Monday, April 30, 2012

Happy birthday, Alice B. Toklas

Toklas (behind) and Stein in Venice in 1908,
What is Remembered, by Alice B. Toklas

It is the birthday of Alice B. Toklas (1877), who hosted a salon in Paris (along with her companion Gertrude Stein) for writers and painters in the 1920s and 1930s. Toklas served as Stein's secretary, editor, muse and confidante for 39 years, until Stein's death in 1947. Stein's 1933 book, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, was her bestselling volume. In their salon, Toklas and Stein received the likes of Matisse, Picasso and Braque as well as Thornton Wilder, Sherwood Anderson and Ernest Hemingway. Stein left most of her estate to Toklas, including Picasso masterpieces, but their relationship had no legal standing and Stein's family took them from Toklas' home while she was away on vacation. Toklas' own memoir, The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook (1954), contains her recollections of the Paris years and recipes, including one contributed by a friend for Haschich Fudge that contained spices, nuts, fruit and marijuana. Alice B. Toklas Brownies gained popularity in certain circles, especially in the 1960s. In her later years, Toklas wrote articles for The New York Times and The New Republic. She published her own autobiography, What is Remembered, in 1963. Late in life, Toklas became a Roman Catholic. She died in poverty at age 89 in 1967. She is buried in Paris next to Gertrude Stein.

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