BY ERIKA RECORDON
Ever wonder about the origins of the iconic edible? With the advent of gourmet cannabis cuisine, we’re officially living in a deliciously euphoric Willy Wonka moment. High-brow chefs are hosting cannabis-laced supper clubs, handcrafted weed cookies are now on offer at dispensaries around the country, and artisanal cannabis chocolate is the new champagne. As we rocket into this foodie-flower future, let’s pause to pay homage to that classic original, the granddaddy of all edibles, the pot brownie.
10th Century: The first record of cooking with weed dates back to a milkshake, not a brownie. The green-tinged bhang lassi was used as a sleep aid in 10th-century India and is still enjoyed today, particularly during the Hindu festival of Holi.
1947: Majoun, which means love potion in Arabic, has roots in Morocco dating back a thousand years. The sticky confection, sometimes laced with cannabis, first found an international audience via the writer Paul Bowles, shortly after he moved to Tangier in 1947. Bowles claims that the experience of eating a cannabis-infused majoun was so transformative that it allowed him to imagine the death of his protagonist in his now famous novel, The Sheltering Sky. Recipes vary regionally but usually include honey, nuts, dried fruit, and toasted bud leaves. The mixture is then rolled into bite-sized balls and eaten raw, a little like those energy balls from Whole Foods.
1954: For years, Alice B. Toklas was best known as Gertrude Stein’s partner, until she published her now-notorious cookbook in 1954. The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook is a charming collection of memories from one of history’s most literary couples. Personal musings are smattered between recipes, including one for hashish fudge that scandalized her American publisher. Toklas recommends these special treats to liven up your ladies’ bridge club.
1967: The first cannabis coffee shop, the iconic Mellow Yellow, took advantage of a loophole in Dutch drug laws to open its doors in 1967. Appropriately, the business was run out of a former bakery in the Weesperzijde neighborhood of Amsterdam. It was named for a Donovan song about trying to get high from smoking a banana peel, but the house specialty was the chocolate “space cake” that had locals lining their bicycles up around the block.
1968: Pot brownies hit the big screen in 1968, when Peter Sellers starred in the romantic comedy I Love You, Alice B. Toklas. Sellers plays Harold Fine, a square attorney who falls for Nancy, a beautiful hippie. Along with a taste of freedom, Nancy gives Harold a weed brownie that inspires him to leave his fiancée, abandoning his strait-laced existence for the counterculture lifestyle.
1981: San Francisco-based activist Mary Jane Rathbun spent her life fighting to legalize medical marijuana. What started as a waitress’s side hustle quickly turned into a passion project when she discovered that her magic brownies eased the nausea and appetite loss brought on by the AIDS virus afflicting so many in her city. Rathbun soon became a familiar sight in the AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital and clinics around the city. By 1981, she was baking more than 600 brownies a day, earning her the nickname Brownie Mary.
2008: In 2008, Snoop Dogg was a guest on The Martha Stewart Show. He added a liberal amount of cognac to her mashed potatoes and urged her to “green up” her brownie recipe. The clips went viral, spawning the VH1 spinoff Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party. Martha is the perfect “straight man” to Snoop’s stoner antics. “When do we add the ... umm ... you know?” Snoop asked repeatedly during the brownie episode. “Later,” Martha kept telling him. “That’s a secret.”
2019: A slew of gourmet cannabis cookbooks has hit the market in recent years. From weed-fueled foie gras to THC-laced duck sliders, there seems to be no limit to what a curious chef can do. But does that mean we’ve outgrown the humble brownie? Not likely. JeffThe420Chef, a.k.a. the Julia Child of weed, insists that pot brownies remain his most popular dessert. Pick up his book, The 420 Gourmet, at select MedMen stores, and stay tuned for one of his delectable infused brownie recipes.
This story and many more are available in the Fall "Freedom" issue of EMBER magazine. You can grab a copy at your local MedMen store, Barnes and Noble, or Hudson News.