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A la Carte: Surviving spooky season

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By Rachel Hergett EBS COLUMNIST

Spooky season feels like the start of the larger fall holiday season, filled with friends and family and pumpkin everything. There will be costumed candy gathering, fetes and feasts. And it’s all dangerous.

Festivities make us thirsty, it seems. Nights of revelry, thus, may lead to mornings in misery. 

The science says nothing will “cure” your hangover, but replacing electrolytes, nutrients and fluids is key to getting back on track. What this means differs wildly from person to person. Everyone seems to have a remedy. 

“Clam chowder,” my cousin Trevor tells me with confidence. “Or a banana milkshake. Milk settles your stomach. Look it up.” 

I did. Milk can coat your stomach lining and slow its absorption rate for things like alcohol, but it’s only a temporary fix. 

“I’m afraid it would curdle with the alcohol in my stomach,” his girlfriend says, and my stomach seems to agree. 

Eggs are certainly common—benedict, on toast, scrambled with vegetables or potato. Both my dad and sister told me sausage was key, in scrambles or biscuits and gravy. Mexican food, especially chilaquiles (saucy tortilla chips often topped with eggs) or menudo (a tomato-based soup with hominy and tripe), are popular. And let’s not forget potatoes—hashbrowns, french fries and tots were all cited in my limited poll. For beverages, people cited electrolyte packets that you put in water, coffee and Coca-Cola.

I first encountered my personal go-to hangover food on the morning after my cousin Eric’s wedding. I was out all night, yet my mom insisted that way too early in the morning was the proper time to hit Uwajimaya, the giant Asian market where we load up on foods that are still hard to find in Montana. Uwajimaya is a staple of every trip to see family in Washington and filled with ingredients necessary to make some of the dishes my Japanese grandmother taught me to cook. At Uwajimaya, you can find fu—the delightful little gluten balls I love so much in miso soup though grandma prefers fried tofu—fish cakes, bonito flakes, pickled daikon radish, more types of soy sauce than I could name and on and on. And like most Asian markets, Uwajimaya traffics in foods from a wide swath of countries on the other side of the world. It’s a shopping mall of flavor possibilities. 

On this particular morning, I couldn’t delight in the aisles, trying to decipher labels in languages I surely can’t read, eyes wide at what may be inside. I was sure I was dying. I lumbered to the food court, quickly ex-naying stalls selling pastries, ice cream and boba tea. I needed real food and a Coca-Cola, stat. 

Ahead was a stand selling rice bowls known as donburi. Hangover food Asian-style is often carb heavy, with rice or noodles to fill your stomach. My bowl came out steaming, with panko-fried pork cutlets (tonkatsu) in an egg and onion sauce topping the mound of white rice. I took a bite. The donburi was both savory and sweet and full of carbs and protein. It was divine. 

My grandmother Keiko used to make these same pork cutlets with fries for my very American grandfather. So with nostalgia on its side, katsu donburi may always reign supreme on my list of rice bowls. But the dish doesn’t have to be that complicated. 

To make a simple donburi, cook 1 c. of broth or stock, ¼ c. soy sauce and ¼ c. mirin (or any sweet cooking wine) in a shallow pan. Add a tablespoon of sugar, more if your wine is less sweet. Add onions, usually sweet or green onions. Add other vegetables or meat, like some mushrooms, bamboo shoots or rotisserie chicken. Once it’s all heated or cooked through, beat eggs in another bowl and slowly add them into the boiling mixture in your pan. Cook the eggs for a couple minutes, then pour or spoon the entire thing over bowls of cooked rice. 

I can’t say the donburi cured my hangover that day, but it certainly helped. Maybe any food you love will. 

Homemade katsu don is rumored to cure most ailments stemming from holiday-related overindulgence. PHOTO BY RACHEL HERGETT

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