Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein were supporting characters in the story of art, literature and culture during the early to mid-twentieth century. Stein was a writer, poet and playwright, who collected and promoted the artists Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse and Picabia; and the writers Hemingway, Ezra Pound and Scott Fitzgerald. Toklas was Stein’s lover, muse, editor, and confidante. The couple were inseparable during their 39-year relationship, which was celebrated through Stein’s book The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas in 1933. This book told the story of their relationship through Toklas’s biography.
While Stein ruled the salon, Toklas was mistress of the kitchen. Almost a decade after Stein’s death in 1946, Toklas published what could be described as another Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas—a cookbook that mixed her favorite recipes with concisely written memoirs of her life. Her childhood she recalled through her mother’s fritters and ice cream; her aunt and a favorite car (a Model-T Ford) recalled through a recipe for hot chocolate; while many of the artists, writers and actors she met through her relationship with Stein were evoked by recipes, such as “Custard Josephine Baker” or through tales of serving food—cooking Picasso fish, for example.
One recipe for “Hashish Fudge” was supplied by friend and artist Brion Gysin. This sweet delicacy gave The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book considerable notoriety, and forced the publishers to enquire over the legality of publishing such a 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.
As “experienced” gourmands know, the recipe bears more of a resemblance to what’s referred to in Morocco as “majoun.” The 1960s comedy I Love You Alice B. Toklas, starring Peter Sellers name checks Alice due to his uptight character eating a bunch of hash brownies. An audio recording of Alice reading the “Hashish Fudge” recipe can be heard here.