When it comes to edibles, there’s nothing more iconic than the weed brownie. In today’s cannabis culture, a weed brownie doesn’t necessarily mean plain and simple. Examples of the weed brownie range from gourmet and healthy, to celebrity chef baked, to things that aren’t even brownies at all. One thing is for certain: there are few marriages more iconic than chocolate and weed. But where did this illustrious tradition come from? Who invented the weed brownie? We may never know who cooked the first cannabis snack (we’ve been getting high for a long, long time). But we do know, however, who published the first weed brownie recipe.
Many believe it was Alice B. Toklas who invented the weed brownie. Flashback to 1950s Paris. Alice B, Toklas, writer and partner to fellow famous writer Gertrude Stein, published her notorious cookbook: The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook.
Hidden among recipes for chicken and green mashed potatoes is Toklas’ famous Hashish Fudge, also known as the first pot brownie recipe. The recipe contains coriander, cinnamon, dates, almonds, peanuts and, of course, cannabis sativa. Alice counsels her reader, “Two pieces are quite sufficient.”
Hashish fudge is forever linked to Toklas through the Peter Sellers movie, I Love You, Alice B. Toklas, which involves a lot of pot brownies.
Other references to Alice B. Toklas abound in popular culture, and usually use her cookbook—and her name—to suggest pot brownies. But was it Alice B. Tolkas who invented the weed brownie included in her cookbook?
When asking who invented the first weed brownie, one is lead to another famous literary figure: Brion Gysin. Gysin was a surrealist about whom William Burroughs explains, “Brion Gysin was the only man I ever respected,” in an interview with The Guardian.
Gysin is also credited with inventing the cut-up writing technique. This is when you rearrange words and passages in a text to create a new one. He was one creative guy.
It was also Gysin who invented the weed brownie as we know it from Tolkas’ cookbook. In addition to his wacky surrealist art and his friendship with William Burroughs, Gysin contributed his hashish fudge recipe to The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook. Toklas, who had never made the brownies herself, did not know what cannabis sativa was at the time.
According to Gysin’s own book, Brion Gysin: Tuning into the Multimedia Age, he gave Tolkas the recipe as a joke. Its inclusion in the book’s final publication was a mistake. But what a mistake it was! So was it Gysin who invented the weed brownie?
It would seem that Gysin’s knowledge of hashish fudge came from his time in Northern Africa. During his short-lived stint as owner of a restaurant called the 1001 Nights, Gysin discovered cannabis, which was more popular in Morocco than in Europe at the time.
Gysin gave Toklas the recipe for hashish fudge brownies in the same year that he opened his restaurant in Tangiers. But who invented the weed brownie originally?
We may never know who invented the weed brownie, just as we will never know who took the first toke. However, we do understand that Alice B. Toklas, though synonymous with weed brownies, neither thought of the recipe nor indulged in marijuana.
Yet her famed weed brownie is entrenched in trans-continental history. If anything, Tolkas’ weed brownie exemplifies how weed has bolstered the creativity and inspired the surrealists to the beat poets, and the right edible can do the same today.