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Cooking and Enjoying Food without Alcohol

A common concern I hear as an addiction counselor for people in early recovery pertains to the use of alcohol in cooking and food. There are many schools of thought and arguments made for the continued use of alcohol in food items as it “burns off” and “I can’t get drunk off the alcohol in food.” However, there is an inherent danger in consuming anything containing alcohol as it could spark a craving or an obsession for more from the taste alone. The choice of whether or not to cook using alcohol has been a hotly debated topic in groups at AToN Center.

The whole idea in recovery is to reconsider your relationship with alcohol and other drugs. This includes not only cooking with alcohol but giving it as a gift, having it in your house for family members, even having wine glasses in the house, etc. The concern is that tasting alcohol in a food item may give false confidence in a person’s ability to then moderate the actual drinking of alcohol. Keeping alcohol in the house to use for cooking could be more trouble than it’s worth. This may not be a concern for everyone but why take the chance?

The other consideration is the association of alcohol paired with a specific type of food. At AToN we provide weekly dinner exposure sessions to provide an opportunity to correct old pairings such as red wine with a steak or margaritas with Mexican food. We want people to learn to enjoy delicious food without it sparking a craving for the associated alcoholic beverage!

There is no “one size fits all” approach to the issue of consuming food cooked in alcohol for a newly sober person. Our goal is to encourage our resident’s to see the issue from a number of different perspectives.

Kate Judd MS, CADC II
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