The first ever “marijuana brownie” recipe

The first ever “marijuana brownie” recipe

By: Daniel C. Activism

Who published the first ever recipe for a dessert made with marijuana? It is widely agreed that this honour belongs to Alice B. Toklas, a lady that not only spent time flirting with famous artists and writers of the early 20th century, such as Picasso, Matisse or Hemingway, but was also the life companion of the poet Gertrude Stein. This is the story of her recipe.

Gertrude Stein, the great American writer that laid the foundations of the ‘Lost Generation’, was an author that only achieved fame very late in life, with his 1932 memoirs entitled The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, in honour of the love of her life. These two women met in 1907, the day that Toklas arrived in Paris. They remained together for 39 years, until the death of Stein in 1946. But, beyond this third person narrative of the couple’s life, Alice B. Toklas also left a memorable imprint in the popular culture of the 20th century, thanks to another book that made a mark on several generations of cannabis lovers.

To be more precise, we’re referring to The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book, a collection of recipes with which she entertained artists such as Picasso, Hemingway, or Francis Scott-Fitzgerald, to name just a few of the celebrities who visited their Parisian home for over 25 years. Whilst Gertrude ruled in the living room, Alice was the queen of the kitchen.

‘Haschich Fudge’, an amusing snack for a ladies’ club

After Gertrude Stein’s death, Alice’s publisher asked her to write a book in response to The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. The result was a recollection of her memories from a kitchen perspective. This became one of the most original recipe books of the 20th century, with the first ever published recipe of a marijuana dessert. It was named ‘Haschich Fudge’, and Alice defined it as ‘the food from Paradise to stimulate anyone on a rainy day’.

Along with personal reflections, the book includes French cuisine recipes. However, what made the book popular wasn’t her stories of taking care of the wounded during First World War, or her view on mussels, but rather the recipe for the cannabis pudding, which caused great controversy at the time. In fact, the recipe was included in the British version of the book, but was censored by the publishing house Harper in the United States.

In a radio interview for Pacifica Radio in 1963, Alice B. Toklas remembered the inclusion of the recipe in the book as something totally casual, “without realising that hashish was the main element of the recipe”.

I love you, Alice B. Toklas

In the early 1960s, after the book was given the go-ahead by the US publisher’s lawyers, a second edition was released in the country, this time with the recipe included. This coincided with the beginning of the booming hippie movement. From that moment on, the recipe became a favourite of this crowd, which lead to ’Alice Toklas Brownies’ becoming a general term to refer to brownies that contained smuggled cannabis.

It even served as inspiration for what is possibly one of the first ‘pot smoker films’ in the history of cinema: 1968’s I Love You Alice B. Toklas. The film portrays the actor Peter Sellers as a Jewish lawyer from a wealthy family who is stressed out with his dull job, turning his life around when he’s seduced by a hippie and her marijuana brownies.

Even though Peter Sellers declared his love for Toklas, this feeling could have easily been extended to the writer and avant-garde artist Brion Gysin. Based in Morocco, Gysin can be credited not only for introducing the Rolling Stones to the country, but also for providing the hash cake recipe for the Alice B. Toklas’ book. And the way he did it is amusing to say the least.

Trolling from Morocco?

The addition of the recipe was a last minute thing. With the deadline only a few months away, and with several blank pages still to fill, Alice B. Toklas decided to ask within her social circle for personal recipes, so that she could include them in the final chapter called “Friends’ recipes”. Without Toklas realising, Brion Gysin’s contribution became the famous cake.

Oddly enough, the recipe didn’t ask for any chocolate. Instead, it included dates, walnuts, figs, sugar, a mix of spices, and, of course, cannabis, which good old Brion Gysin took upon himself to pass off as an exotic ingredient called ‘canibus sativa’. In fact, the cake is more like a ‘majoun’ (a Moroccan sweet dough) rather than a brownie. It was actually the Peter Sellers’ movie that compared it to the renowned American chocolate cake.

So Toklas apparently didn’t know what ‘canibus’ (Gysin’s own spelling) actually was. He described it to Alice as ‘a common bush, often unknown, that grows everywhere in Europe, Asia, and in some parts of Africa. It is also grown for rope making and needs to be harvested and dried while the plant is still green’.

The thing was that Alice didn’t have enough time to try all of her friends’ recipes; so, when she finished getting the book together, she sent it to her editor completely oblivious to the fact that it may cause controversy. She naively included the recipe, and with that a publicity crisis erupted. Eventually, Harper, the book’s publisher, sent a telegram to the Attorney General to verify if there were any legal issues concerning the book, in case they needed to stop printing. Some even argued that Alice had included the recipe as a publicity stunt.

A rose is a rose

It couldn’t have been further from the truth. Alice devoted most of her energy to the care of the genius Gertrude. She would cook; type her manuscripts; wake up before sunrise to fetch wild strawberries for breakfast (“before they were sunkissed”);… She was also the one who chose the motto ‘a rose is a rose’ for Gertrude. But this didn’t make her servitude degrading at all. She was the power behind the throne, the intransigent promoter of Gertrude’s talent, and the administrator of both of their lives.

Unfortunately, Gertrude Stein succumbed to cancer soon after reaching the peak of her fame precisely with a book inspired by Alice, who was left a heartbroken widow. Despite her grief, Alice put love first once again and didn’t sell a single work of art from Gertrude’s precious and extensive collection (which was valued at 6 million dollars in 1967). Alice knew how important those pieces were for Gertrude, so she did everything in her power to survive and keep the collection intact.

The cookbook could have been the dream of her lifetime, but its creation ultimately came down to a commercial decision for survival purposes. Most importantly, its publication signified a source of income. In the end it became a cultural classic in its own right thanks to an unexpected marijuana sweet that’s perfect for stimulating anyone on a sad, rainy day.

And remember: if you don’t have the ingredients at hand to prepare those special marijuana ‘brownies’ using Alice B. Toklas’ original recipe, you can always try out some delicious cannabis-infused alfajores or some yummy blueberry cannamuffins that will make your mouth water. The important thing here is to celebrate your love for the plant and for the people you have by your side.

Kannabia Seeds Company sells to its customers a product collection, a souvenir. We cannot and we shall not give growing advice since our product is not intended for this purpose.

Kannabia accept no responsibility for any illegal use made by third parties of information published. The cultivation of cannabis for personal consumption is an activity subject to legal restrictions that vary from state to state. We recommend consultation of the legislation in force in your country of residence to avoid participation in any illegal activity.

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