Sometimes I get high is a series about the activities you do or things you think about when you’re high, in deep detail, for the fun of it. Things like playing Barack Obama one-on-one, watching Snoop Dogg’s sketch comedy show, and getting high having a mesmerizing night in the kitchen.
The sky had turned a nighttime blue by the time I opened up a Malbec and took a puff of my joint. I hadn’t rolled or smoked one in a long time, but it was the first warm spring day and I wanted to get high and spend the next three or so hours in the kitchen, chopping tomatoes and basil, tossing them with salt and pepper, toasting an ancient grain baguette, preparing prosciutto and vino rosso for plating, and drizzling baklouti green chili pepper olive oil. I wanted a sandwich and salad: that cross between old-school New York City deli and fancy Italian café. And I wanted to munch on my final product in the kitchen, where I’m notorious for standing while eating.
More than usual, I felt like a serial taste tester. I immediately knew how the salt accentuated the crispness of my tomatoes, how ideal of a combination they made with basil, and how Malbec would quench a cannabis-induced-thirst in a way that water could not. I could sense this as Keith Jarrett’s “Treasure Island” persisted in a place far closer than the background. I had put on a Jarrett CD while driving earlier that day: windows down, sunset emerging. I would be in transit the next day as well – road tripping throughout the Mountain West with my sister for two weeks, before ending up at my uncle’s ranch in Oracle, an unincorporated town outside of Tucson, Arizona.
“It’s more fun to eat when you’re hungry,” Jim Harrison told us in The Raw and the Cooked. He worked out for six to eight hours in the mountains to induce such a hunger drive. I appreciate the idea of challenging oneself before indulging, but that night, I couldn’t resist what was in front of me.
I inhaled, time slowed down, and I envisioned the future of my food. These rich flavors chilled on my palate for some time, but the green chili olive oil lingered, delightfully, on my lips for the rest of the night. I initially thought it would be too spicy for my open-faced sandwich, but realized, like a wannabe Top Chef, how well it would pair with my other, simpler ingredients.
All of my senses were alive, so I popped two gorgeous, green tomatoes, as if they were strawberries, in my mouth. I did the same with a large, magnificent-looking basil leaf. I sat in the basil’s romance even when I tasted its overripeness; the basil, later, appeared in my dish like a note of my earthy Gelato strain.
The bud was remarkably fresh and aromatic. I found myself submerged in a toasty campfire at the front of the inhale before I noticed a fruity aftertaste, which I thought would inspire my possible — but unlikely — dessert plans. An upside-down blood orange cake? Candied pistachios? Next time.
“You gotta come in here and try this,” I yelled to my parents, sounding evangelical as I often do about food. “This wine is otherworldly. And, oh man, this cheese is the best you can buy at the supermarket.” They put up with me and tasted a few things before turning their attention back to The Crown.
I used to be a bad high person. I didn’t know my limits and I smoked crappy cannabis. But I still had a strong desire to share it with friends and I was keen on its creative and therapeutic potential. With some more years under my belt, and the legalization movement extending to New Jersey, that changed. I also didn’t know at that time where I needed to be or what I needed to be doing to keep my cool. That’s the same with cooking. Cooking keeps me from falling into a sleepy, mindless state. It’s where I can channel my energy, mediate, and create something, often a complex meal that I’m trying for the first time. But on that warm spring day, I made a familiar favorite.
I’m not like this in anyone’s kitchen but my own; when I was a cook for a brief time at a falafel restaurant in New Jersey, I didn’t dare show up stoned. It was illegal, yes, but it would’ve sent me into a frenzy. I wasn’t the master there. I was a confused mortal in a scorching kitchen, haphazardly putting out rapid-fire orders.
That was a job I took on a whim. I was less than a year out of college, living back home in the suburbs, traveling and taking odd jobs. I’ve been a writer of various stripes, and a home cook, since I was a teenager. I did the sports beat, politics, and cultural coverage; now I’m looking to significantly plug myself into the food and journalism world. Perhaps I’ll host dinner parties and pop-up events in the future, where I can pair strains of bud with different courses of food. I’m much more enthusiastic about working in this way than infusing cannabis into the plate itself.
My dog was on standby and I tossed him scraps of bread, mostly, but I tried to offer him a taste of each stage of the cooking process. I think the olive oil was too hot for his liking, but he refused to offer culinary advice or criticism. I’m thankful for that, but halfway through the night when I checked in on my oven, I think I needed that kind of input. In Simple French Food, author Richard Olney writes about developing a kinship with one’s oven. There’s no need for a fancy thermometer, he says, when you cook for yourself enough. I guess I’m not there yet.
The baguette was unnecessarily crispy on the outside and overly soft on the inside; the smell of fresh bread stayed with me more than anything else. I figured a burnt disaster could become a charred beauty, and it did, despite it being difficult to cut and serve. I didn’t take my mistake to heart. The night was too good.
Should I smoke a bit more? I considered this question while finally throwing together my salad with arugula, roasted watermelon, radishes and beets which I fetched from the organic farm down the street, sunflower seeds, and balsamic vinegar. No, no, I concluded. I think I found my sweet spot.
I poured another glass of wine and took a sizable bite of my sandwich; what I missed in a mouthful, I made up for by finger-fooding tomatoes and basil or leftover prosciutto. I took another bite, put my salad in the fridge, and stepped outside to check on the night sky. It was pitch black, not a hue of transcendent blue in sight.