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“I Love You, Alice B. Toklas” – Marijuana Brownie Queen!

Culture | November 15, 2017

Leigh Taylor-Young flashing finger signs as Peter Sellers smiles in a scene from the film 'I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!', 1968. (Photo by Warner Brothers-Seven Arts/Getty)

Alice B. Toklas was a forward-thinking woman, years ahead of her time. She was born in 1877 and died in 1967, at the age of 90 years old. Toklas was known as an avant-garde (French for “advance guard.”) An avant-garde is a person that is radical and unorthodox regarding their expression of art forms, particularly in the cultural arena. These types of people are known for promoting radical ideas and social reform. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that Alice B. Toklas was a lesbian. Her life-partner was the American writer, Gertrude Stein.

Homosexuality has come to be widely accepted in many cultures today, but in Toklas’ day, it was not. It was a huge, shameful secret and not at all understood. Until the day she died, society frowned on her lifestyle. She used the arts to express herself and promote her ideas; known for her "salon" and her writing. She would be pleased to know that an organization founded in 1971 in San Francisco, CA was named after her; Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club.

One of the works Toklas was well-known for was, The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book, which was first published in 1954, several years before her death. The book was as much a personal memoir as it was a cookbook. One of her more famous recipes was a culinary experiment she created called, “Hashish Fudge,” which was actually marijuana brownies. The recipe called for spices, nuts, fruit and, yes… you guessed it… Cannabis!  She called it, “the food of paradise” and as you can imagine, it became quite popular.  She even went as far as to recommend places where the cook may be able to find the cannabis.   She noted that the fudge can “liven up any gathering.” She also cautioned that two pieces were more than enough, and a person should be prepared for hysterical fits of laughter and wild thoughts!

So, now that you have humored me with a short history lesson of Alice B. Toklas; you may remember that her famous cookbook played a major role the 1968 movie, “I Love You Alice B. Toklas,” starring Peter Sellers. The movie was named with Toklas’ famous marijuana brownie recipe in mind. It was a movie about an attorney named Harold (Sellers) who was pressured, by his secretary/fiancée, into setting a wedding date. The fiancée, named Joyce (Joyce Van Patten), was somewhat of a “bimbo".

After having a car accident, Harold found himself driving a “hippie” car; a psychedelic station wagon. He ran into his hippie brother, Herbie (David Arkin), at the funeral of the family’s butcher. Herbie’s girlfriend, Nancy (Leigh Taylor-Young), was an authentic flower child and had her eye on Harold. Nancy whipped up a batch of Alice B. Toklas’ marijuana brownies for Harold but failed to inform him of the secret ingredient. Harold then proceeded to share the treat with the bimbo and both of his parents. As the recipe promised, they all broke out in a wave of silliness and hysterical laughter!

After enjoying the effects of the marijuana brownies, Harold decided that the hippie lifestyle wasn’t so bad. He gave up his straight-laced life, broke off his engagement, leaving Joyce at the altar, and hooked up with his brother’s girlfriend. Before too long, Harold realized that he wasn’t any happier being a hippie than he was being a respectable attorney. When he realized that Nancy was of the impression that being monogamous “wasn’t hip”, he decided to go back to Joyce and follow through with the wedding plan. Once he again, he changed his mind and left Joyce at the altar. He just couldn’t figure out what he wanted.

The movie was a hysterical romantic comedy. Other characters in the movie included a large Mexican family, all wearing neck braces after being involved in an automobile accident. There were also (fraternal) twin Cantors ready to perform at the wedding(s); also wearing neck braces; after all, Harold was an attorney! The cast was incredibly funny and Sellers pulled off a stellar performance. I will note, also, that Alice B. Toklas claimed that the famous recipe was given to her by a friend, but she will always be known for introducing the world to the groovy brownies in her famous cookbook.

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.