October 12, 2015
*Photography courtesy of Povy Kendal Atchison/The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook
How to Infuse Your Thanksgiving Dinner
The fourth Thursday of November is a special time for carnivorous folk, an awkward time for vegetarians, but alas these two groups can sit at the same table and set aside their culinary differences while paying homage to a tradition that dates back to the early 17th century. We can certainly agree to disagree over what should be eaten, yet it’s hard to disagree over something that just tastes really, really good. Renowned cook and author of the recently published The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook Robyn Lawrence has plenty to say on the matter, so we sat down and asked her a few questions on how to infuse your Thanksgiving dinner in the most tasteful way.
Unlike some of the other cookbooks that focus on dishes that solely ‘get you high’, your book explores dishes that actually go well with the taste of cannabis. How did you go about discovering these dishes and did you collaborate with anyone?
When my gynecologist prescribed medical marijuana to ease the symptoms of dysmenorrhea in 2009, I was a complete neophyte. I had no idea that cannabis came in so many complex varieties, potencies, and flavors (not just schwag or kindbud) as well as the world of edibles. I began to see it as a superfood, a medicinal ingredient—not just something to be stuffed into a pipe and smoked—and I wanted to experiment with making my own cannabis food. But I didn’t have a Joy of Cooking to tell me how to do it. Online, I found everyone’s opinions about how to cook with cannabis, and I ended up a little bit terrified: I could burn up three hundred dollars worth of cannabis in butter or send a friend to the emergency room with overdosed cookies!
The answers weren’t online, so I found real live experts: 12 chefs from coast to coast—masters of flavor who share my passion for organic, nutritionally balanced food as medicine—and they taught me foolproof techniques for infusing butter and oil, how to pace myself and friends with cannabis food, and how to find personal dosage levels. Like me, these chefs are interested in playing with cannabis flavor, and they generously shared recipes that they’ve been developing for decades. This book is truly a collective of the best wisdom out there—the book I needed so that I and others could cook safely, responsibly, and elegantly with cannabis.
Out of all of these dishes, have you discovered a particular culture (i.e. Italian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, French) that best suits cannabis infused dishes?
Funny, we have dishes representing all of those countries in this cookbook! The cannabis flavor can easily get overwhelmed in garlicky Italian dishes, so that’s a good style to choose if you don’t like the flavor. Indians, of course, have been cooking with cannabis for centuries, so we had to include renditions of the classic bhang and majoon.
You talk about finding your comfort zone with respect to the level of infusion, so is there an amount (of oil, tincture or butter) that you recommend as the maximum for someone who’s brand new to eating infused foods? Would you give them any particular advice about how to start?
This is so important! I devoted an entire chapter to dosing and how to prevent overindulging because no one wants this to happen! Eating too much cannabis infused food can lead to heart-pounding anxiety, paranoia and terror. You won’t die, but you might feel like you are. For this reason, I also included tips on what to do if you eat too much. All too often, unfortunately, frequent cannabis users think they have the tolerance to eat more cannabis food than they should eat. Tolerance levels are completely different between inhaled and edible cannabis because of the THC delivery process.
This cookbook offers many different infusion recipes, ranging from mild to potent cannabis concentrations for readers with different tolerance levels. Unless you’ve already tried a cannabis dish or have your cannabis tested for THC content (and even then, there are factors beyond your control), you can’t predict how it will affect you—no matter what your tolerance. An ounce of Golden Goat from one grower can have wildly different potency levels than an ounce of the same strain from another grower. Potency levels can even vary in a strain with the exact same genetics grown at different times by the same grower. Consider any food made with cannabis that hasn’t been independently tested to be potent—and eat it that way. Test cannabis food in small amounts on yourself and only yourself. Never rely on someone else’s opinion.
Everyone’s tolerance is different, but the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division’s standard dose per serving is 10 milligrams, which most people compare to having one beer, glass of wine, or cocktail. That number’s still too high for the Council on Responsible Cannabis Regulation, which recommends in its “First Time 5” campaign that new cannabis consumers should eat just five milligrams.
Since Thanksgiving is coming up soon, what recommendations do you have for this annual feast of feasts?
We have so many festive recipes in The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook, from champagne cocktails to roasted chicken and sweet potatoes. And the fact is, once you’ve managed to master infusions, you could use infused butter or oil to “spice up” many of your favorite traditional recipes. Just don’t overdo it! While it can be tempting to infuse everything on the plate, you’ll likely render your guests comatose if you do. That doesn’t make for a fun celebration.
I think the best way to add cannabis to a holiday meal is with infused side dishes, sauces and dressings. That way, everyone has control over their own destinies (they can add a lot, a little or none) and you can serve people of different tolerance levels. Offer a non-infused version of cannabis dishes for non-imbibers. I like to keep the focus away from alcohol—cannabis and alcohol don’t mix well for many people—for a peaceful, relaxing holiday celebration.
Are there specific strains that you prefer to work with that make great infused foods?
It really depends on what I’m making. I grow my own plants, from heirloom seeds that my sweetheart has been saving for 30 years, so I make most of my infusions with freshly harvested and processed Afghani. This is a heavy indica, however, so I wouldn’t recommend it for daytime use.
The cookbook includes a chart of the chefs’ favorite strains as well as up-and-coming new boutique strains that are all delicious in food. When I have the luxury of playing with a new strains, I like to pair it with the recipe I’m making….a fruity sativa such as Pineapple Express, Super Lemon Haze or Sweet Island Skunk is great with sweets and desserts; for savory dishes, I like Jack Herer and White Widow. Super Silver Haze is a popular strain that adds a nutty flavor that can work in many dishes.
What are some of the dishes we can expect to see in your newly released book and where can we buy a copy?
The book includes more than 100 recipes, and it’s so hard to pick favorites! To give a sense of the variety, it includes several juicing recipes; Lemon, Poppy Seed and Cannabis Pancakes; Good Morning Sativa Chai; Wild Mushroom, Cannabis and Hazelnut Pate with Apple, Bacon and Sage; Sesame-Crusted, Cannabis-Seared Ahi Tuna with Wasabi, Soy, Cannabis and Citrus Sauce; Fresh Fan Leaf Pesto; Cinnamon-Cannabis Roasted Sweet Potatoes; Cannabis and Matcha Crème Brulee; Fresh Cannabis Flower Guacamole; Haystack Hash Cookies; and a Cannabis Coconut Mojito.
This mouth-watering and exquisite book can be purchased on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and local bookstores nationwide. We highly recommend you get your hands on a copy so that you can enjoy infused cannabis foods!