If you were to see Robyn Grigg Lawrence’s new cookbook lying out on your grandma’s kitchen table, you probably wouldn’t think twice. The book’s glossy cover shows a plate of pesto pasta garnished with lovely green leafs. Pick up the book and thumb through it and you will see more of the same — tantalizing photographs and recipes of gourmet dishes worthy of any home cook’s attention.
The remarkable thing about this unassuming cookbook is that it’s all about weed. The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook by Robyn Griggs Lawrence normalizes cannabis to the point that it becomes a casual culinary tool, rather than a controversial, if legal substance.
Lawrence underwent her own process of normalization in her journey as a marijuana user. In 2009 her doctor prescribed her marijuana and in the aftermath she wrestled with her own fears about the drug as she struggled to explain it to her friends and peers and to incorporate it into her home life as a mother and wife.
The cookbook is just as much about that process of unraveling bias as it is about cooking or cannabis. She opens her book with a dedication to all of those who have died, been imprisoned or persecuted because of the plant.
“It hit me when I started to go to the cannabis conventions,” Lawrence says. “I was sitting in a room with all these people making money on [marijuana] while people are going to jail. Whenever I do presentations I always try to start with that — to help people realize how privileged we are to sit here and talk about this and make money on it while other peoples’ lives are ruined by the very same drug.”
Lawrence not only acknowledges the disparity in the demographic of people leading the legalized cannabis industry and those persecuted by the illegal trade — she is driven by it. Finding herself among the fortunate few, she realized her role was to help normalize the cannabis and its consumption by incorporating it into home kitchens across the country the way she brought it into her own.
Her culinary journey through cannabis began the first time she stepped into a medical dispensary to fill her prescription. She expected there to be one kind of weed with one kind of smell. Instead she experienced multitudes of each.
“When [the budtender] opened the jars, the essential oils from those nuggets filled my nostrils — oaky eucalyptus, cheesy lemon, musky blueberry the way garlic hits your nose when you walk into Rao’s,” Lawrence writes in the introduction of her book. “The genie was out of the bottle. Cannabis revealed itself to me as food — to be simmered, sauteed and savored rather than smoked.”
Just like wine, craft beer or fine cheese, cannabis presents as a sensory experience. In order to fine tune and leverage those qualities, Lawrence enlisted a dozen chefs and a barkeep to help her explore and utilize the natural flavors of cannabis to bestow its flavors and aromas to food.
But cannabis is a different sort of ingredient that imbues more than just flavor. The psychoactive effects of the plant contribute to the experience of a cannabis infused meal. For Lawrence, this is not only medicinal, but sacred. She says the plant brings us closer, but to what exactly she isn’t sure. For her at least, it brings health and prosperity, but it offers a diversity of benefits to those who use it.
“Cannabis is part of many Coloradoan’s fanatically healthy lifestyles, a source of inspiration and pleasure for a diverse group of professionals, carpenters, outdoor enthusiasts, yogis, and soccer moms,” Lawrence writes. “It has brought tax and tourism dollars, worldwide attention, and a deep responsibility.”
That responsibility comes with the removal of the legal barrier to marijuana, allowing users to release fears of persecution. In the wake of that fear, the state is left grappling with society’s lingering fears about the plant. Lawrence hopes, through cooking and conversation, we can begin to explore the fear itself, one bite at a time.
Note: The recipe in this article is tasty, with or without the cannabis. If you want to get the recipe for infused simple syrup, please read The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook to ensure you are safe and comfortable as you explore cooking with cannabis.
Pine Forest Fizz by Rabib Rafiq
THC per serving: 1 milligram
1 egg white
3⁄4 ounce lemon juice
11⁄2 ounces St. George Terroir gin
3⁄4 ounce Cannabis Simple Syrup
1⁄2 ounce St. George raspberry liqueur
1 dash angostura bitters ice cubes soda water shaker Collins ice mold (optional)
1) Extract egg white from egg into shaker. Add lemon juice. Dry shake (shake without ice) for 1 minute or more, until solution is extremely frothy.
2) Add gin, simple syrup, raspberry liqueur, and bitters. Shake hard with ice. (Alternatively, blend with a milk frother for 20–25 seconds to build a nice foam.)
3) Place ice from Collins ice mold or ice cubes in tall Collins glasses. Pour solution over ice. Refrigerate for about 2 minutes to somewhat solidify foam.
4) Top with a slow, steady pour of soda water until foam rises 2–3 centimeters above rim of glass.