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Way Beyond Brownies: Vice Launches A Marijuana Cooking Show

On Sunday, my mother sent me an email: "OMG! Watch this unbelievable cooking show!"

It wasn't spam, and my mother, who's 65, does not use OMG lightly.

The fuss was over a 20-minute video about a 91-year-old grandmother who cooks Italian classics in marijuana-infused butter.

It's the first episode in a new series called Bong Appetit from Munchies, Vice Media's food channel. Vice is the media company that aspires to be "the largest network for young people in the world."

But the appeal of a marijuana cooking show apparently extends far beyond computer-bound stoners clicking for chuckles.

One of the show's producers, David Bienenstock, who's based in Santa Cruz, Calif., tells The Salt there's really so much more to the world of marijuana cuisine than pot brownies and lollipops at the edible shops popping up around Colorado, Washington and California. Bienenstock has been writing Vice's "Weed Eater" column since April and is a former editor at High Times.

"We're moving beyond marijuana as something frightening. A lot of people are curious, and food is a great way for people to access the culture," he says. "Once they can access it, they start to understand it's something we shouldn't be suppressing and should be celebrating."

The culinary connection has largely been ignored, Bienenstock says. (Except on this blog: We've reported on a butcher who feeds marijuana to his pigs and a marijuana food truck.)

Which perhaps explains the freshness of characters like Aurora Leveroni, also known as "Nonna Marijuana." The charming 91-year-old first shared her marijuana cooking skills on YouTube in 2011, courtesy of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which her daughter, Valerie Corral, founded.

"I like to cook with medical marijuana because I feel that it helps those who have been ill and had to endure pain, and I will use it if it helps anyone," she tells Munchies. But that does not include herself. While Valerie says has used marijuana to treat grand mal seizures since the 1970s, when she was injured in a car accident, Nonna says she doesn't partake.

But like any good Italian grandmother who comforts through food, she's more than happy to cook it for others. And so Nonna shares her marijuana-infused butter technique with Bong Appetit host Matt Zambric.

Then Valerie offers Zambric a tour of her impressive marijuana garden, which features 20 different strains that her organization, WAMM, supplies to patients and caregivers on donation basis.

Next it's time to get back to the kitchen to make chicken pot-cciatore and gnocchi with Nonna. We won't tell you how it ends, but suffice it to say it's delectable.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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