Panama Rose was the pseudonym used by Ira Cohen’s then-girlfriend Rosalind, the author of The Hashish Cookbook. (She and Ira were together from 1963, when they met in Tangier, until June 1968 in New York City. Rosalind was born in Colón, Panama and lived there till around age four. While Panama Red is a cultivar of cannabis popular among aficionados in the 1960s and 1970s and renowned for its potency, due to its high THC levels. And hah, THC is an acronym for…The Hashish Cookbook.) The suggestion came from Brion Gysin, who years earlier gave Alice B. Toklas the famous hashish fudge recipe for her legendary cookbook. It was Brion’s way of helping to create a tangible bridge, as it were, between the older generation in Europe (the circle around Gertrude Stein and Alice, which he’d frequented) and the younger crowd he was spending time with in Morocco. He broached the idea one evening over dinner in the Dar Baroud house at 9 Rue Rabah, where Ira and Rosalind were living. And where Ira produced the Jilala album of dervish trance music, from recordings made by Brion Gysin and Paul Bowles. Rosalind was an excellent cook (unlike Ira, who could barely boil water). She also did all the drawings for the cookbook, and then designed it. Just as she’d designed Ira’s seminal literary magazine Gnaoua, though all she was credited for in that regard were the cantharides beetles on the cover and copyright page.
The Hashish Cookbook was subsequently published by Ira in New York (1966) under the Gnaoua Press imprint. 10,000 copies were printed and sold within six weeks, @ $1.25 wholesale ($2.50 retail). Never minding that everyone on the Tangier scene at the time (i.e., expat Tangerines), as well as in 1960s New York, knew who the real Panama Rose was, over the ensuing years Ira somehow managed to usurp authorship credit for the cookbook and incorporate it into his personal mythology. Even though, given everything of undeniable significance that he actually did in his life (the countless poems he wrote, the unique photographs he took, the films, etc), he had no real need of that. Yet this strange ego-inspired (and perversely anti-historical) legerdemain was so effective, that the intellectual lie was reaffirmed as gospel truth in virtually all the obituaries (Ira Cohen died on April 25th 2011). And further appears in numerous other articles, essays and tributes (mainly on the internet).
Sometime in the 1970s, Ira sold the rights to the cookbook to a British publisher, in return for a percentage of the sales. This despite the fact that the copyright was ‘held’ by a nonexistent Si-Fan (the name of a secret society in Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu novels). There’s a possibly apocryphal back story to this, which needn’t be told now, if ever. Said deal apparently earned Ira several hundred dollars every few months, but for how long is uncertain. Reprints are therefore available, along with the occasional bootleg knockoff. While any original editions that can still be found are selling for very big bucks. Concerning the legal copyright, however, that belongs to the actual author (and eventually her estate). And will continue to until 2061, after which the book will be in the public domain. All such works are copyright protected the moment they are written; no special filing or registering is required. This holds true even when a pseudonym was used.
For those of you who are interested in seeing what The Hashish Cookbook looks like, reading the recipes, and/or downloading the book in its entirety (for free!), I have here posted a PDF facsimile (with thanks to Ira Landgarten, for making the scan from his personal copy and sending that to me). Just look for it to your left at the top of this page and click. It’s also hyperlinked for clicking on down below.
NB Depending on the speed of your internet connection, it may take some seconds for the entire cookbook to fully load, as it’s a rather large file. No worries, your patience will definitely be rewarded!
Ah, in case you are wondering… Rosalind was always known professionally by her first name only. Not just in Gnaoua, but also in the cast listing for Ira’s mylar film Invasion of the Thunderbolt Pagoda. No point in breaking with tradition, eh.
Comments are closed on all pages of this website. If there is anything you would like to say, or should you have valuable information to add, you can send me an email. Either directly if you know my address, or via the Contact page.
Enjoy The Hashish Cookbook. And remember, do not eat the Black Sabbath Salve! For that matter, you should exercise great care with all the recipes. Some of them can be dangerous! Especially avoid those with Datura stramonium or cantharides beetles among the ingredients. Cantharides in particular, as it is a urinary tract irritant. The cookbook was primarily meant to amuse, and must not be taken too seriously. EW