SMOKE: Hangover Cures

Originally published: 3 October 2003

I was reading a fascinating description by a reader of New Scientist (published on their website) about why it is that after drinking you feel hungry, and why you feel like eating food rich in carbohydrates (eg. chips or toast) as opposed to an apple.

The reason you feel hungry is that your blood sugar level is lowered when you drink, and the reason you wouldn't want to eat an apple (and I couldn't think of anything worse) is that it is acidic, as is alcohol.

Your body wants carbohydrates to compensate for the salt loss, which is why you often get crisps, or pizza, or pies.

I was a pie man myself back in my drinking days, and since all my time was spent in and around the environs of the Cape Town city bowl I usually stopped at the same place for my Pissed Pie - an Engen garage at the bottom of Gardens, on your way out of the city and over De Waal Drive, heading for the southern suburbs.

The place was brilliant - it's since become a Woolworths and as such attracts far fewer students, but back in the day it sold the best damned pies in Africa.

Or did it? We'll never know, because at 3am on a Tuesday morning - by the time you've worked out that there's no way in hell you're going to the 8am lecture and have consumed 20 lagers, 80 cigarettes and a face-full of Majut - any bit of food tastes like cuisine.

Those pies were magnificent to the perennial drunk, however, despite the fact that you couldn't taste them for all the layers of nicotine and bile coating your tongue. They rescued many a gnawing stomach-pit on countless a gravity-free night, and as such are still given fond pride of place in my Good Memories bank.

I was also big on droë wors sticks, salt and vinegar crisps and Steri Stumpie flavoured milk (as long as it was ice cold).

Of course - the big trick is to eat something that will reduce your chances or intensity of hangovers, but I was never particularly good at hangover cures.

I got into large Bar Ones with a litre of water, which gave me both fluid for the dehydration and sugar to boost the levels in my blood. While I fondly imagined it really worked, my only memories are of lying flat on my back writhing in agony for an entire day in mid-summer heat, before recovering in time for a 9pm start at Bob's.

I don't ever remember feeling magically cured first thing in the morning, though, so I guess my Bar Ones and water didn't work.

One of the biggies is orange juice, but I've never bought it - way too much acid for me to cope with. I'd start having orange flashbacks, man.

Some folks are bold enough to try Hair of the Dog - straight back to drinking more alcohol, to cure the current hangover. You have to be mad.

Reminds me of a rock concert my mate Keith pulled off back in our student days - one of the bands he managed to get to play at the concert was Nine, the heavy rocker/rappers from Cape Town who were particularly hot at the time.

These guys played the gig - getting totally wasted - and then pitched up at 9am the following morning to collect their cash. While we were counting out money they found the half-full skin of a Cellar Cask 5-litre white and sat quaffing it back like cooldrink. Stuffing their lungs with unfiltered Gauloises and Camels.

Now that's rock and roll, baby. Respek.

But not for me.

You can also try caffeine, or sleep (always good), or the raw egg bit (very bad, unless you enjoy projectile-vomiting yellow goo first thing in the morning).

But the best still has to be the Great Wimpy Traditional Breakfast - a masterpiece designed to seek out and destroy even the meanest hangover and get you feeling like a million bucks in time for your afternoon constitutional of tea and drugs.

You get steak, fried eggs, toast, fried tomato, chips, fried onions and a sossie, washed down with gallons of hot (note: HOT, Spur) coffee and rounded off with a fresh orange juice.

The perfect combination of starch, acid, sugar, caffeine, protein and oil, all of which combine in a most agreeable way upon the palette.

And to make your experience even better you get the added bonus of the best waitresses I've ever encountered - the friendliest, most understanding-of-pain, unhurried-yet-efficient people ever to have worked in the service industry.

I don't know who runs personnel at Wimpy, or whether they simply attract a like-minded work force, but those gals are Happy.

But whatever device you use to cure your hangovers, allow me to offer some guidance on things you need to avoid when waking up after a hard night:

1. Be sure to have put up double-curtains and firmly drawn them when sleeping in an East-facing house. A summer morning in Cape Town when you have not complied with the above wisdom - and combined with a forehead fire - is what it feels like when you hang in hell. Not very pleasant at all.

2. Be sure to move the overflowing ashtray away from the side of your head the night before - waking up to a face-full of stompies and ash with a raw, burning throat and a bastard behind the eyes is an exercise best only attempted by Ripley's contestants or the criminally insane.

3. Do not lie in bed thinking of blobs of fatty pork in an ashtray, Audrey Hepburn spinning around on a hill, or Tony Sanderson taking a fat one.

4. By the same token - ensure that the phone is off the hook, particularly if - like me - you are permanently expecting a call from a Lawyer, or a Caretaker. Explanations and lies are best left to the clear-headed, or the professional avoidance artist.

5. Finally - always, always ensure that when you wake up with a hangover it is in your own bed, and not on the floor of a house 50 kilometres from the nearest main road, with a bunch of complete strangers sleeping everywhere around you. Trying to hitchhike on a bright morning with legs that feel like jelly, when you have absolutely no clue as to your location and your shoes are missing, is best left to folks like me.

Ignore this advice at your peril. Alternatively move in right next door to your local Wimpy, and get cracking with those breakfasts.

And leave off the doos wyn. That shit'll kill you.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
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