When Chicagoan Laura Yee supplies brownies for a potluck, people wonder if she baked brownies, or brownies with a secret ingredient. “Everyone always asks, ‘Is there weed in that?’” she says.
Her reputation precedes her. Yee and longtime collaborator Joline Rivera are the founders of Kitchen Toke, the first national publication devoted to cooking with cannabis. Based in Chicago, the magazine delivers recipes for savory dishes, decadent desserts, and cocktails—all of which feature cannabis, infused in oil or butter, as an essential ingredient. Issues are released quarterly, and the second drops today, Friday 4/20.
Kitchen Toke describes the effects of THC, the chemical in marijuana that induces psychotropic effects, but reads like a health-food cookbook for those interested in weed as a wellness product. Through its recipes, profiles of chefs, reviews of marijuana strains, and newsy pieces about the hurdles to national legalization, Kitchen Toke demystifies weed as a stoner staple. Yee’s pretty passionate about that last part, and admits she’s become an annoying, uncompromising zealot preaching the green word. “We’re not about getting super high and fucked-up,” she says. “Our goal is to turn that [perception] around and show people that’s not all it is.”
Because weed is illegal on a federal level, studies of its benefits are sparse. But CBD, another chemical in cannabis, has been shown to relieve pain, reduce nausea, and soothe the side effects of PTSD. (Anecdotally, I can vouch for its uncanny ability to suppress seizures.) Each recipe in Kitchen Toke includes dosage guides for amateur chefs to follow, to control potency and manage how a particular dish will make them feel.
The publication itself is attractive, leading with plenty of food and weed porn. On page seven, right after the table of contents, is a full-page close-up photo of two fingers holding a bud. Its orange follicles and crystalline texture appear in sharp focus. The next page contains another full-page photo—this one of shakshuka, a rich Mediterranean dish consisting mainly of tomatoes, soft eggs, and a smattering of goat cheese, cooked in a circular pan. Each speck of cardamom and line on a basil leaf is in sharp focus. Both pictures bring to mind salient images of smoking and eating, swapping cheap dealer weed and junk food for fresh dishes using high-caliber cannabis.
Yee and Rivera met while working at the same food publication. While brainstorming one day about a year ago, they hatched the idea of creating a zine dedicated to cooking with cannabis apropos of nothing other than their shared interest. “Cannabis is poised to be bigger than organic foods,” Yee says. “We wanted to be first, because if you’re not first, you’re not first.”
Today, Yee, 55, is editor in chief and Rivera is creative director. Yee says she devotes roughly 14 hours a day to Kitchen Toke, and she has lofty ambitions for the publication. Currently it’s stocked at indie bookshops such as Quimby’s and retail outlets including Barnes & Noble and Whole Foods; it’s also available at Chapters Indigo, Canada’s largest book retailer. Yee has her sights set on getting the zine into big-box retailers like Walmart, CostCo, and Kroger once the drug becomes more mainstream.
Their immediate hurdle, however, is simply getting the word out. Yee says Facebook flags and removes any ad that mentions cannabis, so Kitchen Toke has been boxed out. She’s pretty unfazed, and continues sharing fun factoids about cannabinoids.
Full disclosure: Reader staffers Mike Sula, Julia Thiel, and Aimee Levitt are contributors to Kitchen Toke.