Culinary Cannabis Culture - Beyond Baked

Edibles. Many things may cross the average person’s mind when they hear that word. Typically, images of inexperienced stoners haphazardly throwing some hastily procured herbs into a box of Betty Crocker brownie mix. Or possibly you’ve had a negative experience with a store-bought product that you may have had too large of a dose of. It happens to the best of us. However, these days the idea of cannabis in food has a much broader scope. It’s no longer the days of unmeasured, hope for the best type of edibles. In fact, many people are doing interesting things with CBD and isolating terpenes to infuse into oils to drizzle over starter plates or pasta dishes. That’s right, people are isolating parts of the cannabis plant that have no psychoactive properties and using them in their cooking simply to impart the flavor of the plant itself into their food. Things have come a long way since the days of your weird uncle’s “special brownies.”  Check out some of these awesome ways chefs have been incorporating cannabis into foods recently. From some modern heavy hitters reminiscent of the couch lock munchies back in the day to some more finessed, light-handed uses.

 

The earliest known mentions of cannabis infused food and drinks date back to around 2000 BC in countries like India and Northern Africa. In India, there is a cannabis-infused drink called Bhang. It’s made with cannabis, yogurt, nuts, spices, and rose water. In the Berber tribes of Northern Africa in the 11th century, a cannabis infused jam called Majoun was widely consumed for its medicinal qualities. It was made with cannabis, nuts and seeds, honey, dates, and figs. As far as in print, cannabis-infused edibles first made their way to Europe around 1465 in a cookbook with a title that translates to “On Honorable Pleasure and Health.” As far as the United States is concerned, the first widely circulated print recipe including cannabis was in the early 1960s in a cookbook by Alice B. Toklas. It was a recipe for “hashish fudge.” This is the recipe that went on to become the “special brownies” your uncle keeps going on and on about. They have taken on many different forms throughout the decades, but they have all been inspired by this recipe.

 

Let’s take a trip back to the 1960s. Your parents have left for the weekend and your best friend just showed up with a big bag of grass. He starts rolling up a tray full of doobies (because it was so weak back then, you needed a bunch of it to get stoned) as you start calling your other homies to come over and listen to your new records and get baked. With friends on the way and joints rolled, you head to the kitchen to start whipping up some baked goods for the event. You start grinding up some herb and mixing it into the brownie mix. It should be noted that this is not the proper way to make special brownies. However, decarboxylation wasn’t exactly widely known knowledge back then, and the heat of the brownies cooking was usually enough to activate the bud. You wait about 45 minutes and finally, the ding that tells you you’re almost ready to get stoned. Your friends show up right as you’re taking your chunky, chewy, chocolate dream bars out of the oven. Still warm. While this may not sound like a terrible time even today, we have the technology and the know how to do things with a bit more class these days.

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Over the years, one of the big issues people ran into with edibles was dosage. We’ve all experienced eating an edible that we were assured would be the perfect dose Then, maybe 45 minutes later you find yourself wondering if you should eat more because you’re not feeling anything. You decide to eat another, and only a few minutes later the first one kicks in with a mean ferocity and now all you can think about is the fact that you just ate another one. Nobody enjoys the existential moments that decisions like this can lead to, and for that reason, we have developed many ways to dose our edibles more accurately and better control the effects. One of the main ways this is done is by utilizing cannabis extracts instead of just the flower itself. A cannabis extract can easily be tested for potency and then measured out in predetermined quantities for a more controlled experience. This is especially important today, as legalization from state to state comes with strict dosage levels along with accurate testing. Some people have even taken the extraction and dosage to new heights, or more accurately, new lows.

 

In today’s modern era of cannabis and cannabis consumption, getting absolutely wrecked high isn’t always the goal. In fact, some people have learned that isolating the terpenes of specific strains of cannabis can lead to unique and enjoyable flavor experiences while dining without feeling any of the plant’s psychoactive effects whatsoever. But why would anyone want to eat a cannabis derived meal without getting high? Well, in the same way that other dried and fresh herbs can add a boost of flavor to your food, cannabis uses the same chemical properties to infuse foods with its unique flavor profiles. These are called terpenes and they are in everything we eat. Many diners have found that cannabis terpenes can enhance their dining experience while supporting the cannabis industry and not having to worry about taking an Uber home. This practice is currently being used primarily in high end eateries in New York and Los Angeles, but it is slowly becoming a popular practice and will likely be common in the next few years. There are even some newer drinkable products like cannabis mixed drinks that use cannabis to replace alcohol, seltzers, sodas, and syrups you can mix into your own beverages.

 

There you have it. Edibles are much more today than they were in the days of tossing a handful of herb into a mixing bowl with some boxed brownie powder. While those heavy handed, couch lock style edibles likely aren’t going anywhere for good, the door is opening for those that are interested in a more subtle, classier edible experience. Even those who don’t have or want any experience with the psychoactive cannabis experience can now enjoy the different flavor profiles that strains have to offer. One thing is for sure. The future holds many more changes in the world of cannabis consumption.

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