Menudo. Borscht. A greasy two-pound breakfast burrito. Given the sheer number of culinary cures for the common hangover, it was only a matter of time before a cookbook dedicated solely to this particular brand of fatty, flavorful fare hit the shelves. And who better to attempt to solve our morning after dietary needs than the British, whose traditional breakfast of beans, eggs, sausage, and toast is already the perfect remedy for last night's bender?
But Milton Crawford, author of The Hungoevr Cookbook (yes, that's the way it's spelled), wants to push hangover cuisine beyond the "traditional British solution of chucking a full English at it." As he writes in his introduction, "A hangover is an opportunity to see and taste the world in a new way," and so he's created a compendium of recipes meant to take full advantage of this altered state.
Crawford has divided the cookbook into sections, each devoted to the most prevalent types of hangovers, as described in P.G. Wodehouse's screwball novel, The Mating Season. To determine what sort of hangover is plaguing you, Crawford has devised a series of visual tests ("How many black dots do you see?" Answer A, "The whole page is full of black holes that I feel I may fall into at any moment") and a physical questionnaire ("How does your head feel?" Answer D, "A bomb has exploded inside my skull and all that's left is the drip, drip, drip of alcohol creating stalactites and stalagmites in my empty, aching cave of a cranium.") Based on your answers, you are directed to a chapter of recipes designed for what ails you, ranging from spicy belly bombs to the gentler tummy tamers.
At one end of the spectrum is the Broken Compass, the hangover of anxiety and self-loathing. Crawford recommends combating the urge to return to the succor of bed's oblivion with a "menu of spicy comfort food to reignite your passion for life." This chapter includes a simple recipe for eggs bhurjhi served with fried bread instead of roti and Anglo-Indian kedgeree, a kind of British take on leftover fried rice with fish.
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Victims of the Sewing Machine hangover face stabbing headaches and severe stomach cramps, and therein require a far blander repast, which Crawford provides with recipes for the classic Elvis peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich as well as a lovely leek, cheese, and mustard mash.
The most compelling recipes in the book fall into the chapter for the Atomic hangover, a predicament in which your insides have been obliterated, leaving a chasm of extreme, ravenous hunger. For this insatiable state, there is a DIY Egg McMuffin, a breakfast burger made with pork sausage and egg on an English muffin; a flavorful cardamom porridge with spicy apple sauce; and the breakfast of champions, tagilatelle alla carbonara.
In addition to arranging the recipes by type of hangover, Crawford has also sorted the dishes by degree of difficulty -- ranging from one star (those easy enough to make even with a blinding headache) to five star, which demand coordination and balance and may require the help of a healthy friend. Herein lies the book's greatest downfall. The five star recipes, for example, the deviled kidneys on toast, require us to do things we could never do, even with the mildest hangover -- peel lamb's kidneys while nauseated? Not so much. Whereas the one star dishes don't really require recipes at all -- if we're ever so hungover as to need instructions on how to make a bacon sandwich, please place a call to poison control.
However, if read as literary food porn for the hungover soul, the book succeeds, and can perhaps be used as inspiration for morning after delivery orders -- an impulse that Crawford seems to understand, as each chapter also includes a solid take-away option. Mmmm, a masala dosa as hangover remedy. Yes, please.