daydrink believer

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I just saw an article entitled “Now is the perfect time to embrace drinking wine with lunch!” The end. That’s the joke. No really. That’s hilarious. Now is the time! Now?! Okay! The article, which I’m sure is lovely, simply illustrates where we are. Have wine with lunch. Have marijuana edibles as an afternoon snack, drink whisky while you watch Judge Judy, have margaritas at dinner, more wine in front of the TV and why the fuck not put a mushroom laced chocolate on your pillow because you deserve it! After all, NOW is the time! I mean the article and dear sweet iconic cosmo swilling Ina Garten aren’t wrong. The world is a tense and traumatic place. Every time you even look at your phone you’re putting cash in the PTSD bank. For those you can or shall I say still do, the coronavirus shit timeline from hell IS a perfect moment to drink and use away your blues. If I still drank, now really would be the time really let my day drinking out of the closet and it might even look kind of normal.

Oh dear, sweet, feels naughty but is actually tragic, day drinking. What a time honored institution you are. Day drinking is an adorable, special treat for normal drinkers. Like, “Oh my god Diane let’s be crazy and have chardonnay with our chicken salads at lunch!” Get kooky and have some beers at a day game of sportsball. Go wild and pay $10 bucks for a frozen drink at a street fair. It’s festive! As a society, we’ve now let drinking roam freely about the day so your grandparents can have wine at a 1230pm matinee, your girlfriends can drink on the airplane at 6am on the way to San Francisco and your neighbors can sip sangria at a 2pm barbecue. Yet in and of itself drinking during the day still has a reputation for sounding kind of pathetic. Sure, whoop it up with the gals at brunch but Jager shots alone on a Tuesday while filing for unemployment is decidedly less festive. You hear it a billion times over in the halls of recovery that people knew they were in trouble when they started drinking during the day. I don’t know if that was true for me. Day drinking to me always felt like the ultimate in I don’t give a fuckery. It was rock and roll like something Courtney Love or Keith Richards would do. Those two as role models or barometers on how I should or should not drink is a clue on how not normal my ideas about drinking actually are. I rarely had shame about when I drank or used drugs. I didn’t drink constantly because I had a problem, darling. I partied all the time because I was fabulous. And also I’d tell you that  I just needed to drink to take the edge off. Shit. I drank so many edges off that I became a circle. A puffy, depressed, red, gay, circle. Soon all of my drinking felt inappropriate and there wasn’t anything special about it. I drank because I needed to, not because it was fun or celebratory. But that’s me. I haven’t drank or used drugs in over 11 years. The world has changed–obviously. In COVID-19 2020, day drinking seems to really have come into it’s own.

A few days ago, I had to go to the post office. In a story entirely too boring to write about or attempt to make funny, I needed to go there to get a new key for my mailbox. On my walk over around 11am on a Wednesday, I spotted a man,  a white dude probably in his mid-fifties that your dad might be friends with, standing in front of his house just drinking a massive beer out of can while leaning on his mailbox. I mean I think it was his house. Maybe it wasn’t and he was on beer number 17 and just needed somewhere to lean while he figured where he did live. Who knows but the whole thing felt very now. Very stay at home, even if your home doubles as a dive bar. After all, there’s now millions of people suddenly without jobs or suddenly working from home so why wouldn’t you be drinking and leaning on the mailbox at 11am? For a split second, I was very clutch the pearls judgmental. Gasp! Sir, don’t you know it’s a weekday!  Put that beer away! And put some pants on! But almost immediately I cracked up because if I was still drinking I would be right there with him but probably not leaning on the mailbox but face down in the grass. Another part of me admired the swagger and wanted to shout out, “You go, Doug! Get your life!”

The thing is what Doug was doing out there by the mailbox is what we’re all doing right now on some level: self-soothing. Since I no longer drink or use drugs, trust and believe that this dyed in wool addict who does not like to feel pain, has still found lots of ways to sooth the bone crushing uncomfortable task of  simply existing right now. From episodes of old TV shows to mass amounts of baked goods, I am Doug but my mailbox beer is a donut and an episode of Murder She Wrote. If the latest numbers are any indication, me and my neighbor aren’t alone in trying to find a little relief. Alcohol sales shot up 55% in March and continue to skyrocket.What’s more is most states have deemed liquors stores essential businesses meaning they’ve stayed open. Thank god for that. No, really. The last thing we need is alcoholics going into deadly withdrawals. Ditto for the marijuana dispensaries staying open. I say this not only as a person in recovery who fucking gets it but as someone who works in the fields of mental health and addiction. Cutting off the supply right now would be disastrous. That said, I also agree with the assessment of the World Health Organization, who calls alcohol an “unhealthy coping strategy.” Yeah no shit. But it’s the coping strategy most people have.

I would be lying if I said the allure of day drinking still didn’t hold some appeal for me. To not give a shit and just lean outside with my drink in hand sounds kind of glamorous.  Maybe I’d even be able to pass as a normal drinker for a little with all my fellow day drinkers? Or maybe not. Day drinking for me usually started at brunch and was followed by more drinking until I passed out at 4pm and woke at 6pm with a bone-crushing, shame- filled hangover and forced to drink in the evening hours when it become socially acceptable again. Sounds fun, right? See, the time of day didn’t matter to me. I didn’t want to feel my life on a random Friday when nothing was wrong in the world, much less on a Monday morning during a global pandemic.

Back to that joke that writes itself: now is the perfect time to embrace wine with lunch! It’s funny to people like me in recovery because it’s never not a good time to drink at lunch or dinner or alone in bed. Duh. Yet what right now in this unprecedented era of death and chaos is also a bad ass time to stay sober. I’ve watched friends with just a few weeks or days stay sober because they simply can’t go back to how awful it was, regardless of how shitty the world is right now. They’ve chosen to save their own lives even when the future has never been more uncertain. That’s an incredibly powerful and brave thing to when the whole world is drinking at 11am. And really, their timing couldn’t be better.

 

 

 

 

at least there’s potatoes

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By my own admission, I am that food person. You know the one. The food magazine reading, reality food competition watching, restaurant obsessed, cooking gadget collector, straight up food nerd. I think I was born into the role.

Cooking and eating in the house I grew up in was a way to learn new things, express creativity and share love and gratitude. My mom was the 1970’s lady who baked her own bread, sewed our groovy outfits and gave all of us haircuts. No, we didn’t live on a religious commune nor was she trying to be hip. We were just a big family who needed those things and my mom was endlessly crafty. Thus one or more of us was put to work in the kitchen as soon we got old enough. And the tasks I remember the most revolved around potatoes. Peeling, chopping, boiling or baking- you could count on at least one of us Mahoney kids pitching in and doing our namesake proud. In fact, some of my favorite food memories– summer steak dinners, meatloaf night, Easter brunch– have little to do with the main course, if I’m honest and more to do with whatever potato was being served. I mean, who could remember anything about the nondescript ham someone brought over when there was my mom’s cheesy potatoes on the same table? Forty some odd years later, the potato obsession is alive and well.

Love makes you do crazy things and my love for potatoes is no different. I will confess that when I invite you to brunch because I miss you that’s only partially true. While your company is cherished, brunch for me, especially since Bloody Marys and mimosas are thankfully out of the picture, is actually about breakfast potatoes. The same can be said for the burger place I might casually suggest. Don’t be fooled. I have a hidden agenda. I’m suggesting this place most likely because I read somewhere about their fries. I recently started a heated Twitter thread by proclaiming my new-found love for potatoes on pizza, which I discovered in Portland. It’s delicious and I will hear nothing to the contrary. There are even places whose names escape me but you better believe I remember what sort of potatoes I ate there.

Since I don’t eat out 7 nights a week, this love spills over to my own diningroom table. Not to toot my own horn but I can cook. And I can really cook potatoes. To paraphrase 90’s R&B sensation Ashanti, “I’m not always there when you call, but I’ll always bring potatoes.” Potato salad? I’m your boo. Mashed potatoes? Um, yes. Three Thanksgivings ago, I was entrusted with making mashed potatoes for 30 people and it was a job I took very seriously.  So yeah, I got this. Baked, fried, croquettes? Check, check and check. But the best potatoes I make are ones that aren’t even mine.

If you ask my husband which potato dish I rock the most, he’ll say roasted potatoes. And he isn’t wrong. They’re freaking delicious but like most fantastic ideas, they came from someone else. Ina Garten to me is like the unsung Obi Wan Kenobi of vegetable roasting in this country. Miss Ina was roasting vegetables and spreading the gospel of their deliciousness since the 1990s. While people in 2017 are just discovering roasting and doing their cute little sheetpan meals, Ina’s been killing it for years. Thus my award-worthy roasted potatoes are her’s and her’s alone. Simple, perfect and applause worthy at brunch or dinner or whatever, the potatoes in question go like this:

3 pounds small red or white potatoes
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the potatoes in half or quarters and place in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic; toss until the potatoes are well coated. Transfer the potatoes to a sheet pan and spread out into 1 layer. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until browned and crisp. Flip twice with a spatula during cooking in order to ensure even browning.

Remove the potatoes from the oven, toss with parsley, season to taste, and serve hot.

There’s something artful about simplicity that my more-more-more addict brain finds soothing about this recipe and all of Ina’s giant white Hamptons kitchen existence. People like her and Mark Bittman were sort of the cornerstones for me as a cook and a student in cooking. They have this very relaxed but chic and smart approach that makes me think, “Okay, I can do that.” Unlike Martha Stewart, whom I also love but I watch her when I want to feel shamed and like I’m living a shabby life by not using enough parchment paper. It’s more of an abusive relationship and best in small doses. Plus, her recipes are really difficult and even the ingredients seem to be judging you. Yet sometimes I can’t resist watching Martha Bakes wherein she has pastry chef guests whom she bosses around and makes sweat profusely. It’s oddly uncomfortable and the post-prision, post-daytime show depressing production value of it makes it a must-see.

All of this leads back to potatoes, as it usually does. This morning, I was making breakfast for myself. Cooking for myself is something I also do well. Like a good recovering Catholic, I can make ingredients last forever or develop guilt about not using them. I chose the former and I decided to make breakfast tacos using some potatoes that I needed to cook. Throw in some eggs, salsa verde and cheese, serve on warm corn tortillas and you’ve got a breakfast party for your mouth. This little ceremony is insignificant in the sense that people everywhere eat breakfast all day long. But for a guy who didn’t really eat breakfast when he was drinking, it’s kind of important. The act of cooking, which I find meditative, and the art of cooking something perfectly is cause for satisfication. It feels like I’m being nice to myself. Treating food and cooking like gifts also helps me keep my relationship with it in tact which as an addict is key.

This morning as I made the homefries pictured in the glistening skillet above, my thought was at least there’s potatoes. I’ve been battling the blues a little bit. Maybe not the full-blown blues or a big depression. Perhaps just “Lite Blues.”Half the calories and despair as Original Recipe Blues. I try to shift my brain into gratitude when I go there. So my thought was at least there’s potatoes. At least there’s small joys sprinkled all throughout my day. At least there are gifts everywhere that are accessible when I look for them. And at least when those gifts are potatoes they’re also delicious.