As we all know by now, smoking is a dirty habit. No matter what you are smoking, it discolors your teeth and fingers, leaves you smelling acrid and pungent, and provides you with a distinguished phlegmatic cough for years to come. As the smoking of cigarettes has dipped in both popularity and general acceptance over the last few decades, the use and smoking of marijuana (still relatively illegal in most places) is on somewhat of a high (forgive the pun). Marijuana, as a recreational drug, has experienced somewhat of a renaissance of recent, with the mainstreaming of the substance for medical use and the ardent political action put forth to legalize the plant for limited use (struck down in California in this past election, but sure to be an issue again in future elections). Pot is kinda hot right now, but smoking the stuff is still a bit problematic.
While the burning and inhaling of marijuana has been the dominant, and most conspicuous, mode of ingesting the drug, there has been a long and storied history of using the herb as…well, as an herb. Cooking and/or baking with marijuana has quite a pre-history before it became popularized in the 60s and 70s with “hash brownies” and “space cakes.”
As contemporary history of cooking with marijuana, or cannabis-based ingredients goes, the most infamous example is with the Alice B. Tolkas Cookbook published in 1954. Ms. Tolkas was commissioned by Harper’s to cobble together a cookbook that also provided a window into her lifelong companionship with writer Gertrude Stein (who had died a few years prior). Tolkas, while a competent home chef, found herself a bit short on recipes and began soliciting friends for trusted recipes and suggestions. Artist friend, and cultural innovator, Brion Gysin was happy to provide his recipe for “Haschich Fudge, which anyone could whip up on a rainy day,” with marijuana as the key, and active, ingredient. Unwittingly, Tolkas, who knew nothing of marijuana and didn’t have time to do any extensive recipe testing, decided to include the recipe in her book. The rest is countercultural history. For those of you that are curious, here is the recipe as printed (note: nothing in this post is, or should be read as, an endorsement of using any controlled substance in cooking – it can be dangerous and for Pete’s sake, it is illegal):
“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 stone 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…. It should be picked and dried as soon as it has gone to seed and while the plant is still green.”
Some 6 decades later, cooking with marijuana/cannabis has gained somewhat of a cultural acceptance, or at least a cultural awareness. Cannabis clubs throughout the country (where these kind of places are legal/tolerated) routinely offer some form of snacks made with the herb. Popular culture has also noted the prevalence of pot-laced cooking, as it has been a plot point for TV shows like Glee, Taxi, and Desperate Housewives, and movies like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. As an update of sorts to the fabled Alice B. Tolkas authored Cookbook, Ten Speed Press just released Baked!: 35 Marijuana Munchies to Make and Bake. This is, as it sounds, a cookbook with an assortment of recipes from scones to pigs in a blanket. As writer Tejal Rao says in the Atlantic Online, “This is a gateway cookbook. While following the book’s recipes will get you high, its most valuable function might be teaching people who don’t cook, who have no interest in the kitchen, how to make a decent short crust, the value of roasting whole heads of garlic, and how to tell when a quiche is cooked through.”
Check it out. Even Martha Stewart has a sense of humor about cooking with cannabis:
Now most certainly, this cookbook will not change the world, nor will it change the way most of us cook, think about, or approach controlled substances. However, for those of us that hold onto the belief that cannabis (and all of its incarnations) holds some value (and I am not talking about street value) it is encouraging to see a book like this elevate the ingredient beyond its hokey countercultural trappings.
Not that I want anyone to incriminate himself or herself, but what is your feeling about the practice of cooking with cannabis? Is it at all more acceptable, or desirable, that smoking it? Is a cookbook like this a good thing for the world, or does it just promote more bad behavior? Or have we all become just a bit to reactionary, and are in desperate need of a good brownie and 4 to 6 hours on the couch?