The famous pair with Toklas on the right.
Alice Babette Toklas left Seattle for Paris when she was 30 years old. In Paris she met Gertrude Stein. The 2 women were a couple for the next 39 years, living through WW1 & WW2, the apex of The Lost Generation, & a collection of very famous friends. They were positively partners. Toklas was Stein’s secretary, editor, critic... & muse.
Their books' titles were quite deceptive; The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas was written Stein & had next to nothing to do with Toklas & The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, although it contains recipes, was more a memoir of a life friends like Janet Flanner, Picasso, Hemingway, Thornton Wilder, & Virgil Thomson, along a collection of over 300 recipes.
Toklas lived another 20 years after Stein’s death. At the end of her life she was broke. The family of Stein claimed the famous paintings & royalties. In those final years Toklas was plagued with financial difficulties. She had no choice after Stein’s heirs took all the famous paintings left to her, except to write a memoir.
The much renowned recipe for marijuana brownies started when Toklas signed a contract with Harper's to write a cookbook in 1952. She was a known as a very goodcook, but what Harper’s wanted was not so much recipes but tales of her life with Gertrude Stein.
Toklas, then in her mid-70s, didn’t have enough pages to call her tome a book. She added several recipes, including them that would become renowned: “This is the food of Paradise. It might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies' Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR, with euphoria & brilliant storms of laughter, ecstatic reveries & extensions of one's personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected. Almost anything Saint Theresa did, you can do better."
The editors at Harper's spotted the suspicious special ingredient- canabis ingredients & cut the recipe out, but the publisher of the British edition didn't. The press promptly went nuts. The London Times: "The late Poetess Gertrude Stein & her constant companion 7 autobiographee, Alice B. Toklas, used to have gay old times together in the kitchen. Some of the unique delicacies that were whipped up will soon be cataloged, in a wildly epicurean tome which is already causing excited talk on both sides of the Atlantic. Perhaps the most gone concoction was her hashish fudge." The book would go on to be the best seller for either of the lesbian pair.
Here is the recipe: "Take 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 whole nutmeg, 4 average sticks of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon coriander. These should all be pulverized in a mortar. About a handful each of stone dates, dried figs, shelled almonds & peanuts: chop these & mix them together. A bunch of Canibus Sativa can be pulverized. This along with the spices should be dusted over the mixed fruit & nuts, kneaded together. About a cup of sugar dissolved in a big pat of butter. Rolled into a cake & cut into pieces or made into balls about the size of a walnut, it should be eaten with care. 2 pieces are quite sufficient. Obtaining the canibus may present certain difficulties. It should be picked & dried as soon as it has gone to seed & while the plant is still green."
Just a few years ago, I had an acquaintance (now living in San Francisco with a rich boyfriend) that made a variation of this recipe. With only one half of a serving, I was unable to raise my head off the pillow. His advice: “Don’t sit down. After you eat one you need to go hiking or dancing. Keep moving.” I was left giggling, horny & hungry & unable to move.
Although Toklas converted to Catholicism late in life, the pair of Jewish lesbians are buried next to each other in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.
The Toklas name would become a part of the vernacular of the pot smoking world.