monkey off my back

One guy's experiences as he quits drinking

I don’t drink booze but can I eat it?


I was vegetarian for nearly 2 decades and, as far as vegetarians go, I was fairly flexible & pragmatic. I didn’t worry about micro-ingredients like fish sauce, oyster sauce, or gelatine (made from boiled beef skin). Gelatine is in heaps of desserts and avoiding oyster sauce or fish sauce means avoiding most Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese food (it was just NOT going to happen!).

I found that the harder I made the ‘rules’, the more tempted I was to break them. I chose to be pragmatic: if the dish didn’t contain any actual fish, chicken or meat (yes that includes bacon) then I could live with a squirt of fish sauce.

Last night I made a Kale & Goat Cheese Barlotto which made me think about alcohol in food (Barlotto is like Risotto but you use barley instead of rice). Here’s a very similar recipe made with faro grain:

The recipe called for a glug of white wine & I hadn’t considered alcohol in cooking. My first question was whether there would be any alcohol in the actual food: that was pretty unlikely after 50 minutes of simmering. The next (and most important) question was whether cooking with it or eating it would trigger any cravings.

I decided to test it. My partner had an almost-empty bottle of white wine in the fridge – I took it out, paused, looked at the bottle, smelled the bottle, thought about it, felt nothing, and poured it into the hot pot.  No drama – but it got me thinking about my boundaries, especially going into the festive season.

Would I eat flaming pudding desserts, rum truffles, brandy custard, or alcohol-flavoured food items like Rum & Raisin Icecream?

This might be weird but I want to distinguish between two layers of tastes and smells in alcoholic drinks. Using brandy as an example, there is:

  1. The flavour and aroma of the drink – that sweet aroma of prunes, plums, raisins and syrup.
  2. The taste and smell of the actual alcohol – that vaporised chemical smell which gives you a warm sensation in your lungs and a heady feeling as you breathe it in.

If there’s enough uncooked alcohol to trigger that warm, glowing, swimming sensation then my alarm bells go off (thinking about it is tempting). That rules out things like: Chocolates filled with brandy/schnapps; fruit preserved in alcohol; or cakes/desserts which have a fair amount of alcohol or liqueurs poured on them (OH NO – TIRAMISU?).  Those things are off my list and I’ll miss many of them.

The actual flavour or aroma of the drink doesn’t trigger much when it’s in food – it’s just another flavour in the overall dish. My Barlotto made with white wine is safe – it’s more likely to trigger my cheese addiction… but that’s a different blog (I can quit cheese anytime, I just choose not to – honest!).

3 thoughts on “I don’t drink booze but can I eat it?

  1. I went through this kind of thing early on in my recovery. I avoided the smallest amounts of alcohol – even got wine-free Dijon and stuff like that. I had rum-raisin ice cream (a half teaspoon) and almost freaked! did I lose my sobriety?? I panicked and called someone about it…lol. I laugh now, but at the time I was pretty serious about it. now, you are correct that wine will cook out most of the time (I am a chef, and since I am an alcoholic, have done some research on this). In the end, I had one question: what were my motives? Saganaki, flambed cheese with brandy – is that breaking my sobriety? is it the cheese I want, or am i secretly trying to get a kick (mentally, not physically) with the brandy? Wine poached pears – is it the balance of acidity and sweetness that I seek, or is it the fact that I am “drinking” wine (in a weird way) that I seek?

    In the end, I realized that while i felt safer in those hardlined decisions, it was probably unnecessary. As long as my motives were clean, then I needn’t worry. Having said that, I won’t have anything that has uncooked / undiluted alcohol in it. Like at this time of year, rum cake is big. I know people who make it and they start soaking the fruit and the cake itself early on. So it punches a big alcohol kick. no need to question that one – dangerous territory. But some veal jus that had a splash of red wine a couple of hours ago – that’s fine. You can’t taste it nor would you get the slightest buzz. Motives. Intentions. That’s all I look at!

    Great post.

    Love and light,

    • Yeah – I sort of think that if I would think twice about giving it to my nieces and nephews then I probably shouldn’t have it myself.

      I’d let kids have rum&raisin ice cream but not Schnapps-filled chocolates – eat a few of them and you’ll feel it.

  2. Hi there,

    that was a nice surprise to be mentioned in your post, this morning! Great blog by the way, it’s fun reading, although the reason you quit drinking ain’t all that much fun. Good you stopped drinking. Knowing you’re capable of taking control is a great thing to accomplish!
    I hope you liked the barroto! (and sure try the farotto one time!)

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