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.”