over easy

I Promise You the Best Hangover Cure Is Eggs in Purgatory

A cure. Photo: Madeleine Aggeler

Over Easy is a weekly food column by a 20-something woman who can barely cook an egg and just wants to learn how to throw together an elegant three-course meal for her friends.

On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida, hurtling astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins into space. Four days later, Armstrong squeezed out of the hatch of the “Eagle” Lunar Module, climbed down a nine-rung ladder, and with his last step, became the first human being to set foot on the moon. The mission was one of the greatest scientific achievements in history, and demonstrated the incredible scope of human ingenuity, which is why I find it a little odd that science still hasn’t figured out how to cure my hangovers.

Humans were getting loaded and making bad decisions and feeling terrible the next day long before they were thinking about the Earth’s atmosphere and zero-gravity and dehydrated ice-cream sandwiches. And yet, abandoned by science, hungover people throughout history have been forced to navigate their way through the headaches and nausea alone, experimenting with various homespun remedies — Gatorade, spells, burgers. For the past few years, my personal cure has consisted of lying in bed all day watching British murder shows, like The Fall, or Broadchurch (something about the accents, dark scenery, and homicide acts as a soothing balm for my dry, shriveled brain) and eventually, when I can finally summon the energy, scavenging for the nearest combination of cheese and carbs.

Lately, however, this routine has proven unsustainable. I need to be productive on the weekends, because my weeks are filled with work and rescheduling drinks with friends for the 47th time and staring blankly into the distance, wondering whether I’m actually accomplishing anything or if I’m just going through the motions of being alive. Because all of that takes up a lot of time and energy, I have to run my errands on Saturday and Sunday. I needed to find a meal that would restore my life force, and give me the energy to throw on a pair of jeans and haul my clammy, bloated corpse to the nearest grocery store, but would also be cheaper, and make me feel more accomplished than simply summoning a meal on Seamless.

One bleary Saturday morning recently, I sat down to research (Googling “best hangover cure” on my phone with my eye mask pushed up on my forehead). I went in with three strict criteria: The ultimate hangover cure had to be easy, greasy, and fast. Anything that required I be upright for more than 30 minutes, or wouldn’t coat the inside of my stomach in a thick, protective layer of fat was immediately out of the running.

Article after article, nothing sounded particularly appealing. I wasn’t in the mood for anything sweet, I didn’t want to handle raw hamburger meat, and the thought of ingesting any kind of nutritious smoothie was unbearable. Then, just as I was losing hope, I found Eggs in Purgatory. The Southern Italian dish is similar to the North African dish Shakshuka, and consists of eggs poached in a tomato sauce, and whatever else you want to throw in the skillet. With its ooey, gooey yolks, and thick tomato sauce, sopped up by crusty, spongy slices of bread, it seemed like it could free me from my own self-imposed boozy purgatory, and successfully restore my will to live. I found a recipe by Melissa Clark at the New York Times that called for anchovies, garlic, red pepper flakes, and lots and lots of parmesan, pulled on some pants from out of my laundry hamper, and went shopping. The ingredients were, thankfully, easy to find, and I was only required to be outside for about 15 minutes.

Back at home, I heated the garlic, anchovies, and red pepper flakes in a skillet, and poured in a can of diced tomatoes. While the tomatoes simmered, I mixed in the lots and lots of parmesan and more red pepper flakes, and listened to a podcast about the Manson family murders, which wasn’t quite as soothing as The Fall because the hosts didn’t have British accents and Gillian Anderson wasn’t involved at all. I also toasted slices of thick, multigrain bread (in my toaster, because my brain felt too lagged to toast them in the oven) rubbed them with garlic, drizzled them in olive oil and salt, and then promptly shoved two into my mouth before the sauce was ready, because they smelled amazing, and also my stomach was gurgling desperately.

After about 20 minutes, I made six divots in the sauce with a spoon, and broke an egg into each one. The eggs only took about three minutes to poach, and when they were done, I spooned two out into a bowl, and soaked them up with more slices of garlic bread. It was oozy and silky and comforting and spicy enough to make your nose run. By the time I was done, my stomach was greased and happy, and my breath was so rank with garlic and anchovy that I swear I could see the plants in my apartment beginning to wilt.

Did it cure my hangover completely? No. I still felt sluggish, and it wasn’t until late afternoon that my eyeballs could withstand any light exposure. But it was fast to make, and the spices jolted me awake, and the warm gooeyness was gentle and life affirming, and gave me the energy to do laundry and send a few emails before climbing back into bed and turning all the lights off. It was, you could say, one small step for man, but one giant leap for my cold and broken soul.

My Report Card
Preparation: A+ (very fast and easy)
Taste: A
Hangover Cure: B+

Final Grade: A-

I Promise You the Best Hangover Cure Is Eggs in Purgatory