In 1954, Alice B. Toklas–lifelong companion to literary icon Gertrude Stein–published her cookbook, the aptly named “Alice B. Toklas Cookbook.” Its quirky recipes and charming anecodotes make it a must-have for any lover of food and literature. Of course, I’m being a little deceitful: I’m making it sound like I’ve read it all the way through. I haven’t. I have, though, read the introduction by M.F.K. Fisher and am familiar with the text enough to know that it suits our subject well.
For on page 259, Ms. Toklas offers up a recipe for Haschich Fudge “(which anyone could whip up on a rainy day)”. According to Fisher, the American version cut the recipe out–“regretfully omitted in 1954 but reprinted in paperback in 1960” because it calls for “a bunch of cannibus sativa, pulverized.” Fisher tells us that that she has never eaten a “Toklas fudge brownie” but that she has been told “they taste slightly bitter, depending on how much pot is put into them, and that (1) they are absolutely without effect and (2) they are potentially lethal.”
Looking at the recipe now, it seems more meritorious for its language than its content. “This,” writes Toklas, “is the food of Paradise–of Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradises: it might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR.”
(I don’t know what the DAR is, but I love the image of bridge club ladies eating pot brownies.)
“In Morocco,” continues Toklas, “it is thought to be good for warding off the common cold in damp winter weather and is, indeed, more effective if taken with large quantities of hot mint tea. Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter; ecstatic reveries and extensions of one’s personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected. Almost anything Saint Theresa did, you can do better if you can bear to be ravished by ‘un evanouissement reveille.'”
The idea for this post came to me tonight while reading the current issue of the New Yorker. There is a piece in there about Ken Kesey (author of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”) who I briefly idolized my senior year of high school when I took a trip on the technicolor school bus of Tom Wolfe’s “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.”
I was a literary stoner. Meaning, I never smoked pot–wouldn’t touch it–but read all about it. I always told myself that one day, after I had accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish, I would take “experimental drugs” and traverse the vistas in my brain. Today that seems rather silly. I don’t need drugs to traverse my vistas, I have “Hair” on DVD.
In a way, I felt vindicated in my no-pot stance: because of the sheer abundance of pot-smoking that went on around me (and the large majority of kids growing up in America today) I felt like a rebel for NOT smoking pot. My anti-drug was reading, writing, and watching movies. Plus I masturbated a lot.
College brought similar dynamics. I was the non-pot-smoker and consequently the “non-conformist.” My neuroses became the backbone of my humor and while the majority coped with cannibus, I coped with comedy. Planets shifted; “not cool” became “cool” and now I’m the poster child for a drug-free America. I made cupcakes with sock bunnies on my hands.
What fascinates me, though, about pot in terms of cooking is that marijuana is a perfeclty natural substance. The same way that we can relish a radish, we should be able to go gaga over ganja.
Yet pot is taboo. Pot is not sold in Publix. Pot is illegal.
I’m not here, necessarily, to advocate the legalization of marijuana. I’m simply here to point out that many of your associations regarding pot are informed by an agenda that involves politics, economics and many other big words. In fact, pot is something that grows in the ground just like lettuce or children. To regard it any differently is to recite repressive rhetoric.
If you believe in God and His bounty, or Buddha and his quicker-picker-upper, it would be inconsitent to view any of their earthly creations as intrinsically sinful. That’s silly.
Remember the mantra we’ve been tossing around? All things in moderation.
Here I’m merely addressing the idea of cooking with pot. I’m open to it! Apparently, Jeremiah Tower and Alice Waters used pot on a regular basis in the early days of Chez Panisse. Their Beavis and Butthead salad was apparently to-die-for.
And for those that are interested, here’s the rest of Toklas’s recipe. Keep in mind Fisher’s warning—it’s lethal and bitter. Enjoy!
Take 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 whole nutmeg, 4 average sticks of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon coriander. These should all be pulverised in a mortar. About a handful each of stoned dates
[Haha, couldn’t resist: “stoned dates”!!]
dried figs, shelled almonds and peanuts: chop these and mix them together. A bunch of canibus sativa can be pulverised. This along with the spices should be dusted over the mixed fruit and nuts, kneaded together. About a cup of sugar dissolved in a big pat of butter. Rolled into a cake and cut into pieces or made into balls about the size of a walnut, it should be eaten with care. Two pieces are quite sufficient.
Obtaining the canibus may present certain difficulties, but the variety known as canibus sativa grows as a common weed, often unrecognised, everywhere in Europe, Asia and parts of Africa; besides being cultivated as a crop for the manufacture of rope. In the Americas, while often discouraged, its cousin, called canibus indica, has been observed even in city window boxes. It should be picked and dried as soon as it has gone to seed and while the plant is still green.