Sunday, June 15, 2008

Alice B. Toklas Brownies

I was surprised recently in my relentless pursuit of Beat scholarship to learn of a connection between Brion Gyson, who invented and later taught William Burroughs the cut-up technique, and Alice B. Toklas, who was Gertrude Stein’s long-time companion and muse.

Even more surprisingly the connection turns out to revolve around a recipe for ‘Haschisch Brownies’ which Toklas (apparently unwittingly) included in her 1954 cookbook - a recipe that was actually given to her by Gyson…

Here is Gyson's joking description of the cakes:

“This is the food of paradise—of Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradise: it might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR. In Morrocco 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 evanouissement reveille!”

It may be a little too late for a weekend treat to bake the brownies tonight, but if you insist 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 de-stoned dates, dried figs, shelled almonds and peanuts: chop these and mix them together. A bunch of cannabis sativa can be pulverized. 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.

In pop culture these so-called 'Alice B Toklas brownies' gave rise to ample references, not least the title and main plot device of the 1968 Peter Sellers farce, I Love You, Alice B. Toklas... This clip can (possibly) also be enjoyed without having partaken of any sort of cookie shaped stimulant:

If not, you can always grab a Big Mac: