Meet the cookbook author who brings Taiwanese-American flavors to cannabis edibles

After Monica Lo had a herniated disc, her doctor tried to prescribe her a cocktail of painkillers and opioids, which she had no interest in. Lo was looking for natural alternatives when her roommate gave her a cannabis-infused treat.

“For the first time in a long time, I slept like a baby,” Lo said. “The next day, I found myself spending hours and hours researching this plant and how to make my own infusions. As we lived in a strictly non-smoking building, I had to be very discreet with the wafting smell of cannabis; that meant using a slow cooker or cooking on the stove was not in the cards.”

At the time, Lo was a creative director at a vacuum start-up and thought she had put the company’s machinery to the test, which ultimately inspired her to start her educational blog. Under Weed. Now, she shares her culinary creations in “The Weed Gummies Cookbook: Recipes for Cannabis Gummies, THC and CBD Edibles, and More“, which was released in August.

This handy collection of recipes is accessible to both edible newbies and long-time pros looking for different ways to experiment with flavor and texture. Recipes include mocha caramels, sour green apple gummies, lavender and chamomile gummies, honey and elderberry lozenges and much more.

Lo spoke with Salon Food about the importance of diverse representation in the culinary cannabis world, how her Taiwanese and American background influenced some of her flavors, and the benefits of making her own edibles at home.

Tell me a bit about the importance of BIPOC’s representation in the cannabis world, especially in the context of increasingly recreational legalization across the country.

Lo: As an Asian American woman, I didn’t feel like I was properly represented in the mainstream media. And, in general, there isn’t enough positive representation of BIPOC in the cannabis space. Asian Americans face unique issues when it comes to cannabis use and acceptance due to cultural differences and social stigmas. I certainly didn’t fit the “lazy stoner” stereotype, and I didn’t post pictures of boobs, butts, and bangs. On the contrary, the goal of my food and lifestyle photography was to change the general public’s perception of cannabis. I wanted to be a responsible face for cannabis consumers, to educate and help dispel myths and stigma around this beneficial plant.

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I designed my blog, Under Weedand “The Weed Gummies Cookbookto be as user-friendly as possible in hopes of enabling readers to make their own cannabis edibles at home. Both are written through the lens of a Taiwanese-American woman. My book also features educational resources on child protection, safety labeling, as well as encouraging readers to shop responsibly and support BIPOC cannabis brands and organizations.

It is so important for us to understand the history of cannabis, not just the origins, but also how communities of color in the United States have been disproportionately harmed by the failure of the War on Drugs. There are too many people still incarcerated for non-violent cannabis-related crimes, and I hope to help by donating some of the proceeds from “The Weed Gummies Cookbook” semi-annually at The Last Prisoner Project supporting criminal justice reform and drug policy reform.

Monica Lo’s “Weed Gummies Cookbook” (Monica Lo)How did your Taiwanese-American background influence the types of flavors you wanted to explore in your gummies?

Lo: The Weed Gummies Cookbook” is my first solo book, and I wanted to showcase all the flavors that define me. The Terrazzo coffee jelly, made with agar agar, pays homage to the version my mother made for potlucks. Crispy snowflake nougat is a candy that originated in Taiwan, often eaten during Lunar New Year. Chocolate turtles instantly take me back to my childhood in Texas. The combination of chocolate, caramel and pecans feels so southern .

What would you say to home cooks who might be intimidated trying to make food at home?

Lo: If you’re dipping your toes, the easiest way to infuse cannabis is to make a simple alcohol-based tincture, which doesn’t require any special tools. You can then use this tincture to make infused sugar for your gummies and candies. Safety and responsible drinking are very important to me. If you’re concerned about dosages, the recipes in the book are designed to be low-dose and snackable. Once you are comfortable cooking with cannabis, you can add more cannabis flower or use a more potent strain in your infusions.

Gemstone Candy (Monica Lo)

I noticed you organized your recipes by texture, which I thought was very clever for a book like this. How did you come to this decision?

Lo: Thanks. I wanted to go beyond gummies with this cookbook and cover a variety of different confections. To do this, I’ve organized the book by gummies, soft caramels and nougat, hard and brittle, and sugar substitutes. The gummy section covers various gelling agents like gelatin, agar agar, pectin, and tapioca starch. The techniques get a little more difficult as you progress through the book. Working with sugar is a science. Once you’re in the soft caramels and hard candies sections, you’ll need special equipment like a candy thermometer to succeed.

What are some of the benefits of making your own edibles at home?

Lo: It’s much more cost effective to make your own infusions and treats at home, especially as dispensary prices are rising for a variety of reasons, from taxes to operating costs.

Dispensary edibles often contain preservatives to extend their shelf life, but when you DIY, you can make your edibles without the commercial preservatives and also customize the dosage to suit your body’s needs.

Finally, you can get a specific or cannabinoid-specific strain and cook with your favorite flower. Plus, they make great gifts during the holiday season.

If you liked this interview, check out Monica Lo’sThe Weed Gummies Cookbook: Recipes for Cannabis Gummies, THC & CBD Edibles, and More“, which was published by Ulysses Press in August.

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Lola R. McClure