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Alice B.Toklas. The name might not ring many bells with generations born after the 1960s. But during the 60s, during the blossoming of the Counterculture, she was an icon, and maybe more than her companion Gertrude Stein, became the face of the burgeoning drug culture that sprang up in the mid-1960s.
And even though both Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein were considered models for nonconformity, it was the infamous Brownies made by Toklas, and immortalized in the Peter Sellers movie I Love You Alice B. Toklas that made her the subject of posters and t-shirts and the code word for Hashish Brownies from then on.
But the Brownies and their recipe were only incidentals in what was the avant-garde movement in Paris during the 1920s – the bigger picture was the art, music, writing and way of life which caught the attention of so many during the 1960s. Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas were two Americans caught up in the whirlwind of post-World War 1 Expression and became synonymous with it – Stein as a patron to the artists and writers of the period (Hemingway, Bowles, Thornton Wilder) and Toklas as an observer, chronicler and secretary to Stein.
A few years before her death (in 1967) she made a rare recording reading excerpts from her Autobiography, which was published in 1963, as well as giving a few observations of the period as well as her recipe for Alice B. Toklas Brownies for Verve Records, an unlikely candidate for a Spoken Word album, but perfect in the grand scheme of things.
So the next time you’re at a party and someone hands you a tray of Brownies you may not be so sure about, take only one and thank Alice B. Toklas for giving the person who baked them the idea to do it in the first place.