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Cannabis Paired With Kyiv

Ukraine is still leading in column inches per day, but Cannabis is coming up on the rail in the New York Times coverage derby. Some recent stories:

“Weed on the High-End Menu” by Robert Simonson was given a full page in advance of Thanksgiving. “Adventurous chefs host low-key dinners incorporating cannabis into several dishes,” said the subhed in the print edition. But the online editor played it differently: “The Secret Dinners Where Marijuana is in Every Dish: Adventurous chefs are hosting semi-clandestine dinners that incorporate cannabis. Does it impart a unique flavor? Or is it there for the buzz?”

That’s like Groucho Marx asking “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?”–a question to which the answer is obvious. But I read on (so you don’t have to):

Chef Miguel Trinidad’s 42 “guests” (meaning customers) were “well dressed, polite and diverse...The first dish arrived with panache —a delicate scallop crudo with candied ginger and mushrooms sprinkled on top, served in a giant scallop shell. But where, some surely wanted to know, was the weed?

Crudo is an Italian word meaning raw.

“Soon, the chef stood before the dining room and explained. The lime tincture that accented the dish — the same tincture that had been in the welcome cocktail, a daiquiri — had been infused with 2 milligrams of cannabis. Mr. Trinidad and many chefs like him now operate in a demimonde of quasi-clandestine, nomadic consumption experiences... His meals are often five courses, but the one in Williamsburg was particularly ambitious: 10 courses, ranging from lamb won tons to ropa vieja. The cannabis was introduced into each dish in myriad ways. For the duck tamale, it had been infused into the lard. It was also in the mole sauce...

“The mood at the dinner was relaxed with maybe a tinge of adventure, as many of the diners were seated next to perfect strangers. As they made their way through the courses, ingesting increasing amounts of cannabis, they grew livelier and more animated. The conversation crescendoed, but the atmosphere never crossed into raucous...

“By the end of the meal, each diner would have ingested roughly 20 to 25 milligrams, an amount that Mr. Trinidad equates to a bottle of wine.”

Your correspondent equates 25 mg to two or three bottles of wine (which he would pair with a greasy carnitas burrito from La Cumbre).

“Cannabis chefs seem to be cagey about cost,” Simonson reports, but Travis Petersen, the author of “Introduction to Culinary Cannabis,” tells him that prices range from $200 to $300.

The chief equity officer of the New York State Office of Cannabis Management, confirms Simonson’s estimate that “hundreds” of these pseudo-underground dinners are being staged every week in the city. Thank God the pandemic is over!

A dinner prepared by Petersen opens with “a small piece of smoked watermelon topped with an infused honey-Dijon mustard and pickled watermelon rinds, served in a wooden box filled with smoking herbs... At each place setting, there was a black box of six vape pens courtesy of Prëst, a brand sponsor of the dinner. Each pen contained different terpenes — compounds that are naturally found in cannabis and that give each strain its particular aromas and flavors. Like a beer or wine flight, each vape pen was meant to complement a different course.”

Simonson thought the vape-pen pairings “improved the courses” until he realized that he “had been sampling the pens out of order. Then I didn’t know what to think... Oddly enough, a scallop crudo was served at both. In Mr. Petersen’s dish, the cannabis was introduced through a CBD-infused shrimp salt and a THC-infused prickly-pear gel.”

Gag me with a coke spoon. I feel like Dr. Frankenstein; I helped create this monster. 

Not until the tag of his long dispatch does Simonson raise the absurd question of whether cannabis actually improves the taste of the concoctions he has been scarfing down. A pastry chef tells him, “Honestly, we make food taste good, Weed just makes it taste better.” 

Which may be true subjectively, because THC is an appetite stimulant. But objectively, the art of cooking with cannabis lies in disguising its taste. 

* * *

“The Glow of a Wedding Amid Bombs and Blackouts” by Alyona Synenko. The photo was of a good-looking blonde woman in a white wedding dress leaning her head on the shoulder of a good-looking blonde man in a gray business suit and a white shirt open at the collar. She is staring mournfully at the camera and he is looking off to his left, warily. They seem very unhappy. Maybe the instruction was “Look grim.” 

This piece ran on Sunday Nov. 27, but not in the Styles section where the nuptial news brims with delightful anecdotes about how the partners met. In fact, the names of the bride and groom were not provided, as if the Times was protecting them from persecution –an absurdity, given that their faces were right there for Putin’s agents to ID.

Synenko’s text didn’t contradict the gloomy impression conveyed by the photo: ”The timid responses of ‘I do’ barely registered in the high-ceilinged Odesa wedding hall. I looked at the empty rows of chairs and fought back tears. My cousin’s friends didn’t come to her wedding. They left Ukraine to escape the air raids.

Synenko, a cousin of the bride, is a publicist for the Red Cross and had come from Nairobi for the occasion. The piece is mainly about her own feelings. “I wanted a day of beauty for not only the two of them and for those of us who were present, but also for the people we love who were not there.”

I give the marriage three years at most. And I want to take this occasion to thank my mother’s father for getting the hell out of Odessa when he was still a kid. He didn’t want to serve in the Czar’s army but as soon as he was old enough he joined the US Navy. A lifelong Republican, he made a living running a tea room on the Lower East Side that served as headquarters for the mob. Thanks again, Sam.

* * *

“Weed is now legal in Thailand. How long will the high times last?” was the print edition headline Nov. 26. The online editor changed the pathetic pun to “heady times.” How hip can you get? 

“Thailand’s U-turn on cannabis has been led by one of its major political parties, Bhumjaithai,” reports Mike Ives. “The party’s leader, Anutin Charnvirakul, became health minister in 2019 after campaigning to legalize marijuana cultivation in the country, which has a long history of using cannabis as a medicinal ingredient. Since then, the Thai government has released thousands of prisoners who were serving time for marijuana offenses and announced a plan to give away a million weed plants to Thai households. It has also spoken of making the country a wellness destination for tourists who want to consume marijuana for medical purposes.”

Amazingly, a Phuket businessman tells Ives that “retail prices of dried marijuana buds are now about two to three times what they are in California —and that a lot of the product was being imported illegally from abroad.” Talk about coals to Newcastle! “Cannabis Elders” may reminisce glowingly about Panama Red and Acapulco Gold, but when reminded of the Thai sticks that hit town in the ‘70s, they generally agree it was the greatest. 

One Comment

  1. Steve Heilig December 5, 2022

    At my high (ahem) school on Southern Cal coast, those Thai sticks flooded in wrapped in garish but cool Guatemalan shirts, as that was where the contraband was being staged after arriving from Asia. One could tell who the dealers were by those shirts. That and the semi-comatose looks on their faces.

    But yes, we created a legal monster indeed. The “tobacco-ization” of pot was too predictable. It’s now the most unhip of herbs. Who said “follow the money”?

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