The Last Parsnip

A Truly Unbelievable Dining Experience from Chef Bryce Chartwell

Filtering by Category: Musings

The Hangover Scale

As I sat in my home this morning grasping a cup of coffee and gazing out over the murky gray of Puget Sound I found myself reflecting upon the nature of one of the most human and yet painful aspects of adulthood - the hangover. I'd had a rather spectacular evening out at the Spur Gastropub in Belltown. Back in the day (many moons ago) I would have consumed last night's level of alcohol with consummate ease - and then gone on to consume several more. However, the arrow of time has run its course through my own mortal coil - and nowadays I'm lucky to knock back a couple of pints without starting to feel the effects.

The question I was posed over breakfast of "How are you feeling?" should have been an easy one to answer. And yet I was left grappling for an adequate response. I was definitely "under the weather" - but exactly how far under was harder to describe.

It occurred to me that this is one area of our everyday lives that could benefit immensely from a standard scale. A one that it both easy to grasp and unambiguous in its classification.

Scales are common place elsewhere. We use a four point scale in many restaurants to describe the level of spice associated with a dish - ranging from a rather watery one all the way up to a bowel-shattering four. This is merely a simplified version of the more sinister sounding Scoville Scale of chill pepper strength. In the medical field we have all adjusted to describing our level of pain against a ten point scale. Handy charts and graphics are on hand to help us assign our level of infirmity from a pimply one up to a near-death ten. (Although it strikes me as unlikely that a walk-in patient would be sufficiently lucid to self-diagnose their crippling pain as a ten).

Which brings me back to the common hangover. It's something that most of us are very accustomed to, and definitely an experience that comes with varying levels of discomfort. And yet when asked "How bad is your hangover?" we all have to grasp around in the dark, searching for suitably descriptive yet non-expletive ways of communicating how we feel. Why not have a standard scale that is both easy to understand and easy to use?

I propose the following straightforward five point scale:

The Chartwell Scale:

  • One - Mild conditions; subtle, lurking headache; easily remedied with coffee
  • Two - Troublesome headache; dry mouth; not shaken off by single dose of painkiller; demanding greasy food and strong coffee
  • Three - A real pain; stabbing headache; sandpaper mouth; food not appealing; daylight "burning"
  • Four - Serious pain; anvil headache; stomach churning stomach; conversation not appealing; over the counter painkillers inadequate; daylight threatening permanent retinal damage
  • Five - End of Days experience; bisecting headache; vomiting imminent; life not appealing; dark shrouded world closing in

 As I reflect on this morning's experience I'd say I was probably up at a two. Coffee and bagels have done the trick - and I'm ready to face the world again. I can only pray that I never have to face another four or five in my life. But I know, with a certain inevitability, that it's only a matter of time.

Westward Ho!

It's the start of a new year, and, I'd like to think, the start of a new chapter in my own life.

After several years successfully managing The Last Parsnip outside of London, I've decided to head West and lend my gastronomic talents to our sister restaurant, also somewhat predictably, called The Last Parsnip, in Seattle, Washington. Or, more accurately, I should say just outside of Seattle, Washington. For our second establishment lies at the end of a sleepy lane on Bainbridge Island - a short ferry ride away from The Emerald City itself.

Since I opened our US restaurant three years ago I've been making frequent trips to help get it started, and to educate the staff on the finer points of Stochastic Gastronomy. Our head chef, Benedict Lacrosse, has done an admirable job, and has helped to create a clientèle second to none in the Pacific Northwest. However, after an unfortunate fur trapping accident over Christmas (or "The Holidays" as I will now have to refer to it), Benedict is now laid up in traction for at least six weeks. Some would see this as a needlessly tragic injury, brought on my man's senseless desire to hunt down and destroy small furry creatures. I saw this as an opportunity - to spend an extended period of time in the US, and to leave a lasting impression on the restaurant culture of the West Coast.

I expect to be relocating for at least six months, possibly more. I bring a wife, two children and a small Cairn Terrier ("Bruegel") who will join us once he's emerged from quarantine. In addition to immersing myself in all things American (except, that is, for an accent or Country & Western music) I intend to share my thoughts periodically through blogging and other social means. From time to time I will use this site to compose longer, more considered missives in the style (though not, I fear to the same standard) as my long time hero Alistair Cooke (the nonagenarian raconteur, not to be confused with the England cricket captain). As homage to his classic compositions, and by way of a nod to my new home and my interest in all things food-related, I've decided to call the blog "Latte From America".

I do hope you enjoy it.