Saturday, January 02, 2016

I may never taste a white negroni, now

The best holiday cookies this year -- ginger florentines and fruit squares -- were from Alice Medrich's Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy. A very brown assortment, I see now.
Happy New Year, everyone.

An announcement before I launch into a new year of blogging: the tipsy baker is not tipsy anymore. I stopped drinking. I stopped drinking in October, actually. 

This requires a brief explanation, I feel, given the name of this blog and its purpose, which is to chronicle as honestly as I can everyday life in and around a kitchen. Mostly around a kitchen. I've strayed a bit. 


For most of my adult life I drank moderately. Then, around the time my mother got sick when I was in my early forties, I began drinking immoderately. A problem. I made resolutions to quit drinking, broke them, set limits, kept charts, gave up on charts, would stop for a month, would stop for a few days, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, and it didn’t work and it didn’t work and this went on for a few years and then one day it all worked. I woke up and I was a moderate drinker again. In fact, I was more moderate than I’d ever been before. I gradually became almost (almost!) indifferent to alcohol. This period of moderation lasted for about three peaceful years and brings us to October 2015.

As you may recall, this past fall I read a nerdy self-help book for managers called Getting Things Done that I raved about maniacally in a post a while back. The author of GTD talks a lot about the “open loops” in your life, those uncompleted tasks/unresolved problems that weigh on your mind. I thought, hmmm, drinking. It wasn’t a problem anymore, but didn’t it always sort of weigh on my mind anyway? Would I be more tranquil if I just gave it up altogether and became a nondrinker? Could I actually do it?

The answers: yes, yes, and yes. I started off intending to quit for one month and it was so easy and pleasant I just kept going. Everything improved with booze off the table -- sleep, health anxieties, weight, self esteem, restaurant tabs, parties, mood. It was incredibly restful not to have to decide whether to have a glass of wine. I’d had no idea such decisions were still so loaded for me, but even just having to entertain the question for a few seconds had been stressing me out a little. 

After two and a half months of abstinence, I decided on New Year’s Eve (a.k.a. day-before-yesterday) that I would have a manhattan, once my favorite cocktail, to see if I wanted to resume moderate drinking. Mark encouraged this. He didn’t see why I had to be rigidly abstinent. Neither did I. 

Ay, caramba. Take some time away from manhattans and ... ugh. The ensuing buzz from that one manhattan was claustrophobic and unpleasant and I bitched the whole time about how “not fun” it was and by the time the glass was empty I had a headache. I bitched about that as well. A swell New Year’s date I was. When I went to bed I was queasy. I slept terribly. I woke up grimly triumphant, knowing that I was done with drinking, at least for the foreseeable future.

In hindsight, it's clear that I was never going to give that manhattan a chance. I'd hardened my heart against the drink long before I took my first sip and approached it -- or should I say him? -- with a spirit of vengefulness. For a few grim years alcohol had been like a charming, sociopathic boyfriend who kept doing me wrong, but whom I couldn't seem to get over. Now that I was really and truly over him was I really going to let him come to me with flowers and bonbons and tell me how much he missed me? Well, yes, I was. But I certainly wasn't about to succumb. I just wanted to see him on his knees.

Anyway, that's it. That's my story for today. To be honest, it has felt like a huge life accomplishment.

Mark, on the other hand, thinks this is all very sad.

Yesterday, I made the hoppin’ john from Sean Brock’s Heritage, such a lovely dish, reliant though it is on mail-ordered red peas and Carolina gold rice. One of the many fine dishes I made in 2015 and if I kept a nice, orderly list I would be able to give you some kind of top ten. One of my resolutions for 2016: keep a list of dishes I cook.

I also plan to keep a better list of the books I read so I can compile a top ten books list. Also: movies. In any case, this is the best book I read during the doldrums between Christmas and New Year’s and one of many fine books I read in 2015. 
The bar code hides Dr. Sacks' super-handsome head. Did you know that Oliver Sacks was once a motorcycle aficionado and body builder? That he briefly held the California record for the back squat and hung out on Venice Beach? Highly recommend this memoir.
These were the cookbooks my father, sister, daughter, and cousin gave me for Christmas:

This is the absolutely thrilling cookbook the library brought me last week:

I'm not sure how deep I can dig into it before the due date, but I'm going to give it my all.

Good times ahead. 


  1. Well, that seems fine. And it seems to be a day where people talk about not drinking -- someone else I "know" just put this up: The sleep thing he mentions sure is true for me, although I haven't become a teetotaler. Also, do I need that Alice Medrich book?

  2. I'm the daughter of a cruel, unpredictable, sadistic, high functioning drunk and it's clear to me, well into middle age, that the rest of my life and most of my disposable income will be spent trying to survive and move past the ugliness and quotidian alcohol induced traumas that constituted my childhood. I am always so happy when the people I care about break free from the impulses that keep them enslaved to an addiction. Myself included -- never to alcohol, though, always to sugar.

    Thank you for sharing this with us, and congratulations. Here's to feeling great and being high on life! Have a wonderful happy healthy year.

  3. Thanks for posting this. I went from occasional drinking to moderate drinking, and then noticed I was emptying a bottle of wine almost every day. I stopped this New Year's eve. Not making any vows, but your message makes me feel less alone. I'm not brave enough to talk about this with any face-to-face friends.

  4. I gave up alcohol in my youth, probably 40 years ago. I have an almost allergic reaction to it. I get a headache while drinking my first drink, it disrupts my sleep terribly, does not sit well with my GI tract, and for years I really TRIED to like it. Just couldn't do it. I don't feel deprived in any way that I don't drink, and I don't feel badly about being around people who drink. I am just alcohol intolerant, which is weird since I come from parents who drank very heavily. Mark is probably just feeling that he will be drinking alone and not liking that. He'll get over it. I am trying desperately to give up sugar. I don't know that I will ever get there, but it's a worthy goal for me. Carbs are not my friends. I imagine I will always fight the carb/sugar fight with varying degrees of success.
    I got Zahav before Christmas from the library! It is a beautiful book, no??? I have really enjoyed reading it. His dedication to turning out honest, simple food is seductive to me. I have not made anything from it yet, what will all that holiday eating, but I have ordered and received the tahini from Soom Foods, plain and chocolate. I plan to make some of that killer hummus, carbs be damned. And all those veggies look so good. I am toying with the idea of ordering some sumac and za'atar to give them a try. Have you used either?
    Happy New Year, Jennifer!

    1. beckster, I have been helped immeasurably in my quest to end my sugar addiction by this book:
      I have been following her diet for about 16 months, have lost 70 pounds, have no more joint pain ever, boundless energy, stable moods, great skin, and abundant health. Highly recommend as a way of life with a little cheating here and there.

    2. Oh, witloof, thank you! I will look for it. I have been a sugar addict all my life, my mother made desserts every night, we drank sweet tea at the dinner table, and the house was always full of cokes and cookies. I know it would help my health immensely to give it up, but it is so seductive and so bad for me. I much appreciate the recommendation.

  5. I suggest goodreads for keeping track of books, and I've looked for you on there before.

  6. I can't wait for you to cool from NOPI. I too was given it for Christmas. I loved Plenty More and Jerusalem but this one fills me with dread at its multiple-step recipes.

  7. If anyone needs a little support in giving up alcohol, you may have the piece of DNA common to Native Americans which is alcohol sensitive. Two of my relatives have it, as does my cousin's husband. It does give a reason for avoiding alcohol -- "my DNA test says I shouldn't" that can't be argued with and will probably distract the conversation.

  8. If you like the cookbook, you'll love the restaurant. Please come visit and bring Mark so he and Terry can drink to their hearts' contents while we don't. :) Welcome to the "meh no thanks" side of the world. I don't drink coffee either, and I know it pains my husband not to have a partner in those small enjoyments of life. But we move on.
    Thanks for your honesty. I find it is a fun challenge to bartenders, to ask for a fun non-alcoholic drink. The really good ones are totally into it.

  9. Congratulations, Jen! I just passed the one-year mark of sobriety yesterday.

  10. While I'd be the first to congratulate Tipsy on giving up alcohol, as it seems to suit her these days, I'd be the last to assume that she's suffering an addiction. A bit of a hasty leap, yes?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. I am glad for you that you've reached this equilibrium and figured out what works for you. And also glad for you and for us that you have such a wonderful assortment of cookbooks! I need to check out Zahav; I keep hearing interviews with Solomonov and the food sounds wonderful. Happy New Year!

  12. Highly recommend the celery root gratin from Nopi...also love any Alice Medrich cookbook.
    It's almost time for the Piglet.....please put your hat in the ring to judge :)

    1. Yes yes! I would love to see Tipsy (or unTipsy) as a judge. You'd be the best Piglet judge, Jennifer.

  13. Oh my word!! I have been in despair since New Year's Day due to the making of Sean Brock's Hoppin' John. I've made this dish all my life, but never have I had to go through so much effort for such a mediocre result. Those peas are just not so tasty. Edible? Yes. That's all. I was furious at all that effort, that rice process, the making of the gravy(which was ok), to end up with the most boring version I can imagine. And the expense of ordering the peas and rice!! I do care about food traditions, authenticity, the anthropology of food. I am a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, which I recommend to everyone. But this dish? Never again. I have a recipe for skillet Hoppin' John from an old Southern Living Best recipes for the year that is fabulous, and yes, the peas and rice are cooked separately to some degree. If anyone wants it, I'll post it. Frozen purple hull peas or black eyed peas are delicious to use, easy to handle, available without a jillion dollars of shipping, etc. But! I have to say, it cheered me up immensely to think you had made this dish too. I have felt so stupid for all that effort for such a mediocre result. Eveyone is discussing the drinking issue, while I'm focused on the food. Please, please get Mark to buy Zahav for you! We're all out here, waiting to get into it too.

  14. Why does Jennifer need her husband to buy her a book? If she wants/needs a book, can't she just buy it herself?

    From my early teens onward, my father drank after work and weekends, never went to a bar to drink. I just hid in my room reading books. What a waste of a life. I'm happy to hear you're pleased with this change in your life.

  15. Kathy, you are right, of course. I just knew from an earlier post that Jennifer was on the wait list at the library, and I sensed she was reluctant to go on and purchase it. I'm really dying for her to cook from it for a long time! Hope she does.

  16. I just treated myself to Zahav after hearing Michael Solomonov interviewed on FreshAir. He's a remarkable guy, and I happen to love Middle Eastern food in general, so I am thrilled to have a book devoted to Israeli cooking. I look forward to reading about your adventures with it. And the Oliver Sacks memoir is among the gifts I got for Xmas, so I will be reading it soon. Another remarkable person. Happy New Year, Tipsy and her fans! May it be a great year for all.

  17. I checked out Mad Hungry from the library several years ago and found some good recipes. I seem to remember some type of savory handpies with cream cheese in the crust. I keep thinking I should buy it. I got the Pioneer Woman's newest book and it looks promising for how my family eats.

  18. Congratulations.

    I don't like being around people who are even a bit under the influence. My thought is that people are stupid enough sober - add in the IQ lowering effects of a few good belts and the gibberish just gets more gibberishy.

    Plus, I've all too familiar the damage alcohol can wreck in the lives of family & friends.

    I've always considered myself lucky to hate the taste of the stuff. And how sleepy/sick it makes me feel.

    Not to stir up trouble, but my antennae tingled oddly when reading about your husband's input here. Encouraging you to drink that Manhattan? Very sad you finally slammed a lid on alcohol? What gives with that, Tipsy?


  19. I meant to comment on this when I read it. Wonderful post--thanks for sharing, and I'm glad to hear that not drinking makes you feel good, rather than deprived. I hope you cook from the CCCP Cookbook and Violet Bakery.

  20. Re: the most recent Anonymous. I understand the deal with Mark. I have cut way back on drinking, for various reasons, and my husband also dislikes it. In our society, a lot of people include alcohol in their rituals, and naturally your nearest and dearest will be sad if you no longer participate in the rituals they like. For example, toasting your anniversary with champagne is not so fun if only one of you is having champagne. I would not necessarily equate Mark's disappointment with sabotage or disrespect.

    Speaking of keeping a list of books read, have you seen Art Garfunkel's?

    In the first Barefoot Contessa book, she mentions that cookie platters can easily turn into a symphony in brown. (My words, not hers.) Definitely a first world problem, but annoying.

  21. @Jessica

    I hear ya - thanks for the perspective.

    *A symphony in brown* - maybe a first word problem, maybe annoying, but without a doubt a wonderfully witty description.

    So true!

  22. i got NOPI from the library 3xs now. Honestly I'm thinking it would be just so much easier to get on a plane. And go check it out and Honey & Co Cookbook too. Both of these require way too much though and a whole new shelf on the spice cupboard and more mystery ingredients in the pantry that just seems tooooo much to deal with at my age. And the fact their are only 2 in this household now.
    Strange....I too quit the grape. Just to see if my migraines would go away. Maybe the nitrates were suddenly bothering me. Anyway after a month and no change in headaches I just kept on going. Im addicted to two ice cubes of frozen lemon juice in a tall glass of water instead. I believe I was the only sober one over xmas/new years. And that includes my mother that never drinks, but somehow she was slamming back 3 shots (I counted in disbelief). I even took pics and posted them to my siblings. My son-in-law is the only one that she drinks with and they're shots no less. A "die boshia ukrainian thing"....though he's not ukrainian. Since I'm on this roll of denial to myself, today I made my last coffee. I decided that since the can was empty.....why not. Maybe my boobs will stop being sore. Who knows. And on Friday I actually turned on the machines in the mystery workout room on the mainfloor that I've always walked by since I moved into the bldg in September. This might have something to do with the sudden realization that I have an expiration date. I am turning 60 in a couple months. And I'm not happy about it AT ALL. It has come up on me way to fast.

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  24. I've had this post up in the background for weeks now, and just came across it again. It was the perfect thing for me to read, so thank you for being brave enough to share it. My husband and I have both stopped drinking this month, after a rather long run that seemed to be breaching the moderate point. It feels good.

    1. um, and by this month, I meant last month, because I forgot today was the 1st!

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