A rainy day with Alice B. Toklas

Alice B. Toklas

We’ve been having a lot of rain lately, so this is a great time to review the tale of Alice B. Toklas hashish fudge, and the recipe, of course, “which anyone could whip up on a rainy day,” according to Alice.

Here are five things you need to know about Alice B. Toklas hashish fudge (sometimes called Alice B. Toklas hashish brownies): 1) It’s not fudge or brownies as we know them (no chocolate involved); 2) It’s not made with hashish (although it could be); 3) The recipe isn’t Alice’s; 4) She probably never made it herself; and 5) She may not have even known what cannabis was, and that “Hashish Fudge’ was what’s now called an “edible.”

However, the recipe did appear in The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, which was published in 1954. Here’s how it got there.

Alice B. Toklas was the lifelong companion of the poet Gertrude Stein, who she met on her first day in Paris in 1919. The two were companions until Stein’s death in 1946, and their Paris apartment was a gathering place for post-World War I writers, artists and ex-pats of all descriptions.

In 1952, Harper & Brothers press struck a deal with Alice to write a cookbook cum memoir of her life with Stein. Although she was battling hepatitis at the time, she managed to write the book in three months, but as the publisher’s deadline approached, she needed some additional recipes to finish it. So she wrote her friends asking them to contribute some of their faves.

The contributors included lords, ladies and a princess — and one Brion Gysin, variously described as a “writer and avant-garde artist” and a “wiseacre painter,” who was living in Morocco at the time. Gysin contributed the recipe for Moroccan “Hashish Fudge.”

Hashish Fudge is a nut, date and fig ball that looks somewhat like real hashish but is an edible. And it’s wonderful. I made it a couple of times following the original recipe that appears below, with two exceptions: I substituted pistachios for the peanuts, and I used canna-butter instead of sprinkling pulverized pot into it. And I used a coffee grinder and a food processor to do the pulverizing. Store the balls in a sealed box in the fridge; they’ll keep for a month or more.

Here’s the recipe:

(which anyone could whip up on a rainy day)

“This 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. 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 ‘un évanouissement reveillé.’

“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, dried figs, shelled almonds and peanuts: chop these and mix them together. A bunch of Cannabis 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 Cannabis may present certain difficulties, but the variety known as Cannabis 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 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.”

The recipe was cut out of the first American edition of the cookbook, but appeared in the European edition and in subsequent American ones. It was quickly discovered by hippies, and in 1968, a film starring the late Peter Sellers, I Love You, Alice B. Toklas, featured brownies made with pot, not the faux hash fudge from the cookbook.

Don’t get me wrong. Brownie mixes prepared with canna-butter or pot are great, but the original is awesome.

Happily, in the state of Colorado “certain difficulties” are no longer encountered in obtaining cannabis. And rain’s in the forecast for next week. Just sayin’.

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