Today is the last day of my Tournée Minérale, or my month without alcohol. Finally! I made it… So, time to take stock. What were the positives, what were the negatives? And especially, was it worth it?
When you read about the effects of alcohol on your body, you will often read that it makes you feel more tired. So not drinking alcohol should give you more energy, right? The first week, it definitely did. I woke up in the mornings feeling really energized and actually having the feeling that I had slept enough. Unfortunately, this effect started fading pretty fast : already from the second week I started having difficulty again getting up in the morning. And the last couple of days I was back to my good old self : snoozing, snoozing, pulling my pillow on my head, snoozing, ah darn… Zombie look.
As to other effects on the body that are often mentioned, such as better skin, I noticed no difference either!
Not being able to have a beer on a Friday evening made me go mental, so +1 for the mental effects! No seriously, after a long week at work, you want to wind down with a cold beer and change to weekend modus. Not being able to have a beer, winding down became a challenge! And ayurvedic yoga is not my strong point…
The second thing I found really hard was not to have a glass of wine with a nice dinner. I normally use the weekends to prepare a nice meal. Often, I would start thinking several days ahead of the dish I want to make, the wine I could pair it with, or vice versa, I want to open THAT bottle, which dish could I prepare that will fit, etc. Thinking about all that is something I thoroughly enjoy and these meals would often be the high point of my week. It was fun to experiment with alternatives to replace wine, but still, I’ll be happy to enjoy a glass of wine with my dinner again in the coming weekend.
So what is a good alternative to pair food with? Tea! I posted a few food and tea pairings here and they are really exciting, actually! I still find it mind-boggling how pistachios pair well together with white tea, but they do. Green tea with fish, especially salmon, is also a combination I will definitely repeat. And another winning combination, which I did not write about previously on my blog, is chai, or Indian tea, with South Asian food. Some of the spices that are often used in these dishes are also to be found in the chai : cinnamon, cardamom, ginger. This makes the chai a perfect match. I’m really glad I discovered this, because if you don’t want to drink alcohol, during the week for example or during a work lunch, then it’s perfectly possible to drink something that enhances the flavors of your meal. I’m surprised sommeliers have not yet picked up such alternative pairings for people who do not want to have a glass of wine with their meal.
I expected social meetings to be one of the most difficult aspects of not having alcohol for a month. In fact, that went pretty ok. The advantage of joining such a social event, as Tournée Minérale is in Belgium, is that people immediately know why you are doing this. Some react negatively : “why on earth are you doing this?” Luckily those were the minority in my immediate environment. What I saw on social media, though, was of another caliber (luckily not addressed to me personally). I don’t understand why some people spread hateful messages around a social event like this one. Alas, I suppose that is the nature of social media. At least to some extent.
So, what’s the verdict? I found this experience quite tough. Perhaps more than I had expected. And I feel a bit uncomfortable about that. Before this month, I would think : of course I can do this, my life is not dependent on alcohol, is it?! And of course it is not. But apart from the fact that I am a wine lover, there are these moments where a beer or a glass of wine is simply functional. To relax after a stressful day, to enjoy a football match (try watching a match with a cup of tea…), when you meet up with friends, when you have a nice dinner, when you want to celebrate something,… Having a drink in such situations is so common in our culture that not being able to have one is actually weird!
Anyway, enough philosophical musings. As from tomorrow, I am officially back in business! Cheers!