From counterculture to pop culture, how jar brownies became “the OG edible”

Chicago’s Wake-N-Bakery drinks can be made in four styles: “keep it basic”, “f**k it”, “hell yeah”, and “double f**k it”. Each selection represents a dosage of hemp-derived THC, ranging from 30 to 120 milligrams.

From Pink Crush Kush lattes to edible cookie dough balls, this cannabis cafe offers a variety of ways to bake customers. Amid the neon-colored infused lemonades and “Fruity AF” Rice Krispies treats, one seemingly simple dessert stands out in the bakery display case. This is not a basic brownie, but rather “the OG edible”.

As the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes continues to spread across the country, the market for unique edibles has grown along with it. Consumers can purchase THC-infused versions of their favorite junk foods, like knockoff Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, as well as gourmet options like single-variety dark chocolate bars made with cabernet sea salt and full-spectrum cannabis from superior quality.

But even in non-smoking segments of mainstream American culture, the pot brownie is considered something special. It’s a staple recipe in cannabis cooking, a pop culture obsession, as well as a symbol of covert activism that has helped kick-start the proliferation of the line of edibles sold today.

In 1954, the eponymous cookbook by Alice B. Toklas was published in the United States, except for one recipe. Nearly a decade later, in an interview with Pacifica Radio, Toklas recounted how Harper’s ruled out instructions for making Moroccan hash fudge. “The recipe was innocently included without me realizing the hashish was the accented part of the recipe,” she said. “I was shocked to find that America wouldn’t accept it because it was too dangerous.”

In reality, Toklas’ Hash Fudge wasn’t so much fudge as a DIY version of spiced candy. The recipe, which had been given to Toklas by avant-garde artist Brion Gysin, did not contain chocolate. Instead, it started with a punchy mix of black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and coriander. It read as follows:

These all need to be pulverized in a mortar. About a handful of pitted dates, dried figs, shelled almonds and peanuts: chop and mix. A bunch of Cannabis sativa can be sprayed. This along with the spices should be sprinkled over the mixture of fruits and nuts, kneaded together. About a cup of sugar dissolved in a large knob of butter. Rolled into a cake and cut into walnut-sized pieces or balls.

“It should be consumed with care,” Toklas warned. “Two pieces are more than enough… Euphoria and bursts of laughter; ecstatic daydreams and extensions of one’s personality on several simultaneous planes are to be expected with complacency.”

When Toklas’ cookbook was reissued in the early 1960s, the recipe returned to the page. It won acclaim from members of the burgeoning counterculture movement who had begun experimenting with the recipe until Moroccan fudge was quickly Americanized into a fudge brownie.

The pot brownie made its big-screen debut in the crazy 1968 film “I Love You, Alice B. Toklas,” which stars Peter Sellers as Harold Fine, a restless lawyer who is lured into the counterculture (and away from the altar where he’s about to marry his secretary-turned-fiancée) by a young hippie named Nancy, played by Leigh Taylor-Young.

After spending a crazy night together, Nancy bakes Harold a batch of pot brownies, though she neglects to tell him about the “secret ingredient”. Harold unknowingly serves them to his family and fiancée, sparking an evening of laughter, mild paranoia, and a journey that takes Harold’s life in a whole new direction. The movie’s trailer even teases audiences with a recipe.

“Hello Swinger Housewives, this is your kitchen guru,” a voice announces. “Put on your love beads, and we’ll pass on some clues to the grooviest cookbook ever. First, rummage through the shelves until you find something with a photo on it.”

The camera pans to show a box emblazoned with the words “Fudge Brownie”.

“Now pour it into the pot,” says the narrator, emphasizing the word “pot”. “Any old pot will do. Lay down an egg and a little ‘moo’. Now comes the magic moment. Stop and think, ‘Do we have a secret ingredient?’ Oh, have we have a secret ingredient.”

Next, Taylor-Young, as Nancy, sprinkles the contents of a spice container into the batter, much like a cook would add oregano to a pot of pasta sauce.

Dessert, the narrator promised, could add a “psychedelic edge to any occasion.”

The dessert, the narrator promises, could add a “psychedelic aspect to any occasion.” Even still, when pot brownies appear in movies and on television, they tend to create a now-cliched plot: an uptight or otherwise socially inhibited guest or partygoer accidentally indulges, causing them to become more loose and carefree. This inevitably changes their lives, at least to some extent, even if only in how they are perceived by others.

“Barney Miller”, “Degrassi”, “Eurotrip”, “Frasier”, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, “Shameless”, “That 70’s Show”, “This is 40” and “Yerba Buena” – for n to name just a few of many examples – all contain variations of this narrative formula.

Pot brownies (and that trope) hit the small screen in a particularly memorable way when home audiences were introduced to Christopher Lloyd as Jim Ignatowski in “Taxi.” As Marc Freeman wrote in The Hollywood Reporter, “Television had never seen a stoned relic of the 60s like Jim before.” The character was a street pastor who tended to space himself out, apparently due to his heavy drug use.

Viewers would eventually learn that Ignatowski had been something of a genius earlier in life. He was attending Harvard when a classmate offered him some of his “fun brownies,” and his life changed forever after that fateful first bite. It was as if his brain was shattered, and he went from writing dissertations analyzing Plutarch’s “Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans” to finger painting. “The typewriter seemed so impersonal,” he explained.

This two-part episode titled “The Road Not Taken” received critical acclaim. It aired in 1982, just months before pot brownies hit the headlines again, although for a very different reason. In December, Mary Jane Rathbun, perhaps better known as Brownie Mary, was arrested for the second time in as many years.


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Based on the New York Times bestseller “Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer’s Guide,” Rathbun had previously been arrested once after San Francisco police learned of her side business of selling edibles in her kitchen. At 57, “she already had a sweet, aged appearance and reporters were thrilled at the thought of a weed-throwing grandmother… Her arrest made national headlines.”

Instead of sending Rathbun to jail, a judge sentenced her to community service at San Francisco General Hospital, where she saw firsthand the first ravages of the AIDS epidemic. Before she was arrested again in 1982, Rathbun had started baking hundreds of pot brownies a day for AIDS patients, whom she called her “children,” to help maintain appetites and manage the pain.

Although Rathbun continued to be instrumental in advocating for the passage of Proposition 215, which made California the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, she never revealed her brownie recipe. “When and if they legalize it, I will sell my brownie recipe to Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines,” she once told a reporter. “Take the profits and buy an old Victorian house for my kids with AIDS.”

While Rathbun’s own recipe died with it in 1999, the pot brownie has managed to have tremendous cultural staying power. Christina Wong, the founder of the culinary cannabis brand Fruit + Flower, thinks there are several reasons for this phenomenon. First, even for the most novice home baker, brownies are relatively simple to make.

“You have to remember, for a very long time, there were no real ‘instructions,'” Wong told Salon Food in a phone interview. “Brownies have become part of oral history, they’ve been passed down…Brownies are accessible. Even if you mess them up, they still taste great. It’s hard to see any flaws.”

“The brownies became part of the oral history they were passed down.”

To that end, Wong said, the popularity of pot brownies can also be at least partially attributed to chocolate’s ability to mask the flavor of strong cannabis.

“In the past, people would take higher doses for medical reasons, which could result in a potent, strong flavor,” Wong said. “Chocolate is really good at masking some of that weedy taste.”

The idea that you could totally hide cannabis in brownies, which was featured in both “I Love You, Alice B. Toklas” and “Taxi,” continued to prove a popular medium for directors. cinema and television, despite the work of activists. like Rathbun to more publicly debunk the potential health benefits of cannabis.

However, according to Wong, there’s a growing movement within the cannabis edibles community to find more inventive ways to cook with cannabis that don’t involve completely masking its flavor. “I love a good pot brownie,” Wong said with a laugh. “But sometimes you can do better.”

Wong started with cannabis-infused chocolate chip cookies a few years ago. She’s since expanded her culinary horizons with infused deviled eggs, cannabis leaf pressed pasta, and an award-winning pineapple meringue pie.

“Why would you want to cover the flavor of something so beautiful, wonderful and delicious? »

“Funny, someone else had recently asked me the best way — or like tips and tricks — to cover the flavor of weed,” Wong said. “But why would you want to cover the flavor of something so beautiful, wonderful and delicious?”

Edible makers are increasingly looking for ways to accentuate the different notes of different types of cannabis, a process Wong calls “strain matching.” Evidence of this can be seen on unscripted cooking contests like “Bong Appétit” and “Chopped 420,” as well as cannabis supper clubs in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Portland.

It’s also evident at places like Wake-N-Bakery, where customers can order a “Double Dream Mocha, f**k it-strength, with oat milk” or a white chocolate raspberry scone. infused with THC. The choices are seemingly endless, and it’s all thanks, at least in part, to the humble pot brownie.

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