Ode to Alice
June 2, 2016
Not that Alice – or that other one either. I’m talking about Alice B. Toklas (on the right, next to her partner, Gertrude Stein), patron saint of the irreverent gourmet woman. Anybody with the faintest interest in food writing should read:
Stein was the famous writer, but although Toklas stood (happily) in her shadow, she was a master in her own right. She takes us along as the two traipse up the coast of France, hold salons in their Paris apartment, travel the U.S. on Stein’s book tours and survive wartime rationing. Stein held court; Toklas cooked.
An accomplished French cook, she was also interested in the ways of others; her cookbook includes a chapter of recipes from various servants, recipes from famous friends (Picasso, Picabia), and an entire section on cold soup.
On this lovely summer day one of the gazpachos collected in the chapter following my favorite, “Murder in the Kitchen,” would make a perfect little meal.
And in case you’re wondering, this is indeed the cookbook that became famous for its hashish fudge. (Listen to Toklas read that recipe here. She thinks it’s the perfect thing for a DAR meeting.) Only the U.K edition of the cookbook can boast that recipe; Toklas’ U.S. editors, lacking courage, pulled the recipe at the last minute.
Categorised in: Vintage Books and Magazines
What a fascinating excerpt. I definitely must read Alice’s book; I had often read that although Alice is shown as author it was actually written by Gertrude. Truth or fiction, it is a fun book to read.
I have an American paperback copy from the late ’60s that includes the infamous recipe. It is definitely a fudge in name only consisting of a paste of ground spices, nuts, and dried fruit (and cannabis).
I loved reading the book many years ago, but found that many of her recipes were truly awful to the taste. My bet is Stein wrote the book; she was a good writer when she tried to sound like Toklas rather than herself, and Toklas was a good cook but a poor recipe writer. Tell me if I’m wrong.
In Detroit, one former restaurant (The London Chop House), added green olives to the Seville gazpacho recipe and that’s the extra kick we like in our gazpacho.
I can confirm that Alice definitely wrote her cookbook, as it was written after Gertrude’s death. They did attempt a collaborative effort in earlier years, titled “We Eat”, (the partial draft manuscript of which can be found in the Beinecke Library archives at Yale) but it didn’t get very far.
Alice’s voice is so different than Gertrude’s; I could never believe that Stein wrote the book.
People may be getting confused because Gertrude Stein wrote “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas”, but Alice B. Toklas definitely wrote the cookbook, well after the Death of Stein.
Alice B. Toklas wrote the cookbook, and as Stafford points out, “Well after the Death of Stein.”