Monday, 5 January 2015

Dry January

Here we are again, it’s early January and the idea of giving up the booze for a month seems not just possible, but almost attractive: no hangovers, cutting down your calorie intake and staunching the flow of money from your wallet to the pub or wine merchant; you can see the appeal.

However, as well as being the launchpad of New Year resolutions, January is the longest month of the year. I know, other months also have 31 days, but they just aren’t as long as January – fact.

In recent years the notion of Blue Monday, falling on the Monday of the last full week of January, has taken hold. This is supposedly officially the most depressing day of the year.

By my calculations, this will fall on Monday 26th January this year - though it might depend whether you count Sunday as the end of the week, in which case Blue Monday will be on 19th January. It matters not; the whole thing is almost certainly entirely spurious and at best a bit of pseudo-science. But it doesn’t take much imagination to appreciate how the combination of short days, cold weather and a general feeling of, how shall I put it, being skint, will tend to weigh on one and contribute to a general feeling of misery.

Whether on Blue Monday or not, many people who had begun January with the intention of staying off the demon drink will fall off the alcohol-free wagon before the month is out. In case this could be you, would you like some good news?

I don’t think anyone should worry about not managing to lay off the drink for a month. There is no firm medical evidence that an entire month of abstinence is the best way to boost your liver health. Our livers need time to recover from alcoholic (and rich food) over-induglence. But even the most sorely abused livers have done all the recovering they are going to do in 3-5 days. Abstaining for a month is much more about proving to ourselves – and others – that we can do it. Might it also even be just a teensy weensy bit macho?

But the smooth running of the universe hangs on the premise that where there is good news, there is also bad news: dear reader, our livers would appreciate a few alcohol-free days, not just every month, but every week.

I’m not dissing the idea of dry January – and anyone who has signed up to Cancer Research UK’s month-long Dryathlon and will raise money for charity as a result of their temperance is to be congratulated. However, I don’t think those of us who still have a drink or two in January should be made to feel like failures. I’d like to promote the idea of a light, rather than completely dry, January. Perhaps it should be damp January? Or perhaps not.

Non-alcoholic drinks I like:

OK, not the longest list in the world I admit, but here goes:

Lemonade punch
This is refreshing, not too sweet and feels quite healthy
2 pints of strong tea
Juice of 3 lemons
½ cup of sugar
Sprigs of mint
1 pint of ginger ale
Cool the tea and add the lemon juice, sugar and mint. Add the ginger ale just before serving. (Originally published in Vogue Cocktails, published 1982)

Mulled apple juice
It’s comforting to have a warm, and warming, soft drink in the winter months.
1 litre apple juice
Strips of orange peel
1 cinnamon stick
Sugar or honey, to taste
Put the apple juice, orange peel and cinnamon stick in a pan and warm gently for 5-10 minutes. Sweeten, or not, to your taste. (Originally published in Good Food Magazine, 2009)

For those aiming to stay dry this month, cheers and I’ll see you on the other side.


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