Robyn Griggs Lawrence Dives into the History of Culinary Cannabis

By Charlie Tetiyevsky on June 4, 2019

Robyn Griggs Lawrence didn’t always tread the path of a traditional cannabis journalist, but that hasn’t stopped her from writing Pot in Pans: A History of Eating Cannabis, one of the most thorough and approachable scientific investigations of cannabis to emerge in years. On the back of being published everywhere from Cosmo to Adweek and editing at Mother Earth NewsMountain LivingThe Herb Companion and Mountain Spa, Lawrence served as editor-in-chief of Natural Home magazine for more than a decade before moving into cannabis writing.

PRØHBTD connected with the author to discuss the effect of cannabis on the path of human development, her cannabis researcher crush, and how she went from writing books on the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi to putting out The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook and her newest heady tome exploring the history of weed as food.

What’s your first memory of mixing pot and food?

I mean, it’s so cliché [that] I’m almost embarrassed to say it, but it literally was pot brownies. We didn’t know what we were doing, so the brownies didn't do anything. We wasted a lot of weed.

Did writing about cannabis as a historical ingredient and crop feel different to writing about more traditional foods?

Yes, it did. Cannabis is now the second-most valuable crop in the United States after corn. But because of prohibition, anything that would have progressed cannabis and the way it’s used was stopped.

From the 1930s until really just the last couple of years, there was no research and hardly any writing [on it]. Anybody who was experimenting with cannabis was doing so underground, so it wasn’t easy to find substantive sources [written] after the 1930s. There were plenty of cultural references, but academic research was completely stifled. I had to dig a lot harder for sources and references than if I had written a book about corn.  

What sparked your interest in pivoting from mainstream wellness to writing about cannabis in general?

That pivot raised a few eyebrows, but in my mind it’s a natural progression of the work I’ve done throughout my career. A lot of the work I did as Editor-in-Chief of Natural Home was about showing people ways to embrace natural living, including diet and natural healing, and cannabis is exactly that—an alternative to chemicals and pharmaceuticals, a tool that, as a natural lifestyle advocate, I embraced. I see cannabis as a key piece of a holistic lifestyle.

What inspired Pot in Pans in particular?

After finishing The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook, I was looking for a new project, and I wanted to develop my knowledge and continue to share what I learned about cannabis. So, when this more textbook-style project came up, I thought it would be a fun and different way of approaching a subject I find it completely fascinating.

Writing this book was like giving myself a graduate course in the history of cannabis cookery, and I can’t wait to share all the fascinating things I’ve learned with the world. I think education is crucial for all of us in the cannabis industry, and it should be part of our mission. My dream is that this book finds a place in college courses around the world so students can learn why they’ve been deprived of knowledge about a plant that delivers so much, so they can put their minds to making the most of it in years to come.

What surprised you the most during your research for Pot in Pans?

I’m constantly surprised, and not surprised, given the ignorance that has resulted from prohibition. Most people have no idea that cannabis has been a vital source of food, fiber and medicine since the first humans discovered it while exploring possible food sources.

When the United States forced the world to outlaw cannabis in the 1960s, the historic record of the plant’s many uses and benefits throughout the centuries was censored, and most people have been exposed only to the virulent anti-cannabis propaganda that took hold in the 1930s. Since that time, layers upon layers of lies and misinformation have been heaped upon the plant, and many people still believe it incites violence and insanity. That is criminal.   

Did you find evidence of the effects of eating nutrient-rich raw cannabis on prehistoric and early human development?

Yes! Researchers Geoffrey Guy and John McPartland theorized that as cannabis co-evolved alongside humans, it was primarily responsible for what historians call “the great leap”—the time when we began making tools, weapons and art, and working together in collectives.

What are your thoughts on the recent popularity of CBD foods and drinks?

On one hand, I think it’s a great thing. I love to see people being introduced to CBD who probably would not have had that experience.

[But] I am extremely concerned about the backlash that I think is about to come. There are no regulations or standardized quality controls. Just anecdotally, I have talked to so many people over the last few months who feel like they’ve been ripped off after consuming CBD-laced products that did nothing for them. It seems like such a great way to introduce people who don’t want to get high to the wonders of cannabis, but with no regulation or standardized quality controls, as an industry, we need to consider the quality of products getting out there.

There’s a lot of science in Pot in Pans. Were you surprised at how much information there was to comb through on the subject and how technical it became?

I've been writing about this subject for such a long time, and as one industry veteran points out in the book, we’ve all been quoting the same studies by Dr. Ethan Russo for years now. Because of prohibition, there aren’t a ton of reputable studies and sources, so we all bandy about the same terms from those same studies. Ever considered where the term "entourage effect" comes from? With legalization creeping across the globe, we have access to more and more cutting-edge research and studies, particularly from Israel. I have the hugest nerd-crush on Raphael Mechoulam, the guy who discovered THC and introduced us to the entourage effect.

What’s your favorite “legitimate” snack to infuse at home?

Probably trail mix. I make the recipe from The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook quite a bit. It’s easy to make and perfect for hiking.

Considering its high nutritional value, do you see cannabis seed resurfacing as an ingredient in the future? Do you have a favorite cannabis seed recipe, or is the ingredient still not widely available enough?

Chefs, foodies and nutritionists will continue to play with and perfect this new functional food ingredient, finding creative uses for every part of the plant as the world’s attitude toward cannabis continues to normalize.  

In my research for Pot in Pans, I found an old Polish folk recipe that called for roasting and bruising cannabis seeds, mixing them with salt and spreading them on crusty bread. I’ve made it, and it’s delicious, but what isn’t delicious when you make it salty and spread it on good bread?

Charlie Tetiyevsky is a writer and editor based in New York City. Find them on Twitter @tetiyevsky.


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