a night of drinking, in Turkey they came up with a remedy for themselves which, strangely enough, hasn’t made it to most shawarma/kebab/falafel stalls abroad: kokoreç. It is basically the Mediterranean version of haggis, where offal and organ meat is chopped, wrapped in intestines, grilled, and served on a sandwich. Would probably be approved by Newcastle University’s Hangover Cure Department. Often consumed as a street food, it is best washed down with a shot of raki.

All folklore aside, after careful consideration, experimentation and extensive drinking in the name of ‘research journalism’, my own personal First Aid package is quite simple. Drink endless amounts of water. Take a pain killer or two. Indulge in a long hot shower. Fry some eggs. Still feel like you have just been attacked by a league of angry football hooligans on speed? This is where those years living in Denmark have helped me a lot: face reality and drink one ‘reparation beer’. Not only is it an effective solution that has worked best for me, it also semi-rationally allows you to drink again. Mind you though, here the trick is not to exceed the magical limit of one – or you’ll end up just postponing your hangover.