Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Is Marijuana the Secret Ingredient of Truly Innovative Food?

When I was young, and in relatively close proximity to those who indulged in the smoking of marijuana, I came across a lot of entertainingly odd behavior and just as much entertainingly odd food. My recollections from those days involved dear friends who, upon smoking out, had lost all inhibition and gained a capricious and irrational hunger. There were the apple and cheddar microwave quesadillas topped with Trader Joe’s guacamole. There was the mac n’ cheese mixed with canned tuna and capers served along with an ice-cold can of Budweiser. And then there were the breakfast cookies made with oatmeal and bacon (those were actually kind of good and strangely addictive). Like it or not, smoking pot seemed to serve as a sort of munchies-inducing muse for demented home chefs with a few spare ingredients within easy reach.
Remembering these moments, I was deeply entertained by a recent story in the New York Times titled “Marijuana Fuels a New Kitchen Culture.” The piece contends that marijuana is inspiring chefs and restaurants to create a new kind of cuisine, and utilizing snack-sized interviews with a few chefs who are “unabashedly open about marijuana’s role in their creative and recreational lives and its effect on their restaurants.” Now to be clear the article is not about how chefs cook with marijuana or even cook while under the influence, this is more about how the after-hours indulgence plays muse to the already innovative and creative mind of the chef. It inspires creativity and stimulates the appetite for a certain kind of food experience (i.e. munchies-friendly grub).
Now I had a few problems with this article for many reasons, and not because I take issue with chefs who wake and bake (so to speak). Largely this was billed as a trend piece about how marijuana is now informing and influencing our dining and menu options, which to me this is hardly a trend. I won’t be so presumptuous as to say that all chefs and restaurant workers smoke pot, but I will say that the vast majority have been at it for a while and the idea of altered states of consciousness influencing art, food, and creation for that matter is hardly a new one. If anything, this is a standard practice, not an emerging trend.
Journalistic issues aside, the piece moved me to reflect on how elusive and mysterious true creativity can be, as well as the differences between a truly good idea and the forgettable musings of a stoner–especially relative to food. There is no arguing that marijuana is both stimulating to the appetite as well as the brain, but does this stimulation really amount to creativity? Isn’t it true that creative people are generally creative when buzzed on pot or tipsy, whereas noncreative people are generally noncreative when buzzed on pot or tipsy, but hold onto the illusion that peanut butter sushi is a good idea?
What do you think? Does marijuana (or any substance that produces an altered state of consciousness) really

stimulate creativity in the kitchen…or elsewhere? Have you had personal experience along these lines? Care to share a recipes.  Raw Nirvana - Uncooked Food Recipes
Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, N.Y. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appetit among other publications.

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