Short History of The Weed Brownie

Eating cannabis is a tradition as old as time, and the history of how these functional foods evolved and changed is fascinating.

Cannabis-infused brownies are the classic edible. But who invented the weed brownie?

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.

Who Invented The Weed Brownie?

This modern marijuana edibles era, so to speak, began in 1954, when an elderly lesbian, Alice B. Toklas, the life partner of Gertrude Stein, (the famous poet, art collector and influencer of Hemingway, Picasso and Matisse), published her infamous cookbook. Containing a recipe for “Haschich Fudge,” [sic] which was really more like a mahjoun or parking-lot goo ball, The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook re-introduced the notion of cooking with cannabis to mainstream Americans, and the idea of “pot brownies” stuck in the popular consciousness.

Despite the fact that the recipe is a mere half-paragraph long and is buried in hundreds of pages of text about crème brûlée and Paris, it became Toklas’s signature accomplishment, sparking great controversy and inspiring a flurry of cultural references over the next few decades. Her name made its way into the title for one of the earliest stoner flicks in cinema history, the highly sensationalized 1968 Peter Sellers film, I Love You, Alice B. Toklas.

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?

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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.

If you’re inspired by the delicious history of Alice and the hashish fudge, here’s a original 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 and peanuts: chop these and mix them together. A bunch of canibus sativa [sic] 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. Obtaining the canibus may present certain difficulties…. It should be picked and dried as soon as it has gone to seed and while the plant is still green.”

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