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Cookbook Club: The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook

2 Dec

Sometimes a great cookbook is actually equal parts science fiction, fantasy and romance. That is sort of how I feel when I am reading the recipes of Alice B. Toklas. If you like anecdotes about hanging out with Gertrude Stein in France and being served seven courses of butter and cream on exquisite china and crystal, look no further. I can’t say I’m about to attempt any of these recipes tonight, mainly because most of them involve 7 sticks of butter and/or a leg of mutton. Real talk guys, I’m not even entirely sure what mutton is. I know I could just google it, but I have a feeling I don’t even want to know. Isn’t mutton like hot dog meat strapped to a bone? I don’t know, it sounds terrible.

Other highlights of this ¬†book include a description of Picasso’s dietary restrictions and a recipe for a fish painted like a tiger that apparently Picasso was super into one time. Now you know what to make next time old Pabs comes over! Also, there is a recipe for Brownies con Marijuana that the liar who wrote the forward in 1984 claims never to have tried, but she has “heard” from “people” they have a slightly bitter taste. Stop lying lady! I know you were alive and grown in the 60’s! I would respect you more if you told the truth.

There are several recipes for olde timey ice cream that make my mouth water and I shall perhaps attempt one for a Christmas time treat. In particular, one called Singapore Ice Cream, featuring vanilla bean with chunks of ginger and pistachios, is kind of haunting my dreams a little bit. I may need to borrow somebody else’s kitchen to even attempt such an endeavor, but I will certainly let you know, dear reader, how that goes.

However, I should stress that the Alice B. Toklas Cookbook is not all fun and decadence. The book also carries memories of the second World War and the lean times Alice and Gertrude shared while living in occupied France. During the war, rations were slim and Alice had to be pretty creative to get the most out of everything they had. I can relate to the philosophy, but I’m not about to go out and butcher a couple of pigs, salt them and live off of them for an entire winter and into the Spring. But wouldn’t it be romantic if I did?