A Brief Recent History of Marijuana Cookbooks

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Stoners, the wait is over: This week, Publishers Marketplace announced that High Times is releasing The Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook, so that all you space cake-lovers will finally be able to make magic baked goods that don’t taste like charred drugs. It’s unclear what the cookbook will contain as of yet — just THC-infused recipes or things on the munchies end of the scale as well? — but it’s only the latest contribution in a trend of haute cannabis cuisine. In fact, on the latest season of Top Chef, Tom Colicchio complimented one contestant by calling their dish a total stoner hit. Before you know it, there’ll be a mash-up of Mastering the Art of French Cooking with “The Dummies Guide to Growing.” But until that day comes, we’re doing our part to sate your cravings with our brief and incomplete history of marijuana cookbooks, after the jump.

Cooking with Cannabis by Adam Gottlieb

As any good weed historian knows, hemp and its related products has been used in food for centuries — as medicine in Rome and China, and as food in Arabia as early as 900 AD. But as far as we know, there are few classic cookbooks (cook-scrolls?) from those times, and, even if they existed, we’re guessing that hemp nut gruel wouldn’t be that awesome. The modern era’s classic bingus tomes didn’t begin cropping up until the 1960s and 1970s, and Adam Gottlieb’s The Art and Science of Cooking with Cannabis is one of the seminal references. Published in 1974, it’s now in the third edition, and gives advice on how to get the most out of your purple haze. The recipes aren’t particularly revolutionary — the tastiest-looking thing is probably the hashish candy — but the foundational techniques were taken to heart by a generation of cannabis cooks to come.

Brownie Mary’s Marijuana Cookbook and Dennis Peron’s Recipe for Social Change by Mary Rathbun and Dennis Peron

Mary Rathbun — aka “Brownie Mary” — was a San Francisco-based hospital volunteer who became famous as a medical marijuana activist, a grandmother who kept getting thrown in the clink for distributing her patented “Alice B. Toklas” brownies. She founded one of the first medical marijuana dispensaries in California, along with Dennis Peron, as well as working with AIDS patients on San Francisco hospitals in the 1980s. This 1996 book is really mostly a biography of Rathbun, along with Peron’s manifesto for legalization of weed and a few scattered recipes.

Stir Crazy: Cooking with Cannabis by the Bobcat Press

The late ’90s saw a boom of stoner literature and manuals, including a smattering of cookbooks aimed at the Dazed and Confused set. There was Stir Crazy, but also

by the excellently pseudonym-ed Dan D. Lyon, along with a host of others. These books came closer to actual cookbooks than their predecessors, rather than simply manuals to the proper way to get really, really high. Stir Crazy focuses on the dessert end of the spectrum: the only real innovative item is a magic flapjack. Gourmet Cannabis actually offered up more substantial fare, moving into the realm of main courses and appetizers.

Marijuana Cooking: Good Medicine Made Easy by Bliss Cameron and Veronica Greene

As the 2000s moved towards the organic and gourmet for everyday folks — and Food Network and Top Chef brought master cookery to the masses — so went marijuana cookery. Cookbooks in the mid-2000s focused on marijuana’s health benefits, designed for medical weed patients as well as body-conscious yuppie-hippies. One example of this period is Marijuana Cooking, which echoes many of the previous cookbooks in its advice for technique and dosage. But rather than xeroxed pamphlets of brightly-colored “alternative” press stylings, this is a cookbook that cookbook collectors will recognize, full of lush images and delicate typesets. The recipes are a departure from “freaky brownies,” entering into the realm of luscious-sounding Honey Whole Wheat Banana Bread and Marijuana Leaf Sugar Cookies.

The Cannabis Cookbook: Over 35 Tasty Recipes for Meals, Munchies, and More by Tim Pilcher

The most recent cookbooks veer one of two ways: toward marijuana as a strict medicine, with recipes on how to make it into baked goods in order to mask the flavor and take an amount that will rid you of pain (See: The Feel-Good Cookbook by Dr. Robert Appleton, Jr.) and those that treat pot as a luxury ingredient, like wine, scotch, or Meyer lemon marmalade. The Cannabis Cookbook is what would happen if an alternate version of Rachael Ray decided to make some THC-laced snacks, incorporating pot into everything from breakfast wraps to sandwiches to full-on feasts. Both waves are working to incorporate weed into the mainstream, the first through a strictly bio-chemical basis, the second through a culinary standpoint. A sign of the times? Maybe.

Tell us what we left out in the comments.