CHOCOLATE and SAUERKRAUT (6) - How to Feed a German Hangover
As a new member of Berlin’s population I have tried to assimilate to its character. I buy my groceries every other day instead of once a week. I study the U-bahn maps in search of the most efficient route from point A to point B and I never deviate from this route. I show up at bars and clubs between 11 and midnight rather than 9 and 10, as I used to in the States. But hangovers are harder to crack. It seems to me that every city I’ve lived in has its own internal cure for a hangover and this cure is not broadcast to citizens like erectile dysfunction remedies. It’s more or less implicit. You have to feel it out.
In Los Angeles for example, I gravitated toward fresh squeezed fruit juice when I was in a bad way. In Boston I sought out the noodle restaurants in Chinatown and slurped till I felt human again. In Baltimore, hangovers were best cured with Berger cookies (think of enough chocolate frosting for an entire cake resting on just one yellow cookie) and a drink I like to call “the 5’oclock”; half coke, half stale coffee with just enough whole milk to take the edge off.
Since this week contained the mother of all hangover-inducing nights—New Year’s Eve—I will describe my ravenous quest to calm my pounding head and empty stomach New Year’s Day. First of all, I didn’t get to sleep until 7:30 in the morning, which from what I gather of Berlin nightlife is nothing that would impress anyone much. Walking to the U8 stop at Rosenthaler Platz, I split a Döner three ways with my boyfriend and our good friend Joachim who was visiting from Cologne. It was hard not to scarf the whole thing down myself but somehow I managed. When we got back to our apartment in Kreuzberg I had a quick open-faced salami and cheese sandwich before hitting the sack.
Eight hours later I woke up just in time to see the sun go down again. All three of us were starving and of course, none of the grocery stores were open in our neighborhood. I fried three eggs, toasted the rest of the dark bread, boiled 10 potatoes, fried the potatoes in ganse schmaltz, ginger and garlic, and, with mayonnaise and red pepper paste as condiments, we devoured everything in every possible combination. Some people recommend warm beer for a hangover but this seemed ruthlessly sadistic to me on this particular New Year’s Day and I settled for sugary juice and coffee.
Sated but still headachy, I attempted to do some light reading and found myself drifting back to sleep within an hour. C’est la vie, I thought, and let it happen. When I woke up again, I was doubly hungry. Now there was nothing to eat in the house except sheets of seaweed and rotini pasta. My stomach grumbled in that special fear induced way a house without food and a major hangover makes a stomach grumble. I sent my boyfriend out to pick up the only cure that seemed probable at the time—China Box. China Box, for those of you who don’t know is a chain of fast-food stands that serve low-mein noodles with chicken and greasy, crispy fried onions on top. It is horrible, hideous stuff with enough sodium nitrates to turn you Mountain Dew Yellow, but when you’re in a bad way the seeming endlessness of the China Box is undeniably desirable. Soy-sauce and oil mingles with noodles and shreds of cabbage and carrots. They’ll probably revoke my subscription to Saveur for saying this, but the uniform mediocre taste is really comforting.
Hangover food should be food you don’t have to think about. If you have to pause to savor the faint hint of truffle oil, it’s not the sort of thing you should be eating after a night of imbibing a garbage pail’s worth of alcohol. I remember passing a bar in Brooklyn once that had a plaque outside which read, “Your liver is evil and deserves to be punished.” For those of us who actually did punish our livers New Years Eve, it seems the only antidote is China Box.
I can’t believe I’m writing such a love letter to this place, but desperate times make strange bedfellows, or something like that. Next year I vow to drink less, or at least have the house stocked with food when the good times run out. For those of you reading this blog, I welcome any suggestions for hangover cures or personal anecdotes about how you ate your way through New Years Day.
Frohes Neues Jahr from Chocolate and Sauerkraut.