Alice B. Toklas



Alice B. Toklas (April 30, 1877 – March 7, 1967) was an American-born member of the Parisian avant-garde of the early 20th century. She was born Alice Babette Toklas  in San Francisco, California, into a middle-class Jewish family and attended schools in both San Francisco and Seattle. For a short time she also studied music at the University of Washington. She met Gertrude Stein in Paris on September 8, 1907, the day she arrived. Together they hosted a salon that attracted expatriate American writers, such as Ernest Hemingway, Paul Bowles, Thornton Wilder, and Sherwood Anderson, and avant-garde painters, including Picasso, Matisse, and Braque.

Acting as Stein's confidante, lover, cook, secretary, muse, editor, critic, and general organizer, Toklas remained a background figure, chiefly living in the shadow of Stein, until Stein published her memoirs in 1933 under the teasing title The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. It became Stein's bestselling book. The two were a couple until Gertrude Stein's death in 1946.

Although Gertrude Stein had willed much of her estate to Toklas, including their shared art collection (some of them Picassos), the couple's relationship had no legal recognition. As the paintings appreciated in value, Stein's relatives took action to claim them, eventually removing them from Toklas's home while she was away on vacation and placing them in a bank vault. Toklas then relied on contributions from friends as well as writing to make a living.  Toklas published her own literary memoir, a 1954 book that mixed reminiscences and recipes under the title The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook. The most famous recipe therein (actually contributed by her friend Brion Gysin) was called "Haschich Fudge," a mixture of fruit, nuts, spices, and "canibus [sic] sativa," or marijuana. Her name was later lent to the range of cannabis concoctions called Alice B. Toklas brownies. The cookbook has been translated into numerous languages, most recently into Norwegian in 2007. A second cookbook followed in 1958 called Aromas and Flavors of Past and Present; however, Toklas did not approve of it as it had been heavily annotated by Poppy Cannon, an editor from House Beautiful magazine. She also wrote articles for several magazines and newspapers, including The New Republic and the New York Times.In 1963 she published her autobiography, What Is Remembered, which abruptly ends with Stein's death, leaving little doubt that Stein was the love of her life.

Her later years were very difficult because of poor health and financial problems. Toklas became a Roman Catholic convert in her old age. Toklas died in poverty at the age of 89 and is buried next to Stein in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France; Toklas's name is engraved on the back of Stein's headstone.