This year I'm detoxing with four sachets that supply "the first pure internal cleanse in just 24 hours". The product is Dr Gillian McKeith's 24 Hour Detox, and it contains such unimpeachably harmless ingredients as papaya, pumpkin seeds, lemon balm, a "special proprietary trace blend" (comprising oats and various fruit'n'veg), magnesium and silica. It costs just £20 for four sachets. It also contains something called donq quai root, about which I am uncertain.
But why the uncertainty? If Dr McKeith thinks it's hot stuff, she must be right. I mean, how can you fail to trust someone who can tell almost everything about an individual's health by peering at their tongue and their faeces?
McKeith isn't the only entrepreneur who wants us to buy detoxing products, of course - or the only person who's interested in the subject. If you do a Google search for detox, you'll get almost 5 million results, which is more than you get for Wittgenstein (3.5 million) or Pericles (2.1 million). Many of us are simply in love with the idea of purging our dietary sins, and no amount of pleading by people who actually understand how bodies work can change that.
Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Herewith, the Richard Ehrlich Detox Tips for 2006 (Beverage Division) - presented on the understanding that, while there is no such thing as detox, there is such a thing as the detox industry. One I'm now ready to be a part of. Without benefiting financially - which explains why Gillian McKeith is rich and I'm not.
To start with, you have to do something to relieve the boredom of drinking less alcohol. By which I don't mean playing more Sudoku or taking pottery classes; I mean getting more flavour into the glass of whatever virtuous drink you are drinking while abstaining or minimising alcohol intake. And there are ways of doing it. My old friend Margaret Walters advises a dash of Angostura bitters in a glass of ice-cold fizzy water, and the orange bitters to the right will take that one step further. Usually found in bars, where they are an almost-irreplaceable ingredient in various cocktails, a dash or two of orange bitters in any soft drink, whether water or juice, will add a similar lift. And when you feel like making proper cocktails again, you're all set: a small bottle should last for many, many months. Keep it wrapped in its paper to exclude shelf-life-shortening light.
Or, if you're not eschewing alcohol altogether, get wise to the virtues of limoncello. This lemon-based speciality of southern Italy, of which a widely available example is featured to the right, can fit well into all sorts of moderate-drinking plans. Beginning life at 27 per cent abv, it has sufficient intensity of sweet lemon-oil richness to stand up to heroic levels of dilution, with either a fairly assertive fizzy water, tonic, orange juice, or a combination of orange and lemon. Or you can make it the basis of kir-royale-type concoction with sparkling wine (not Champagne) if you don't mind the extra alcohol and want something that makes you think it's spring.
My last bit of advice will do no favours to anyone hoping to benefit financially from the mass delusion called detox. It is something you already pay for, and can drink in bulk without suffering further drainage of the wallet. It not only has proven medical benefits, it is essential for life. It is highlighted in the final picture on the right. And if you think that you're doing yourself more good by spending money on Dr McKeith's detox regime, it isn't your body that needs detoxing. It's your intellect.
Three for detoxers
Fee Brothers Orange Bitters (£5.99/118ml, Fareham Wine Cellars, tel: 01329 822 733) A long-established brand from the US. Use sparingly - just a dash will do.
Luxardo Limoncello (£10/50cl, Sainsbury's and Asda) Luscious, pungent flavours of concentrated lemon peel.
Tap water (available from taps everywhere) Refreshing, cleansing, and free at the point of delivery.Reuse content