Mahjoun (circa 1,000 A.D.)

Morocco boasts an uninterrupted hashish-making culture as old as any wine region, particularly in and around the Rif Mountains, where Berber villages have been cultivating cannabis and dry-sifting it into potent concentrates using traditional methods for countless generations. The Berbers are also credited with creating and popularizing mahjoun (sometimes mahjoum or mazhoum), a 1,000-year old recipe for a hashish-powered edible that’s the spiritual and psychoactive heir of the modern goo-ball.

Much as every Italian grandmother holds fast to the family’s secret recipe for tomato gravy, a Moroccan family would have their own unique way to prepare mahjoun.

When Tangiers became a popular destination for American literary ex-pats in the 1950s, writers including William Burroughs and Paul Bowles popularized mahjoun among fellow travelers by extolling its many splendors in their writing. But don’t think of mahjoun as a single recipe, so much as a basic set of techniques and ingredients upon which to build a unique take. Much as every Italian grandmother holds fast to the family’s secret recipe for tomato gravy, a Moroccan family would have their own unique way to prepare mahjoun.

This version begins with the traditional thick paste of figs, dates, hashish butter, and ground nuts, then coats them in savory-sweet-spicy flavorings like honey, rosewater, sea salt, turmeric, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, and lavender.

Club Des Hashischins

weed edible #3: Club Des Hashischins(ktasimarr/iStock)

In 1840, Dr Jacques-Joseph Moreau, a leading French psychiatrist, read a scientific article that claimed Egyptians were impervious to diseases that plagued Europeans because they consumed hashish. His curiosity piqued, Dr. Moreau acquired a sample. After trying it himself a couple of times, he decided to devise a grand experiment.

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He put out invitations to Paris’s leading writers and artists. Soon the Club des Hashischins (Hashish Club) would meet for the first time, eventually drawing in Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, Charles Baudelaire, and many other members of the French intelligentsia. They were served a carefully-dosed blend of strong coffee, hashish, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, pistachio, orange juice, cantharides, sugar, and butter that they called dawameska, in honor of the concoction’s Middle Eastern origins.

As one attendee described the experience:

“The doctor stood by a buffet on which lay a platter filled with small Japanese saucers. He spooned a morsel of paste or greenish jam about as large as a thumb from a crystal vase, and placed it next to the silver spoon on each saucer. The doctor’s face radiated enthusiasm; his eyes glittered, his purple cheeks were aglow, the veins in his temples stood out strongly, and he breathed heavily through dilated nostrils. ‘This will be deducted from your share in Paradise,’ he said as he handed me my portion…”

The doctor was of course Jacques-Joseph Moreau, whose personal experiments with hashish would eventually lead him to pioneer the study of how drugs affect the central nervous system, and write a 439-page book called Hashish and Mental Illness. The Club des Hashischins basically served as his stoned guinea pigs.

Alice B. Toklas Brownies

weed edible #4: Alice B. Toklas Brownies(eddieberman/iStock)

The most famous cannabis edible recipe in history started as a prank!

During the 1920s, Alice B. Toklas and her lifelong partner Gertrude Stein played host to one of Paris’s most famed salons, a gathering place for painters, writers, and intellectuals, including soon-to-be world-renown names like Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Henri Matisse and Ezra Pound. But when Stein—an accomplished novelist, poet, playwright and art collector in her own right—died in 1946, French law prevented her estate from going to Toklas, despite the women’s long-term committed relationship over many decades.

As Toklas stared down an impending deadline for the cookbook, Gysin slipped her a recipe for “Hashish Fudge,” made from spices, nuts, fruit, and “canibus.”

And so originally, The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook was conceived as a kind of crowdsourced fundraising project. By peppering in her memoirs and remembrances from the salon, and soliciting recipes from many of the couple’s famous friends, Toklas hoped to produce a culinary reference that would appeal to those seeking a taste of Parisian café society for themselves, while providing herself a little nest egg to live on.

Avant-garde artist Brion Gysin, however, who’d traveled extensively in Morocco and no doubt tasted his share of mahjoun (see above), decided to kick things up a notch. As Toklas stared down an impending deadline for the cookbook, Gysin slipped her a recipe for “Hashish Fudge,” made from spices, nuts, fruit, and “canibus,” very much in the style of mahjoun.

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Totally unaware of the fudge’s higher implications, Toklas added the recipe to her cookbook, an inclusion which sparked a media scandal upon its original publication in France (1954) and led to its bestseller status. The first American edition of the book prudishly omitted the offending recipe, but a later edition was published in the early 1960s with the Hashish Fudge restored. Beatniks and later hippies naturally passed the recipe around like so many doobies, popularizing the “pot brownie” forever after. It also led to the highly underrated 1968 film I Love You Alice B. Toklas, starring the inimitable Peter Sellers.