Cannabutter: The Universal Family Bong-der

Food Features

One week before heading home to Louisiana this past January, my mother and her friend Britney hoodwinked me in NYC for a whirlwind of Big Apple escapades. Hours of department store adventuring and face-stuffing of massive two-pound lobsters eventually wore us down to energetic stubs, so we took our pre-theatre evening repose in their hotel room—feet covered with kitsch-y, fuzz-adorned slippers and a mind-numbing TV station providing the background noise. Unprovoked, my mother turned to me, laughing. “You know what I could use right now?” she asked us. “A nice weed high. Mark, can you make us some brownies when we go home?” I felt my brain split in half from the confusion and skepticism of that request. “I’m serious,” she affirmed.

“Ermm, WHAT?!”

Okay, yes, a majority of the ‘80s and ‘90s-era kids can’t fathom getting baked with their parents for obvious reasons like legal troubles and the unwritten rule of parents not endorsing drug culture, but I think my own perplexity warrants further explanation. My parents, natives of that social homunculus of a state known as North Carolina, were never too keen on intoxication. The concept of them getting shellacked on the sauce is a unicorn, and my aunt turns into Ed the Hyena from Lion King when describing their substance usage aversion. So, when 16-year-old me was caught red-eyed and green-handed, their reactions scared me off the devil’s lettuce.

When I came home at two in the morning, eyes red as maraschino cherries, my parents found me with my head in the clouds and a shit-eating grin plastered across my face. My mom’s light bulb moment didn’t take long, and after her a slightly toned-down version of bloody murder screams along with my father’s own bowel-shaking bellows, I burst into my room and dove under the blankets, terrified to come up for air for fear of further echoes. The next morning after coming home from school, the room was something along the lines of a wreck. Moreover, on my bathroom counter were the shards of a broken weed pipe, the then-emptied weed bag, and their written notice about my forthcoming zilch of a social life over the next few weeks.

Essentially, whenever cannbutter was available, I put that shit in everything.

After that incident, for the rest of my high school days, I kept to my parents’ biddings inside the house about weed. The subject was taboo, and kids that had a penchant for smoking were not mentioned, nor invited over. I managed to stifle my curiosity for fear of the vocal horror show’s reprisal, and eventually, I forgot what it was like to get high.

After moving to New York for undergraduate school, though, I quickly rekindled the spark for ganja love at my liberal-minded university at the first dorm party. In addition to indulging copious amounts of weed, over those four years, I managed to expand my knowledge of weed from “it’s the stuff that gets me high” to an encyclopedic Cliff Notes of Urban Outfitters’ stoner-friendly literature. The different flavors and effects of weed strains became archived (based on whatever memories I could recall); 4/20 was a hedonistic, slowburn holiday celebrated religiously; and best of all, I managed (puns unintended) to hybridize my budding appreciation of weed with my newfound skills in the kitchen.

Beginning with my culinary contributions of “green” eggs and ham to a 4/20 breakfast my sophomore year, I gradually familiarized myself with the requisite base of practically all edibles: weed butter. Surprisingly, cooking cannabutter is a relatively simple process: using a pot, melt butter or any other fat on low heat while stirring in finely ground weed (optionally de-stemmed and seeded for universally superstitious reasons) for 45 minutes, allowing the THC and herbal notes to infuse into the butter (my anti-earthy flavor friends advise using a slow cooker, but that depends on how much effort [read: time] you really want to put into making the butter). Intuitively, the more weed added to X amount of butter, the stronger the butter will be.

Together with friends, I experimented with baking or cooking up edibles. Starting with the classic pot brownies, the bizarreness of our concoctions escalated to spicy Mexican hot chocolate cupcakes. Eventually, we even tried cannabutter-loaded versions of corn cookies that probably would have been pined for internationally by food-blogging potheads. Essentially, whenever cannbutter was available, I put that shit in everything.

pot brownies.jpg
Flickr/Malika Ladak

After regaling these culinary escapades to my friends back home, they were in awe; describing them to friends in New York City, I occasionally attracted fellow experimenters and even further contributors of baking supplies. These kitchen-based High Times were my therapy, a way take my mind of my majors’ analytic-heavy coursework nagging at my brain on a 24/7 basis.

Given the previously mentioned late-night weed run-in while I was in high school, weed was a still a no-fly zone with my parents. During my first few semesters, even mentioning the possibility of toking up would raise the fiery depths of the parental reprimanding infernos, and, due to my inability to lie, family visits to New York or holiday trips to Louisiana foreshadowed grueling, recurring lectures on drugs. “You still smoke? Are you dumb? It’ll cause cancer! It’ll cause you to do terrible in school. What good could it possibly bring?” They exclaimed these same phrases over and over, year after year. Maybe I should’ve just offered a joint to mellow them out then and there.

Fortunately, such a drastic measure turned out unnecessary as, over time, these worries somehow receded. Maybe it was the fact that their own friends were also enjoying a few puffs with their kids every now and then; maybe it was that I was openly admitting more and more that I was smoking while still making pretty good marks; maybe it was the shift in the country’s view towards smoking (along with the legalization in Washington and Colorado—my mom admitted that apparently she had smoked with a client once or twice who got legal bud from the latter). Maybe it was as simply that with age comes less of a “giving a fuck” attitude. Whatever the case, the offer to bake edibles in my own kitchen for my parents—an idea I had dreamed about since first learning to whip of a batch pot brownies—was something I couldn’t pass up.

My mom laughed so hard on her end of the line that it took her minutes before she could even begin her story. “Your father ate so much he couldn’t stand up!”

So, earlier this year, as the lawn crickets chirped away one January night at my parents’ all-too-suburban home near Baton Rouge, where they had since moved, I stood over the stove melting a stick of butter with my handful of weed powder. The son of Mom’s accomplice Britney had casually rolled up earlier that evening in his new Honda Accord to drop off a quad—probably the least-sketchy delivery I ever had—and a weed-ducation for my parents on grinding ensued. Pulling apart the hairy mess of bud, de-steming, de-seeding, and popping it into my old, cheap stainless steel weed grinder—thank god they skipped over it when I was in high school—to crush into a fine, oregano-like powder, they were stunned by the familiarity and ease at which I could prep the weed for cooking. “Why do you pull them apart? You missed some—is that important? What’s the part that gets you high?”

Hearing such genuine curiosity, my parents’ questions were those that I associated with kids maybe a year or two younger or older than me, not almost 40 years my senior. And yet, rather than annoyance, I was ecstatic to hear these phrases echo out of the mouths. Weed, a subject that was once a taboo, had become a family activity. And this meant that next time I saw them, there wouldn’t be that dreaded, Reefer Madness-esque lecture. Instead, there was the bright possibility of offering them a J.

Eventually, the herbal, dank aroma emitting from the pot filled the kitchen, signaling time to clean. For something that I thought would be an us-versus-you sort of set-up, they—or at least my mom—were actually getting into it. As my father looked on skeptically, Mom hopped into the foray, helping me strain the greenish-sludge and separate the butter from the dredged weed. As I looked at her, a giant smile spread across her face from cheek to cheek, I guessed either from some sort of second-hand high or just from the unorthodox bonding activity with me. Pouring the butter on some ice cream, we sampled our concoction. I quickly found my mind floating upwards, laughing at my mother who ended up passing out in her room soon after finishing her bowl. Unable to go a second round due to my flight being the next morning, I left for New York without actually getting high with my mother, hoping that they would be able to figure out what to do on their own.

A week after I returned to New York, my mom called me, laughing so hard on her end of the line that it took her minutes before she could even begin her story. “Your father ate so much he couldn’t stand up!” I heard her shout through tears of hilarity. Apparently, while I was away, the newfound stoners decided to convert the leftover stick of butter into caramel pecan bars. My mother played it safe and got her buzz off of one, but my father, a giant of a man, decided to eat three bars (essentially enough to knock out a grizzly bear). “There are plenty left for you when you come home!”

So, on my recent return home post-college, I finally got high with my parents. Combining the nutty, caramel sweetness with the herbal weed notes, the bars, I have to admit, were pretty dank. One was enough to put me over; two had me KO-ed. More surprisingly, though, was how, well, high my mom gets, particularly when she starts attacking the chips. Given that I’ve continued to order weed and whip up butter for my parents, it’s become apparent that cooking edibles is the new family ritual. If there’s one thing I wouldn’t ever imagine being able to tell my 16-year-old self moments after being chewed out for smoking in the park, it’s that, in six years’ time he’d be whipping up weed butter right in front of good ol’ ma and pa. But he probably would have told me that I was high.

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