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Alice B. Toklas Marijuana "Brownies"
First published in 1954, The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook is one of America's great works of recollection, culinary and otherwise. Toklas lived, cooked, and kept house in Paris and rural France with her companion, Gertrude Stein, from 1908 until Stein's death in 1947. During that time she cooked for and shared food with friends, including Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and Thornton Wilder, accumulating recipes for the simple and haute bourgeois dishes compiled in the book. She also saw and remembered all, from life in the high bohemian circle she and Stein occupied; to France during two world wars; to the United States, visited in the '30s; to summers passed in a paradisiacal country retreat at Biligin in France. These and more Toklas depicts vividly and acerbically, all viewed through the prism of food and good eating.
Woven within chapters such as "Dishes for Artists," "Food in French Homes," and "The Vegetable Gardens at Biligin," the 300 recipes run the gamut from hors d'oeuvres and salads to breads, entrées, drinks, and sweets. Original (and sometimes whimsical) dishes like Stuffed Artichokes Stravinsky, Gigot de la Clinque, and Bavarian Cream Perfect Love appear among more traditional offerings, such as Boeuf Bourguignon, Chicken à l'Estargon, and Green Peas à la Goodwife. Many of the recipes (which are written in abbreviated-narrative style) will be attempted only by adventurous cooks with time (and, in some cases, money) to spare.
The recipes are great but it is really the memories that make the book. The titles of the chapters alone will give you a flavor of Alice's Book of Memories: Chapter 6 "Food to Which Aunt Pauline and Lady Godiva led us"; Chapter 4, entitled "Murder in the Kitchen" about the cooking, cleaning and killing of a massive carp is really very funny: "The first victim was a lively carp brought to the kitchen in a covered basket from which nothing could escape...So quickly to the murder and have it over with...Limp, I fell into a chair, with my hands unwashed and reached for a cigarette, lighted it and waited for the police to take me into custody."
It's a vastly entertaining book not just for the recipes but for Alice's life and stories. You really can't hear enough about them cruising the countryside and picnicing with Picasso and Hemingway.
It all started when Alice signed a contract with Harper's to write a cookbook in 1952. She was a pretty fair cook, but what Harper really hoped to get (and what by and large it got) was not so much recipes but tales of her life with Gertrude Stein, who had died in 1946.
With the deadline only a few months away, Toklas, then in her mid-70s, found herself half a book shy. So she began soliciting recipes from her artsy friends. This recipe was contributed by wiseacre painter friend named Brion Gysin.
Alice, unfamiliar with "canibus" (at least as spelled by Gysin) and lacking the time to test the recipes, stuck her friends contribution into her manuscript and sent it off to the publisher. The American editors at Harper's spotted the suspicious ingredient and held the recipe out, but the publisher of the British edition didn't. The press promptly went nuts. The rest is history.
Here is the book's text and recipe - which is more of a fruit bar than a fudge or a brownie:
This is the food of Paradise – of Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradises: It might provide entertaining refreshment for a Ladies Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution). In Morocco 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 an ‘un évanouissment reveillé’.
Take 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 whole nutmeg, 4 average sticks of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon coriander. These should all be pulverized in a mortar. About a handful each of de-stoned dates, dried figs, shelled almonds and peanuts: chop these and mix them together. A bunch of cannabis sativa can be pulverized. 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 cannabis may present certain difficulties, but the variety known as cannabis sativa grows as a common weed, often unrecognized, everyone 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 cannabis 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.
Today this would be an extremely expensive dessert, with high quality marijuana from the legendary Humboldt County, California reputedly going for $300 an ounce.
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