Wine & Food

    'We’ve equated the notion of the New Year with abstinence'

    Dry January is finally over. Let’s ditch it for good next year

    30 January 2017

    Still cold out there, isn’t it? Last week it was freezing. By the time you get home after work, you’re ravenous… whimpering for stews and puddings and, while we’re at it, a nice steaming glass of mulled wine or a hot whiskey wouldn’t go amiss. But what do you get? According to contemporary cultural orthodoxy, this is the time for cleansing greens, salads, something with kale, and you can forget the carbs and sugars, though anything billed as a superfood is fine, which is why, out of season, the supermarkets are well and truly sorted for blueberries.

    Dry January, like Meat Free Monday, really is a novelty. Fasting and abstaining and dieting in January would have got short shrift from generations that really were in touch with the weather and seasons. One problem is that we’ve equated the notion of the New Year with abstinence. Dry January attempts to make up for Sodden Christmas which began far too early. The Christian year, which is psychologically and physiologically apt for the weather and the seasons, has given way to the commercial imperative to get us onto health and fitness.

    Except abstaining in January is nuts because you don’t feel like fasting and fitness. Nature is calling you to go in for the equivalent of hibernation, or the nearest thing you can get to it in huddling indoors and having friends round the table. The proper time for fasting is Lent, when it’s spring and it’s getting warmer and brighter and you don’t feel so hungry when you get home you could eat your own hair. Lent is when it doesn’t seem like masochism to lay off drink; it’s 40 days, admittedly, but Sundays don’t count.

    So, for the last couple of days of January let’s give ourselves a break. Treat yourself to a drink or three. And next year, let’s forget the Dry January lark. The winter months are the time to be compensating for the weather with red wine and spirits. We’re miserable urban creatures but surely, even we can see what the weather is telling us to eat and drink?