Spring is nearly here in New York! Citywide, the season of eating that doesn’t revolve around a crock pot, an oven, or a can is met with an exuberance reserved for few things. People no longer want to strangle one another, layers are shed and we all flock down to the Union Square Farmers Markets in droves.
Which, as it turns out, does make you want to strangle your fellow man. While you’re on a mission to find turnips in a timely manner, someone is strolling in front of you without a care (or a timeframe) in the world. Does this mean it’s time for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share? Read the rest of this entry »
Question: “It’s been a hard holiday season on Mr. Liver. Is there anything I can eat or drink to cure a hangover that ACTUALLY works?” -Rupert J Brooklyn
Answer: Honestly, not really. The only guaranteed hangover cure is time. There are, however, things that will perhaps shorten the time spent recovering a bit.
But first, it helps to know what exactly a hangover is and how it’s caused in order to lessen the effects before one happens. In a nutshell, hangovers are disincentives to alcohol abuse. That being said, there are three widely recognized factors in the cause of a hangover: dehydration, hypoglycemia and acetaldehyde intoxication.
Dehydration in a hangover is caused because ethanol acts a diuretic. You drink more, you pee more. You pee too much, you get dehydrated and an electrolyte imbalance. Simple. So if you’re planning on hitting it frat boy in Cancun style, if you try to remember to alternate between an alcoholic beverage and water it may save your stupid behind in the long run.
The second factor in a hangover is hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This happens because of the metabolic changes of the liver (as well as other organs) in response to the presence of alcohol in the system. With prolonged heavy drinking, the liver will accumulate triglycerides as well as lactic acid which can inhibit glucose production. With the inhibition of glucose production, your liver will resort to using its reserve glycogen, which is when hypoglycemia occurs. Also to note, alcoholic hypoglycemia is more common with prolonged binge drinking over days, as alcohol also irritates the stomach and intestines that leads to all the wonderful gastrointestinal problems and leads the drinker to poor nutritional choices. Again, it serves to play it safe and drink less, or perhaps to make sure to eat the garnishes from your glass while drinking.
The last factor in a hangover is acetaldehyde intoxication. Ethanol is converted to acetaldehyde by the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, and then from acetaldehyde to acetic acid by the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. That’s just a mouthful to say that your body converts all the alcohol to waste products, which you then have to flush out of your system.. with (say it with me) time. the acetaldehyde intoxication is what gives you the lethargy, the confusion and the general malaise of a hangover. As an added bonus, acetaldehyde is between 10 and 30 times more toxic than alcohol itself and is a probable carcinogen. So, the more you drink, the more your body has to convert all that alcohol.. and if you keep it up, you might end up with cancer. Great!
Now that I’ve lectured you left, right and backwards, you probably want to just know what you can eat or drink to feel better. There’s a few things that may help you feel an iota better after a bender.
One, potassium rich foods and drinks. Foods like avocado, bananas and dried apricots are chock full of potassium and shouldn’t irritate your stomach too much. If even chewing is too much to handle, you can also feebly sip Gatorade, Pedialyte or any coconut water.
Two, grease. This isn’t a licence to go hog wild, but a meal with a higher fat content may help coat your stomach. Eggs are a good call as they’re not seriously unhealthy, as would be bread dipped in olive oil. Cheese pizza or fondue might also be suitable.
Three, sugar. Honey or fruit may help do the trick as they can help rapidly restore your glucose levels.
Four: B Vitamins and complex carbohydrates. Try Vegemite or sautéed mushrooms (the non hallucinatory type, obviously) and onions on whole grain toast. Studies show that in large doses, vitamin B6 may reduce the symptoms of a hangover. Vegemite is loaded with B vitamins, as are mushrooms and onions.
Try any of those foods and it might make you feel better. Still, the key to preventing a hangover is not to get one. So next holiday season, don’t double fist your drinks at Christmas dinner or offer to show those interns how its done on the kegstands.
By Richard Nordgren, chemist
Yay! Another reader question! I love this stuff.
Do you have any kitchen questions that are keeping you up at night? Let me help put your mind at ease. Email me your questions at unprofessionalcookery(at)gmail(dot)com. Thanks guys!
Question: “There’s this Polish deli by my place that sells pickles in tubs. Some are regular dill pickles and others have this milky looking brine. What makes the brine white? Are they safe to eat?” -Kayla M, Brooklyn
Answer: Please tell me which deli you’re going to, because you’re looking at a tub of deliciously healthy right there.
The pickles you are describing are probably lactic acid fermented pickles and they’re perfectly safe to eat. In fact, lactic acid fermented foods may actually be beneficial to you, as they provide beneficial bacteria to your digestive tract. There’s quite a variety of foods made from the lactic acid fermentation process in addition to those deli pickles as well. Common examples include sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt and beer.
The lactic acid fermentation process is simple in process but lengthy in words to describe. In a sentence, lactic acid fermentation is a naturally occurring anaerobic process where sugars (such as glucose) are converted into cellular energy with a waste product of lactase. Pickling foods is produced via homolactic fermentation where one molecule of glucose is converted into two molecules of lactic acid while beer is made from a slightly different process called heterolactic fermentation, where the waste products also include carbon dioxide and ethanol.
Lactic acid fermentation is one of the simplest forms of fermentation as well. In order to obtain energy from the glucose, the molecule is split into two molecules of pyruvic acid. The splitting produces two additional molecules of adenosine triphosphate (which results in instant energy) as well as two additional molecules of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide hydride. In anaerobic conditions the pyruvate is reduced because the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide can only be regenerated when oxygen is present. This produces the lactic acid that produces beautiful pickles, pungent kimchi and tart, creamy yogurt.
The process of making lactic acid fermented pickles are easy to do as well. It’s no more difficult than combining your vegetables with some salt (to inhibit undesirable microbe and bacteria growth), keeping the air out of the pickling container and paying attention. The process can take anywhere from a few days to a month to complete, depending on the desired outcome.
Foods that have been fermented this way should be kept chilled once they are pickled. Yogurt obviously has a much shorter shelf life than pickles, but most lactic acid fermented pickles can keep for a month or two in refrigerated conditions. So feel free to tear into those deli pickles with reckless abandon.
Mayonnaise is a fascinating and highly underrated product. Think about it. How many times have you been at the store and just tossed a jar of Best Foods into your basket, thinking you’ll maybe just wipe the teeniest, tiniest bit on your sandwich bread? How many times have you been out to eat somewhere, seen something called (insert something here) aioli and passed on it, thinking it was going to be too rich and you’ll walk out a whole pants size bigger than when you came in?
Granted, I would never suggest making mayonnaise a key component of your diet, but it needs a little love and a larger spot on your refrigerator shelf. I personally can’t tell you how many times I’ve been disappointed by light mayo, fat free mayo, and (shudder) Miracle Whip on a sandwich or in a devilled egg. Its been frequent, and yet I chew through with grim resolve. There’s just no need to buy that crap once you know how to make it, and you’ll probably only need to use just a bit to get a full flavor rather than a ton of stabilizers and gums.
But what is mayonnaise? Mayonnaise is simply an emulsification of oil, egg, water, acid and salt. As one of the three principal emulsified sauces (the other two being Hollandaise and Béarnaise sauce), it’s the only one that requires no heat to make. Mayonnaise is the silly putty of cooking as one egg yolk can- in theory- suspend almost a quart of oil by doing little else than steady whipping it. How cool is that?
Mayonnaise is also one of the easiest sauces in the world to make and has potentially unlimited variations with some creative thinking. Literally, you could be cranking out batch after batch of velvety goodness in a couple of minutes flat with some practice and a blender. I also quickly discovered that mayonnaise will suspend a high volume of other ingredients should you want a fancier (or just different) version. Aioli is simply mayonnaise made with a clove of garlic, but its possible to throw in other herbs or spices to shake things up. Throw in some other ingredients and you have a compound mayonnaise. Genius.
Here I’ll show you how to make both your own basic mayonnaise as well as a simple compound sauce, pumpkin aioli. Before you know it, you’ll be cursing my name as you stand in line at Uniqlo, buying the next size up pants from what you currently own. Enjoy!
-1 egg yolk
-1 scant tablespoon dijon mustard
1. Throw the egg yolk, a pinch of salt and dijon in a blender, start to puree it.
2. Once the egg is about as whipped as it can be, start to VERY slowly drizzle in a stream of oil through the top of your blender while the machine is still running.
3. Wait to see how the sauce sets up. If the oil is incorporating well, keep pouring it in. If it looks a bit thick, use the lemon juice and water to thin it out a bit. If it looks too thin, keep streaming the oil in.
4. Periodically stop the blender to check the seasoning. Adjust as necessary.
5. When finished, store the finished mayonnaise in a airtight container. Use quickly.
-Basic Mayonnaise, as shown above
-1/2 c. Pumpkin Puree
-1 clove garlic, microplaned (if you have not used it in your puree)
1. Make the Basic Mayo.
2. Keep the blender running and gently spoon in the Pumpkin Puree, watching to see if the mayonnaise will support it.
3. When it is all incorporated, store the finished aioli in an airtight container. Use quickly.