Wednesday, April 13


If you didn't make it to the Potlikker Film Festival in Greenville, then you didn't get the pleasure of hearing George Singleton give his hangover cure. We are sharing it here for all to enjoy. You may not be brave enough to try the cure, but you'd be crazy not to read it. Thanks again, George, for being a part of the Festival!

An Ode to Hangover Cures*
George Singleton

Hangover theorists—evidently there are but a few professionally, but a whole crash of them working nonstop on an amateur basis—don't talk much about congeners and cytokines, at least not publicly. But anyone who has ever ingested more than 1.5 ounces of good bourbon per hour knows that he or she will suffer the classic symptoms right about daybreak: inflammation of the head, queasy stomach, and slight tremulousness. Personally, I don't get that 1.5 ounces per hour quota. Did a scientist make a typo? Did Dr. Moderation really mean 5.1 ounces per hour?

Here in South Carolina, where the hangovers come quickly and often, the cures are mind-numbing and questionable. Every good booze glutton has probably tried the standbys: two gallons of water, enough Goody's Powder sleeves to construct a life- size origami swan, Krystal hamburgers, hair of the dog, and a slew of over-the-counter, sure-fire remedies usually sold next to condoms, batteries, playing cards, and scratch tickets at the local convenience store.

What I suggest may only work for me, but it works. Without trudging through a stream of techno-medical babble involving dilated blood vessels and acetaldehyde, let me leave you with these words: embrace the endorphin-inducing hot peppers.

In the past-yeah, yeah, yeah, I just went through rehab, so trust me that I'm clear- headed and slightly rational on the following recipe—I started many a day with what I called Poor Man's Pate Surprise. I minced a can of Vienna sausages as fine as possible (a blender would work best, but remember, the damn noise could kill you) and threw them into a blue-speckled, enamelware mixing bowl. Then, recklessly and without rubber gloves, I minced one medium jalapeno and one orange habanero, then threw them on top of the Viennas, seeds and all. During particularly vile, rabid, tenacious hangovers, I always hoped that the pepper seeds would lodge in my intestinal tract, cause diverticulitis, and kill me.

Then I added about two tablespoons of mayo, two squirts of yellow mustard, and a couple teaspoons of sweet-pickle relish. I hand-whipped the concoction with a wooden spoon and served it atop saltine crackers, or between two slices of white Sunbeam bread. I never officially recorded the outcome, but it seemed as if my hands would start burning uncontrollably about the same time that I could see again through the tears. Granted, my hangover remedy might be on the same level as a guy who bangs his thumb with a hammer so he forgets about his gout, but what the hell. By the time I knew what was going on, my headache had disappeared.

I should also add to any animal lovers out there that my Poor Man's Pate Surprise, minus the peppers, has cured more than a few of my dogs when they scrawnied away during hot summer months and wouldn't eat regular chow.

I discovered another hangover cure that might work best for upwardly mobile people living in nice neighborhoods without a Vienna sausage aisle in their grocery store.

Take two catfish fillets and place them in a shallow, buttered, borosilicate glass pan, better known as Pyrex cookware. Sprinkle grated cheese on the fish. Cover the cheese with, again, diced jalapenos and habaneras. Cover the peppers with bread crumbs, then another layer of fillets.

Sometimes I grated more cheese—I preferred hoop cheese, but I'm sure some kind of high-priced and fancy Havarti, Gouda, or Edam might work—and added more bread crumbs. I baked the catfish at around 400 degrees for maybe fifteen minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. Then I pulled out the pan and carefully drained into a mixing bowl the fish water that had mysteriously accumulated.

It was important to keep the fish water, as I'll explain later.

Then I slid the pan back in the oven for about another five minutes. During this time, I made not-from-scratch hollandaise sauce, which I drizzled over the fish loaf after it cooled somewhat. Now, I'll admit, sometimes this particular hangover cure didn't quite work. For the most part—minus the butter, cheese, and hollandaise sauce—it seemed about as healthy as a shot of B12. If my hangover didn't go away by the time I finished off about a four-by-four-inch square, there was one more step.

I went back to my pantry—or closet, file cabinet, Charles Chips canister, suitcase, roof gutter, dog-food bin, bookcase, etc.—pulled out a bottle of vodka or bourbon, poured about a jigger into the cooling fish water, and chugged it down. A little hair of the dog and scale of the cat pretty much relieved me of any discomfort. This little step works amazingly well for those who suffer from upset stomachs.

Let me reiterate that I only speak of what worked for me. I have no scientific evidence, but it seems to me that the blood vessels may actually constrict, despite the theories, and if so, there's nothing like a good, fatty Vienna sausage to ramrod those veins back into viable thoroughfares. The hot peppers, I'm certain, send out endorphins so fast that even a broken hip might feel like nothing more than a pulled groin.

Oddly, since the rehab stint, I've noticed how my knees, lower back, neck, and temples hurt pretty much continuously. I'm thinking that I might should go back to my old midmorning ways, pop those Vienna tops more often, and dice peppers like there's no tomorrow.

*This Ode appeared in The Oxford American, Spring 2005, Issue 49.