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Regardless of the loosening marijuana laws across the country, pot culture still tends to be considered underground. The legacy of criminalization, "Just say no" rhetoric and the lasting effects of "Reefer Madness" hysteria continue to stigmatize weed despite growing acceptance. For those reasons, some folks may find themselves in a bit of an awkward yet exciting situation in the near future. One may be where recreational marijuana has been legalized in their state, but they, themselves, are newbies to the wonderful world of weed. Of course, nobody wants to come off looking like a square, so for those who want to brush up on everything bud, consider How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High your Marijuana 101 textbook.

The comprehensive index includes everything from how to roll a joint (even in a windstorm), the history of cannabis cultivation, and a "Farm to Pipe" chapter that, like any good foodie would care to know, explains just how the potent plant is harvested. Perhaps most useful for beginners is the section on how to buy pot. And no, it's not simply about finding a sketchy character out back of the strip mall. Like wine or cheese or any other finely curated product, it's about following the nose and knowing what to smell for. Further chapters include travel tips and dank-friendly destinations, as well as an entire chapter on how marijuana can assist in the creative process. Throughout the book are quotes from famed users (some surprising, like Martha Stewart) and almost every factoid about reefer imaginable.

Author David Bienenstock has quite the pot-lover's pedigree, working for a decade as an editor at High Times Magazine where he published an official cannabis cookbook, and more recently writing for VICE's Weed Eater column as well as producing the food-focused video series Bong Appetit. It's no wonder, then, that a portion of his ganja guidebook is dedicated solely to cooking with and consuming cannabis. Beyond brownies, cannabis oils and butters can turn make any meal medicinal (see the recipe for Nonna Marijuana's Chicken Pot-Chiatori, a spiked chicken cacciatori below).

It's also no wonder that the book launch party in Brooklyn's Boerum Hill that I had the high privilege (heh!) of attending was not filled with what you might stereotype as typical stoner fare. The event was catered elegantly by budding chef Jonah Reider of Pith, the news-making Columbia University student whose wait-list only restaurant operated out of his dorm room.

On the menu were oysters and cockles with champagne-cannabis gelée, scallop crudo with rhubarb, Meyer lemon, and cannabis and charred ramp oil, and ash-dusted chèvre on rye with cannabis-fennel-raisin chutney and chioggia beet. For dessert, cardamom, salsify and sour milk ice creams were topped with pot-infused caramel, pistachio merengue and kumquat chamomile syrup. Maybe it was "something in the air" but Reider is mesmerizing to watch at work, exuding an extremely confident yet youthfully casual technique. The low-dose appetizers were, needless to say, difficult to avoid returning to especially as the, uh, festivities carried on.

The point of the entire evening was in some ways to fight the powers that be (at least in the State of New York) with a collective act of civil disobedience. The larger point, it could be said, is to bring marijuana into the mainstream. But, as Bienenstock makes clear, to not allow the culture that already exists in the community of cannabis users to get eradicated by cold, corporate interests. As Americans are given another option beyond alcohol to take the edge off, surely Big Pot will also have a say in what the future of recreational marijuana looks like. Of course, if all that seems too heavy to handle, might I suggest rolling up a joint or grabbing a tin of cannabis butter and start cooking.

Cannabis Chicken Cacciatore

(Nonna Marijuana's Chicken Pot-Chiatori)


  • 1 fryer chicken, cut into pieces (leave skin on)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons cannabis-infused butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, cut into thumb-size pieces
  • 1/4 cup small cremini mushrooms
  • About 1/2 glass of white wine (optional)
  • 1/4 cup black olives with pits
  • 1/4 cup Sicilian plain olives (no pits)
  • 1/4 cup green olives with pits
  • 1/4 cup green olives stuffed with garlic or pimento


  1. Wash and dry the chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Slowly heat the weed-infused butter and olive oil in a skillet, then add the fryer pieces until well-browned.
  3. Remove the pieces and place onto a plate.
  4. Using the same pan you used to fry the chicken, lower the heat and fry the onion pieces until transparent. Replace the chicken pieces and add the cremini mushrooms, continuing to cook on low heat for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the white wine and let it sizzle. Now, add all the olives, gently stirring to combine.
  6. Cover until ready to serve.

From How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High by David Bienenstock. Reprinted by arrangement with Plume, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright 2016 by David Bienenstock.