Alice B. Toklas truly stirred the pot when she included a recipe for hashish fudge in her memoir-cum-cookbook. She published The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook in 1954, following the death of her lifelong partner, Gertrude Stein. Along with personal musings, it contained recipes primarily for French cuisine but it was the inclusion of the Moroccan cannabis confection that caused controversy. The recipe appeared in the British version; however, Harpers opted to omit it when it was published it in the United States.
In an interview on Pacifica Radio in 1963, Toklas recalled its inclusion as innocuous, “The recipe was innocently included without my realizing that the hashish was the accented part of the recipe.” She added, “I was shocked to find that America wouldn’t accept it because it was too dangerous.”
In the early 1960s, a second edition was published in the United States containing the hashish fudge recipe. It was embraced by hippie culture and referenced in the 1968 film, I Love You Alice B. Toklas. In it, Peter Sellers’ character goes from strait-laced to pot-laced when he is seduced by a hippie and her hash brownies.
Though it declared love for Toklas, it might have been apt for the film to extend the sentiment to writer and avant-garde artist Brion Gysin. Based in Morocco, Gysin can be credited not just with introducing the Rolling Stones to the country; he also provided the hashish fudge recipe.
Its inclusion was a last minute addition to the book. With her book’s deadline mere months away and having space to fill, Toklas decided to get by with a little help from her friends. She asked those from her social circle to contribute some of their own recipes. Unbeknownst to Toklas, Gysin’s contribution was also a way to get high with a little help from her friends. Apparently, Toklas was unaware of what “canibus” (which is how Gysin spelled it) was and had no time to test out the recipes her friends submitted so she sent it to her publisher, oblivious to any controversy it might cause.
The film made it synonymous with brownies but Gysin’s fudge recipe contains no chocolate whatsoever. It more closely resembles majoun, an ancient confection that is still found in countries including India, Iran, and Morocco. Sometimes compared to Turkish delight, the recipe may vary but usually contains a mixture of dried fruit, cannabis, nuts, and spices.
Gysin wasn’t the only expat living in Morocco to embrace majoun. Writer and friend of Gysin, William S. Burroughs, once described a novel he was working on as “long majoun parentheses” in a letter from Tangier. Adding to the list of influential writers under the influence of majoun, Paul Bowles told Rolling Stone, “Oh I wrote with it a great deal. In fact, I used it consciously in most of the books. In The Sheltering Sky, I got to the death scene and I didn’t feel up to tackling it, so I ate a lot of majoun and just lay back that afternoon and the next day I had it resolved.”
(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 ?vanouissement reveill?’.
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.
Image Credit: This beautiful illustration is courtesy of artist Natacha Ledwidge, whose work can be seen in the Folio version of the Alice B. Toklas Cookbook.