Meet the Martha Stewart of Cannabis Cuisine
Last fall, the food writer Laurie Wolf invited me to a dinner party at her home. It promised to be a master class in rustic entertaining. Wolf lives in a floating house on the Willamette River, just south of Portland, Oregon. When she has people over, she told me, she has a few rules for herself. First, “have as much done in advance as possible.” She goes so far as to set the table the night before and put out serving platters with sticky notes assigning their contents. Next, be sure to check your guests’ dietary requirements. These days, everybody has a health concern or a food allergy, and she says, “I always try to accommodate in a big way.” Some of Wolf’s recommendations are more esoteric. For example: “Start with a sativa and end with an indica.” This applies only to Wolf’s area of expertise: marijuana edibles.
Wolf is sometimes called the Martha Stewart of edibles. The designation owes something to superficial similarities. At sixty-two, Wolf resembles a crunchier version of the domestic icon: she has an ample figure, graying hair, and glasses, and she wears loose linen outfits, generally paired with Crocs. But the designation also refers to her role as an educator, schooling people on how best to cook with marijuana. She is the author or co-author of several cookbooks, including “Herb,” which seeks to “elevate the art and science of cooking with cannabis” and “The Medical Marijuana Dispensary,” which features soothing dishes, like stuffed sweet potato, that will get you stoned. Her recipes appear in all the major cannabis publications: High Times, Dope, and Culture, as well as the Cannabist, a Denver Post Web site devoted to the booming legal-marijuana industry. There you can watch her instructional videos on making infused delicacies like the creamy chicken-based Mama Leone’s soup. (“This soup is worth its weight in weed.”)
Oregon, where Wolf lives, legalized recreational marijuana in 2014. Four more states followed suit in last fall’s election: California, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Maine. More than twenty per cent of Americans now live in states where recreational weed is legal. President Trump’s appointee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is an opponent of marijuana and is widely seen as a threat to the industry. But over the long term, proponents argue, the country is on a path toward legalization. (Last week, Canada’s Prime Minister unveiled a bill, which is expected to pass, legalizing recreational marijuana in that country.) Amy Margolis, Wolf’s lawyer and one of Oregon’s most prominent cannabis advocates, said, “I think we’re seeing an extremely rapid sea change in the way people perceive the safety of cannabis use and the legalization process. There are other issues that have followed the same trajectory, like gay rights—all of a sudden you see the switch flip.”
According to the Arcview Group, a market-research firm, the legal-marijuana business in Canada and the United States did almost seven billion dollars in sales last year. Arcview estimates that the industry will grow to more than twenty-two billion dollars by 2020. These profits have brought innovation. Cannabis can now be vaporized, absorbed under the tongue, or smoked in a hyper-concentrated form, a process known as dabbing. Edibles—a category that used to begin and end with the bone-dry pot brownie, served in a college dorm room—have been undergoing a particularly marked revolution. The finer dispensaries in Boulder now sell cannabis-infused candy, breath sprays, spritzers, and savory foods, from bacon to smoked salmon. In Los Angeles, thrill-seekers are paying as much as five hundred dollars a head to have a cannabis chef cater multicourse meals, pairing different cannabis strains with their culinary complements (heirloom-tomato bisque infused with a lemony Sour Diesel, for example).
All of this has produced a new category of cannabis user: people trying it for the first time, to see what the fuss is about, or coming back to it after a decades-long hiatus. Businesspeople see a future in which cannabis is part of a functional, even aspirational life style. Like Julia Child introducing Americans to French cuisine, Wolf serves as both a guide and an ambassador to this world. She was a chef and a food editor for many years, and she stands out as a source of reliable information in a nascent industry without dependable methods for cooking and dosing. Ricardo Baca, the founding editor of the Cannabist, told me, “Laurie represents a voice in the food-and-cannabis space that can be trusted.” Her columns are full of global ingredients and lush food photography meant to attract what she calls “the CB2 and West Elm crowd.” Her books would not seem out of place on the shelf next to the latest tome from the Barefoot Contessa or Yotam Ottolenghi. Evan Senn, the editor of the California-based cannabis magazine Culture, told me that, increasingly, foodies are the target audience for pot. “I love to drink wine, and I’m kind of a snob about it,” she said. “I’m not going to drink Franzia out of a cardboard box. I’m going to buy a nice bottle of Pinot Noir and aerate it and enjoy it. I have the same approach to edibles.”...
(Read the full story by Lizzie Widdicombe here)