Saturday, 10 September 2016

Alcohol and Food

Food has always been my favourite thing (after booze, obviously). And the two things are as tightly entwined as Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston.

(Oops. Scrap that last bit. Hiddleswift are, apparently, no more. They are Hiddleswhistory).

I remember when Mr SM and I walked into the flat that was going to become our first shared home.

It was the kitchen that sealed the deal. It had a beautiful, curved, floor to ceiling window looking out onto a large, shared garden. I had a vivid picture of myself standing at the range oven, preparing Sunday lunch for a group of friends, clutching a generous glass of red wine.

And, boy, did I make that dream a reality. Many, many glasses of red wine while cooking, while eating, while clearing up.

I do hold Keith Floyd partly responsible. He, you may remember, was the drunken TV chef who made you feel that if you weren't boozing while you were cooking you weren't properly throwing yourself into the whole experience.

(I did, in fact, spend some very memorable, drunken, time with Keith Floyd. To read more click here).

It's not just cooking that is a major trigger for me, it's eating too.

I've always loved restaurants. Mr SM and I have done the rounds of most of London's best (and worst) eateries over the years, spending hours over meals that became increasingly rowdy.

There'd be aperitifs, white wine with the fish, red wine with the meat, digestifs, raucous laughter and, sometimes, booze fuelled arguments.

I get many e-mails about food, from readers, like me, who can't imagine cooking, or going out for dinner, without alcohol.

My advice is to make life easy for yourself. It's just not possible, at least initially, to carry on life exactly as it was, only without the drink. You have to change your routines for a while, or it's too hard.

So, for about three months, I stopped cooking in the evening. I'd feed the children (and myself) early, and I'd leave Mr SM something in the fridge to re-heat when he got home.

I know it's not ideal, and I'm sure he missed our shared evening meals as much as I did, but it was the only way I could manage.

It took a while, but now my love of cooking is back. I'm just (well, almost) as happy dancing round the kitchen to great music and clutching a lime and soda as I was getting slowly sozzled on the vino.

(And I'm much less likely to forget a key ingredient or burn something to a crisp).

But restaurants I still find hard.

I still love eating out, it's just the waiting around that drives me crazy. Hours (it feels like), sitting at a table, toying with the cutlery, waiting for your food to arrive, or playing with an empty water glass while waiting for the bill.

These days I prefer to catch a quick meal before going to see a movie, or a play. Eat, pay, leave, do something else.

I find Chinese or Thai meals easier than western ones. Lots of little dishes to play with, and the fabulous ritual of pouring tea into those dinky china cups. Plenty of things to do with your hands (hurrah for chopsticks!), and less time spent staring at starched, white tablecloths.

I don't think this restaurant phobia is forever. It is, like everything else, getting easier. I can happily sit at a table for an hour now - it's just that by two hours I'm feeling really twitchy. By three hours I want to stick a fork in the waiter's eye.

Baby steps....

Happy sober Saturday everyone.

SM x


  1. Lack of alcohol def changed my relstionship w/ food-eating, in a -mostly - good way. While chopping/prepping/stove-tending in readying a nice dinner defintely has provided some of the hardest-to-resist triggers (but, resisted) over these past months, no-alcohol also has changed the whole 'appetite' thing for me....completely without intention. It's not 'control' about what I eat as much as a lack of compulsion. I simply feel more 'reasoned,' stuff my face. Now, I tend to lose interest in eating when I feel full...what a concept! The happy result? A good 20 pounds that has literally slipped off my frame w/o angst.

    I know from reading others here that it's not always the case...but hope for them, it's just a matter of happening later rather than sooner.

  2. I find the whole eating out tricky too. I love food and so enjoy restaurants but the whole ceremony of drinking around meals can be hard. Conversely I am not constantly eyeing the waiter to get the drinks in or stressing about the near empty bottle and when the next one is coming, so there are pluses.

  3. I just order an AF beer and pretend I am drinking but I don't get fuzzy (which I actually like now. It used to be all about the buzz and food dampered that). I never enjoyed the food. It was all about the wine for me and I always ordered something lite and simple for dinner. Now I order a real meal and get my calories from food, not booze. As a result I now enjoy going out to dinner and focus on the food and the conversation. I used to focus on the wine and wasn't very fun to go out with I have a feeling.

  4. I just order an AF beer and pretend I am drinking but I don't get fuzzy (which I actually like now. It used to be all about the buzz and food dampered that). I never enjoyed the food. It was all about the wine for me and I always ordered something lite and simple for dinner. Now I order a real meal and get my calories from food, not booze. As a result I now enjoy going out to dinner and focus on the food and the conversation. I used to focus on the wine and wasn't very fun to go out with I have a feeling.

  5. I do the AF beer as well..BUT..not every restaurant has them....especially many of the upscale restaurants in NYC. Then..I want to get out as fast as I can! Im not a juice lover and never really had many mixed drinks, except the occasional Cosmo, so a mocktail doesn't do it for me like an AF beer. Now, I call ahead to see if the restaurant has them and then at least I can prepare myself and then don't face the disappointment when they don't have my AF beer! xo

  6. Likewise, I love food and cooking. The restaurant thing has been de-tuned and I prefer lunch now, where I can drink my pellegrino without comment. I never had a sweet tooth before but now love duffs and coffee. I think it is compensating for the buzz created by alcohol. My cooking has become more creative, as we cut back on carbs and now eat a lot more fruit, often with cheese and I have been experimenting with yoghurt, harissa and Tahini so all fun there. One thing that is still hard to deal with is dinner with drinkers as the company has now got to be really good to keep me motivated; I use to just lose myself in the booze before but I am less tolerant of people talking crap or service being spun out in restaurants.

    Anyway, back to work on Monday after 3 weeks off. Really looking forward to the weekly battle with the M5/M4/M25 and it looks like I'll be adding to global warming for awhile yet - another winter and summer. Still, much done and feel a sense of achievement and anticipation rather than the usual sense of shame and guilt that would have been the result of drinking (lets be honest - being off my face) every night (and most days) of the holiday.

    So here we go again - new term, everyday is a learning day and any day above ground is a good day.

    Good luck to you all and for those who haven't made the leap yet - its definitely worth it.


  7. For a while we stopped eating out. Most of the time I really wanted to drink, and food at crappy restaurants, which is all we have the n my small city, was secondary.

    Being diagnosed with celiac disease right as I quit drinking probably helped. Eating out is complicated.

    I prefer ot just cook for myself. I never drank much while I cooked, so home meals worked well.

    Figure out what works. Which means it feels ok.

    Great post!

  8. I used to love to drink whilst cooking. I now tend to crack open an AF beer if it's the weekend. (so funny - I'm able to be far more restrained with my AF drinking than I ever was with the vino - funny that being as no actual addictive drug is involved) Restaurants can definitely be hard - haven't been to one in a while....But am happy to - and usually always driving so that helps. Went to friends for dinner last night though - and luckily one of the chaps there also drinks AF beer - so I feel in good company. It also dawned on me that the other 2 women there - probably had less than 1/2 a bottle of wine each. Now I would just not have been satisfied with that. Sooo - I would have probably pre loaded - and afterloaded (!!) and felt tetchy all night - wondering who was noticing the amount I was drinking, spouting a load of nonsense and waking up with a hangover to boot. All in all a far more enjoyable night (and next day) all round.
    Feel in such a good space in my AF life - I'd recommend it to everyone and anyone - although haven't gone public with it yet - and still far away from being ready to - which I guess is just fine. If it's working for me - that's the most important thing. Happy sober weekend to all you lovely people. And thanks for keeping all your amazing posts coming SM.

  9. Hi totally concur with all of that..make it easy on yourself in the beginning..whatever it oldest friend and have spent years putting the world to rights with copious amounts of red wine...she has just messaged me" hi when r u coming to London to drink copious amounts of tea with me". Our new thing is Sticksn sushi where tea drinking is normal,,and we still laugh, put world to rights, but I don't end up drowning in a puddle of poor me after too much booze, which I often did, repeating the same thing over and over ....had a Thai Meal before cinema last night and lovely jasmine green tea to cleanse the palette...didn't miss booze at all..although did overdo the choc...oh 170 AF...much thanks to you and your followers SM..

  10. Hi SM, I miss red wine with steaks and bitter with fish and chips - but that's about it. Overall it's been worth it - as it has for you. I agree totally about how long things take though - I'm a bit more impatient not to sit around and chat - but trying to take a tip from MakeItaTea - and relax without the booze. 9 months now - thanks for your leadership. E

  11. I've done well with going to restaurants and not wanting to drink, but cooking is difficult. When I'm feeling particularly weak, I order out. Not the best option from a nutritional standpoint but at least I wake up sober the next morning.

  12. I found cooking really hard, now I listen to the bubble hour while I'm doing it it has really helped

    1. What's the bubble hour Claire? Also, are you in Perth WA? (I am).