PAGE SIX; COLUMN
NEAT EATS, TREATS AND SWEETS
In a world where goosing the cook is always more fun than
cooking the goose, our Giggling Gourmet brings new levels
of culinary confusion to your kitchen. With his marinade
(sorry, it's an English joke) and his meringues soft, the best
thing that can be said about our own Gordon Blue is that he
never passes out over the MasterChef
A LITTLE SOMETHING TO DIGEST
Greetings gourmets, gastronomes and gluttons. And welcome to my new column in this gastronomically barren publication. As you may have gathered I shall be telling you all about interesting and unusual things you can do with your excess grass. None of these interesting things will involve any unusual orifices. Personally, I think that if you have excess grass you should put it into a plain manila envelope and send it to me. But that is, as I said, just a personal point of view. I know that most of you will want to get more out of your grass than some good karma and lots of gratitude. And thats where I come in.
..Cannabis and food have been together for as long as cannabis and smoking. As a plant, cannabis qualifies very strongly in the herbal/spice stakes. Depending on the type of cannabis product and on how it is processed, it can have a strongly distinctive and spicy taste that lends itself well to certain comestibles. And, in every cannabis growing country of the world, there is a lexicon of traditional recipes in which cannabis is the key ingredient. Although many of these are sweetmeats and cakes, cannabis is versatile enough be used in all manner of savoury dishes.
..And, indeed, in drinks. One of the best known cannabis concoctions is the infamous bhang lassi. Rarely seen outside of India, on the ancient sub-continent it is an easily available treat that has a real reputation. Few of those who have had the bhang lassi experience forget it. Usually because they cant actually remember it in the first place. Ah, the majestic power of the bhang lassi.
..Let us be clear, however, cooking with cannabis is not like other kinds of cooking. Indeed, it is an art unto itself. This is not a matter of getting the nutients and carbohydrates that propel the body through life into the system. The only real nutrients in foods containing cannabis are ones that affect the mind. And the amount of roughage is negligible. Cooking with contraband involves a whole new set of rules and attitudes to food. The whole point of cooking with cannabis is to get as much of the vital ingredient into ones system as fast as possible. And that turns the act of eating on its head. Although grass can be added to almost any dish, it works best when it is not bulked out with other ingredients. That is why, traditionally, grass is used in small tasty snacks rather than in main courses.
..Ingesting cannabis, or its active ingredient, THC, though the digestive tract is a rather different process to smoking it and it has rather different effects. Smoking grass produces a fairly immediate and controllable high. It lasts for a couple of hours and if it starts to decline one has only to take a couple more tokes to get it all back. When individual capacity is reached, there are many telltale signs -- like falling asleep on your girlfriends chest -- that tell you it is time to stop.
..Eating cannabis is totally different. The high from eating is far from instantaneous. Even on an empty stomach, a grass-laced cookie will take between 15 minutes and an hour to hit. And when the high starts it will not be the in at the deep end experience like that produced by smoking. The high will take about an hour to develop fully and will last between four and eight hours, maybe longer. Not only will it be of much longer duration than a smoking high but it will be far more intense. If ever you want to run cannabis through its hallucinogenic credentials, the way to do it is through eating rather than smoking it. Afterwards, you will never doubt that cannabis qualifies for its place in the pantheon of psychotropic substances.
..The high derived from eating cannabis is not dissimilar from a trip. It is rather less psychedelic, there are fewer hallucinations, it is somewhat less ecstatic (or nightmarish) but one is definitely somewhere else. And, like a trip, when you are there you are there. Taken in sensible quantities, that is fine. One will have an intense and very enjoyable experience. It is, however, easy to overdose when eating cannabis.
..The propensity for cannabis ODs -- a virtually unheard of phenomenon in the smoking world -- when it is eaten comes down to the way the substance is absorbed into the system. Not merely the way it is absorbed, however, but also what exactly goes into the system, what active chemicals you get from the cannabis.
..The active ingredient in cannabis, as we all know, is THC. However, THC is the decarboxylated derivative of the non-psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinolic acid. The transformation of THC acid into psychoactive THC, takes place through drying. The acid, however comes in many forms and not all are converted during the drying process. Some of the remaining acids are converted through the application of heat during the smoking process but many remain unconverted or are too volatile to withstand the heat and merely burn up without converting and are lost.
..The heat applied to cannabis when cooking with it is quite different to that applied with a flame. If THC acids are heated to boiling point for nice long time in a oxygen free environment, all of the acids will convert. This means that the grass gets stronger, more potent. Traditionally cannabis cookery involves sautéing the cannabis in butter, oil or milk. The medium in which the cannabis is heated protects it from the air while the heat does its work.
..The simple rule here is too much heat can destroy THC potency while normal temperatures can increase it.
..Cooking cannabis in an oily medium is not only for the conversion of acids. It is also a big aid to the assimilation of the active ingredients. THC is always much more easily assimilated if it is dissolved in fats or alcohol first. When fats or alcohol are taken into the digestive tract, the digestive processes are naturally stimulated. Without that stimulation there may not be enough digestive fluids in the stomach to break down the substance containing the THC.
Even on an empty stomach, the process of digestion can mean a wait of an hour or more before an appreciable high is experienced. When the stomach has other food it is digesting, the wait can be much, much longer.
..Even for experienced smokers, the wait for the high can seem like forever. Even on a totally empty stomach it is going to be an hour before you feel much and that can be a long hour for those used to an instant hit from a joint. On a stomach with some food in it, the wait will be two hours. And on a full stomach something like four hours. Those who know, make sure that their stomach is empty and wait patiently for the high to come on. If they are wise they resist the temptation to help the high along with some more cannabis-cookie. If you dont know, it is possible to eat ten times too much and more before the first effects of the high are felt. In such a situation, an intense experience goes into overload and unconsciousness for up to 48 hours may result. If you are on holiday in Amsterdam, passing out for two days on the street is bound to lose you friends.
..Although in Amsterdam, many coffeeshops sell space cake, it is a practice that is somewhat frowned upon by the authorities and on Queens Day, in a rare piece of festive rule application, citizens selling cannabis foodstuffs are given a warning. Too many people, it seems fall foul of the wait for the high or just arent expecting its intensity and freak out.
..Cooking with cannabis is not something one does for sustenance. It is an act of hedonism not necessity. And, indeed, it is good to keep it away from meal times altogether. There are many recipes for main course dishes that involve cannabis but, like dropping it on a full stomach, they should be avoided. Ingested with a large amount of bulk food, the cannabis content is just a small part of a much larger nutrient mix that must be processed by the digestive system. Although the THC will be absorbed by the system it will be a slow process. Only one third of the food will have been assimilated during the first three to four hours. This will produce an initial high. Another third will be absorbed over the next six to eight hours and will help to maintain the high somewhat (but that doesnt mean you will be high for 12 hours.) And a full third will not be assimilated at all and will pass through the system. It will be the most expensive dump youve ever had.
..It is for these reasons that this column is called Neat Eats, Treats and Sweets because that is mostly what I will be giving recipes for. But there is no space for any of those in this issue. Even in the next issue I doubt I will get to the recipes. But I will be giving you some very thorough instructions for processing your contraband. So think of me in the kitchen, wearing my gingham apron, as I slave over a hot keyboard with my balloon whisk in my hand. I am just a cook and bottle washer to you. Thats all I am.