Social separating with Alice B. Toklas

0
Alice B. Toklas photographed by Carl Van Vechten.
Photo courtesy Library of Congress

The 420 festival has been cancelled, you’re social distancing until The Virus blows over or until the media quits hyperventilating, you’ve read Boccaccio’s The Decameron — 100 stories told by ten Florentines who were social distancing during the Black Death — in English and the original Renaissance Italian for the third time, and you’ve played all your old reggae CDs until the laser burned through the discs.  

What’s a stoner to do? (Other than the obvious, of course.)

Well how about making some Alice B. Toklas fudge? Not the brownie mix spiked with weed featured in the 1968 film I Love You, Alice B. Toklas. The original “Hashish Fudge” featured in fabled The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, which was published in 1954.

(Several dead tree editions of the cookbook are available on Amazon. Apart from hash fudge it has scores of terrific recipes.)

Alice’s hash fudge doesn’t involve chocolate or flour. It’s a nut, date and fig ball that looks somewhat like real hashish — and produces a great high when eaten. I’ve made it a couple of times, and it’s wonderful.

Here are the essentials of the recipe, with my annotations in italics:

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 whole nutmeg (Hmm, could add a nuance to the buzz, maybe?)

4 average sticks of cinnamon

1 teaspoon coriander

These should all be pulverized in a mortar (Use a small coffee grinder if you have one. Your carpal tunnels will thank you.)

One handful each of:

stoned dates (She means pitted dates, hippies.)

dried figs

shelled almonds

peanuts (Or use pistachios.)

Chop these and mix them together. (A food processor works great.)

Now we’re getting to the good part.

Pulverize “a bunch” of Cannabis sativa (The size of the “bunch” is left gloriously undefined. It’s the chef’s call.)

Along with the spices, dust the cannabis over the chopped fruit and nuts and knead them all together.

In a double boiler, dissolve a cup of sugar in “a big pat” of butter. (I needed to use about half a pound of butter, maybe more.)

Also, instead of pulverizing “a bunch” of Cannabis sativa and dusting it over the chopped fruit and nuts, I dissolved the sugar in “a large pat,” aka half a pound, of cannabutter. There are a lot of recipes for making cannabutter on the web. It’s pretty easy but it takes time, so if you go this route, make it in advance.

Add the butter/sugar to the mix, roll into balls about the size of walnuts. Two pieces are “quite sufficient,” according to Alice.

With today’s high test pots, one piece might be “quite sufficient.” Proceed with caution until you know what you’ve created. Don’t end up like the wretched Maureen Dowd.

Then there’s the matter of where to get the cannabis. When the cookbook came out in 1954, the U.S. was deep into reefer madness, so this was an issue.

Alice recommended tracking down some ditch weed.

Instead, use one of Boulder County’s excellent dispensaries, many of whom, mirabile dictu, advertise in Boulder Weekly. There are only so many sacrifices one should be expected to make to the Idol of Authenticity, and ditch weed ain’t one of them. Even the idol would be grossed out.

Also, if you plan to go the pulverized pot route, you might want to let the buds dry in an oven under low heat for a while before pulverizing it. A lot of the THC in flower is in a form of THC that doesn’t become psychoactive until it has been heated. Bailey Rahn at Leafly recommends pre-heating the oven to 245 degrees, and heating the buds for 30-40 minutes, while stirring them every 10 minutes.

Alice didn’t think up the “Hashish Fudge” recipe herself. She got it from a pal of hers named Brion Gysin, variously described as a “writer and avant-garde artist” and a “wiseacre painter.” It’s unclear where he got it, but he was living in Morocco at the time.

Some critics think Toklas may never have made the recipe herself, but it’s hard to believe that a bohemian of her stature wouldn’t have 1) experimented with it, and 2) concluded that further research was necessary.

If the foregoing seems like too much work for home-made edibles, there is always the Brownie mix route. Don’t get me wrong. Brownie mixes prepared with cannabutter are great, but Aunt Alice’s fudge is awesome.

One batch should last you for a couple weeks or more, if stored in the fridge. If it looks like social distancing might drag on past April 20, make a double recipe.