High Femme: A History Lesson on the Original Pot Brownie and How to Make Them

Calling all Homoganjas!Let’s talk about anything and everything marijuana related, from legalization to pop culture to how to make your own bong using a box of Diva cups and a broken lamp.

Welcome to the second installment of High Femme. Whether you’re a newbie who doesn’t know a blunt from a joint, or you’re planning your gay dream wedding to Mary Jane, this column is for you. Puff, Puff, Pass.

Header by Rory Midhani

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Homoganjas, are you hungry? Then let’s talk about pot brownies, the gooey, gateway snack we all know and love. For many of us, the pot brownie was our first foray into the world of edibles (aka foods and beverages containing marijuana). Other names for pot brownies include but are not limited to: hash brownies, space cakes, special brownies, green blondies and “WTF, how did my bra end up on the ceiling fan?”

But why is the brownie such a popular vehicle for getting cannabis into our bellies? (and then into our blood streams, right? Is that how the human body works? I might not be a doctor, you guys). For starters, the rich denseness of brownies help mask the scent and flavor of the cannabis, which can range anywhere from “kinda skunky” to “tastes like lawn furniture.” Maybe it’s because there is something whimsical and almost sacrilegious about corrupting everyone’s favorite all American snack cake. We sell them at bake sales. We bake them with our mothers. We even named baby girl scouts after them! Pot brownies are a subversive classic akin to spiked punch at senior prom.

Back in 1960’s, pot brownies were often known as “Alice B. Toklas brownies”. You may know Alice B. Toklas (or Alice B. TokeMORE, am I right ladies?) as the faithful longtime love of renowned writer and modernist patron Gertrude Stein. You may also know her as the namesake of America’s first LGBT democratic club. I like to think of her as the cool, lesbian Jewish grandmother we all wish we had. Toklas also rocked a full mustache decades before JD Samson, so she was obviously amazing.

TKO, turning on your Victrola

TKO, turning on your Victrola
via gertudeandalice.com

When Gertrude Stein died in 1946, she left her art collection and much of her estate to Toklas. However, since their relationship was not recognized legally (BOTP), Stein’s relatives took possession of the estate, leaving Toklas broke and alone. To make ends meet, she wrote The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook. The book was a collection of stories, memories, and recipes from Toklas and her friends. The most famous recipe was not written by Toklas herself, but recommended by her friend Brion Gysin: Haschich Fudge, aka the original pot brownie.

Not surprisingly, this recipe caused great panic with Harpers, the American publisher of the book. It was removed from the original U.S. printing, but the scandal surrounding it helped to make the book a massive success. The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook was not only one of the best selling cookbooks of the 1950’s. The recipe for haschich fudge became world famous and introduced a generation to cannabis infused edibles. It even birthed the popular slang term for taking a hit of marijuana that we call a “toke”, after Ms. Toklas herself.

alice-b-toklas

via amazon.com

Because I am a hard-hitting investigative journalist/constantly trying to justify my Communication major, I decided to recreate this recipe myself and document my findings. This presented a unique challenge, as I am someone who can barely make regular brownies. Seriously, I either burn the crap out of them or somehow congeal them into a giant boulder-sized ball that would be more at home chasing Indiana Jones out of a temple. But I’m not one to shy away from a challenge, so let’s rock this bitch!

Let’s take a look at the original recipe:

HASCHICH FUDGE
(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.

Or a pantless marathon of Degrassi. YOU DO YOU.

A quick look into my pantry reveals pretzel chips and on-the-go peanut butter packets. Luckily, I am rescued by my big sister, who is an accomplished baker/crafter/heterosexual. She has all the necessary ingredients, except the marijuana. She is a straight edge tee-totaler, but graciously allows me into her home to conduct my half baked experiment.

All the ingredients you need, sans the cannabis.

All the ingredients you need minus the cannabis.

Ingredients:

Take 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 whole nutmeg, 4 average sticks of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon coriander. These should all be pulverised in a mortar.

A mortar? As in a mortar and pestle? This is some Laura Ingalls Wilder bullshit that I am not prepared for. Luckily, my sister actually has a mortar and pestle! Of course she does. She also has a weaving loom, embroidery hoops, and various other Renaissance princess paraphernalia.

The Pulverizer.

The Pulverizer.

True story you guys: using a mortar and pestle takes major upper body strength! Or I am a total weakling. I pound away at a particularly stubborn cinnamon stick that refuses to be ground up. My sister suggests I use her Cuisinart, but I’m doing it like Alice did it, goddammit. I end up with what looks like a bowl of ground up tree bark. What’s next?

About a handful each of stoned dates, dried figs, shelled almonds and peanuts: chop these and mix them together.

Easy enough! Side question: does dried fruit expire? I mean, I know it’s fruit, so obviously it expires, but it’s dried to keep for a long time…what’s the end date to this stuff? My sister looks at me like I’m an idiot. I might be an idiot. Moving on.

A bunch of Cannabis sativa can be pulverised. This along with the spices should be dusted over the mixed fruit and nuts, kneaded together.

Finally, adding the magic!

Adding the magic!

Kneading this tree bark is hurting my hands. I fleetingly wonder if this will jack up my new manicure. There’s a reason this column is not called “Stoned Butches”.

About a cup of sugar dissolved in a big pat of butter.

Finally! Sugar and butter is a combo I can get behind. It’s basically the root of all deliciousness. I take my best guess at what a “pat” of butter looks like and get to mixing.

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.

Hold the fucking phone. I’m no expert, but shouldn’t this recipe involve baking of some sort? I re-read the recipe to see if I missed something. Nope. No baking instructions whatsoever. WHY YOU GOTTA BE SO VAGUE, ALICE. B.? Maybe I should put this in the microwave for one minute and fifteen seconds…that’s what I do with everything I eat and it usually works. Great, now I have a HOT PLATE OF GARBAGE.

What was Alice B. thinking?

WHY YOU GOTTA BE SO VAGUE, ALICE. B.?

My sister notes that there is no chocolate or cocoa in the recipe at all. Also, there is no binding agent to hold this crap together, which means I’m left with a plate of sandy-looking spices and dried fruits. “I really don’t think you should eat that,” says my sister. I am left with what my mother would call “shit on a shingle.” Yeah, that about sums it up. An hour of careful assembling, grinding, kneading and mixing yields essentially a plate of cracked out squirrel food and a lifetime ban from my sister’s kitchen. Mission accomplished?

While Toklas’s haschich fudge recipe may not hold up against the modern edible (or anything edible) as we know it, it is still a fascinating footnote in queer and cannabis history. It also reminded me to stick with what I know: fucking up box-made brownies like a modern woman.

Via tumblr.com

Via tumblr.com

Special Note: Autostraddle’s “First Person” column exists for individual queer ladies to tell their own personal stories and share compelling experiences. These personal essays do not necessarily reflect the ideals of Autostraddle or its editors, nor do any First Person writers intend to speak on behalf of anyone other than themselves. First Person writers are simply speaking honestly from their own hearts.

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, where she works as a screenwriter/blogger/pop culture geek. She’s obsessed with dachshunds, the Whedonverse, 90's dance parties, and roller derby. She loves the word "Jewess" and wishes more people used it to describe her. Follow her ramblings on Twitter why don't you?

Chelsea has written 43 articles for us.

38 Comments

  1. Thumb up 35

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    I’m totally for pot being decriminalized and all, but I have a lot of problems with this statement:

    “It’s no secret that queers and cannabis go together like rainbows and unicorns.”

    You know what else goes together… a lot of queers and hard fought for sobriety and that doesn’t make them any less gay, queer or trans. Please don’t get cutesy when it comes to controlled substances and the LGBTQ community. I sure wouldn’t begrudge anyone their pot brownies (I used to live near Brownie Mary in San Francisco) but there is nothing intrinsically coupling queer people with getting high more than anyone else.

  2. Thumb up 7

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    There is a key step missing in this recipe in order to make it work more efficiently, and that is decarbing the cannabis. Decarbing breaks a carboxyl group off of THCAcid turning it into the psychoactive form THC. THCA does not get you high THC does. The baking when making brownies decarbs it, it’s just that you aren’t thinking about it. The THCA decarbs when you are cooking your brownies, but to decarb you cannabis, one would put it in the oven at around 250f for 8-15 minutes(depending on strain and amount). As a note remember higher temps equates to faster decarb rate but keep it in range. Cheers.

  3. Thumb up 9

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    I feel like not tagging this “Get Baked” is missing out on a huge punny opportunity. JUST GIVE ME ALL THE WEED PUNS, YOU GUISE.

    Also I may or may not have smoked a spliff on Alice B. Toklas St in San Francisco, off Van Ness. It felt like something that needed to be done as a homoganja.

  4. Thumb up 14

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    The dates and figs, if pureed/chopped finely, should be sticky enough to hold the rest together. (Dates are a common raw food binder.) If you take out the butter and sugar, it’s essentially the recipe for a marijuana LARA bar.

  5. Thumb up 3

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    Fudge isn’t baked, it congeals. Have a link to Wellesley Fudge and Smith Fudge recipes: http://historylive.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/womans-college-fudge-etc-1918/. Which are associated with college students because you didn’t need an oven to make them, you could heat the butter and melt the chocolate over a hot plate or spirit lantern in your dorm room.

    I’d guess Toklas’s fruit fudge was meant to be held together by the melted butter, and also by the stickiness of the dried fruit. Like Lisa said, if you pureed the dates and figs they’d probably be sticky enough to hold everything together, even without much butter. Including a larger amount of melted butter might make the resulting lump a little less sticky and somewhat sliceable after it’s cooled.

  6. Thumb up 2

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    I’m not terribly interested in pot fudge/brownies (regular brownies are good enough for me), but the Salon article on Alice and Gertrude is fascinating. I’d never heard of Alice’s cookbook and really want to buy it now.

  7. Thumb up 2

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    Boo I wanted a real recipe for pot brownies, mostly because I have like a ton of mediocre pot I got from my mom.

    This was hilarious though, I can relate to the amazingly heterosexual sister with the fully stocked kitchen.

  8. Thumb up 11

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    Hey Straddlers,

    I certainly didn’t mean to offend any readers and I have nothing but respect and admiration for sober people.

    To be clear, I’m not at all saying that queer people smoke more pot or use more illegal substances than anyone else. I’m simply addressing the subset of queers who DO smoke pot and enjoy recreational cannabis use. This is their column.

    • Thumb up 5

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      Hey Chelsea, I don’t use pot myself, but I try to take a live and let live attitude. Thanks for your comment. I have no problems with this column at all and wish you and its readers all the best, but the introduction beginning with “it’s no secret that queers and cannabis go together like rainbows and unicorns” makes me uncomfortable for the reasons outlined in Gina’s comment above. Maybe the wording could be changed?

  9. Thumb up 4

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    I’m very upset with how yummy the brownies look in the first picture. Nothing could prepare me for how my first pot brownie would taste.

    You would have thought I was on Fear Factor trying to eat a bowl of sheep eyeballs. Yuck…But it was very worth it in the end.

    I LOVE this column, Chelsea! It will always be HIGH on my reading list.

  10. Thumb up 0

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    This is a jacked-up Sephardic haroset recipe for Passover! Maybe that’s where Alice got the idea (although if you read Janet Malcolm’s great study of Alice and Gertrude during the war you learn they were disturbingly pro-fascist despite being Jewish dykes.) But my god, an entire nutmeg?!! That stuff’s hallucinogenic on its own, and too much might kill you. No wonder two small pieces are sufficient.

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