December 2002

Grandmother’s Cookies

In the early afternoon at the Castro Street Fair in 1982 or so, Allen and I caught a delightful sight – a woman about our age dressed as a nineteenth-century farm woman, checkered gingham dress with lots of ruffles, sunbonnet, and a wicker basket on which was a small sign in old-fashioned print “Grandmother’s Cookies.”

Doubtless a trifle tipsy from the beers, we were immediately captivated and walked over to see what kind of cookies she was selling. When I inquired, she told us she had giant chocolate chip cookies for a dollar.

But Allen had an intuition and laughingly asked her, “Does Grandmother perhaps have some special cookies?”

And Grandmother gave us a big smile, “Well, goodness me, I do believe I have a couple of those left. They’re five dollars each.” And she opened a false bottom in the basket, and took out two cookies.

So we ate them and nothing happened at first, just for long enough to make us begin to wonder whether we’d been ripped off. But then suddenly, they hit, and we simultaneously realized that we were so stoned that we were practically hallucinating.

Grandmother had been generous. And this made the rest of that fair by far the most vivid I ever attended.

Note: “Grandmother” was not Mary Rathbun, AKA “Brownie Mary,” a San Francisco legend who at about that time was fairly new at her career as a baker of marijuana brownies that she sold but more famously donated to AIDS patients in the early days of the epidemic. Mary died in 1999 after a short stay in Laguna Honda, but immediately before that she had been hospitalized, gravely ill, at Davies Medical Center. One of her friends put a notice in the Bay Area Reporter soliciting cards and visits, and I was gratified to learn later that my card had been part of an avalanche.

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Green Jell-O

Frankly, it’s been underappreciated.

What a sensual festival it is, as least as served at California Pacific Medical Center, jelled to perfection and sliced into precise one-inch cubes quivering with transparent eagerness to abandon themselves in your mouth.

And it’s not just green! You have the additional pleasure of guessing what flavor, many of them quite realistic, the color of the day represents. A delight so fine when no food has passed your lips in days that you’ll need to cut the cubes in half, as an entire cube taken at once causes a sensory overload rather like that of a large, Gulf of Mexico oyster taken whole into the mouth and squished around to extract its briny, coppery sexiness.

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