How to dose Texas Toast like a desi
“Ghee is like a genius born to a dull parent.”
I find it amusing that I come from two cultures that adore butter. No one is going to slap your hand or give you the side eye for reaching for the ghee in India or butter in Texas. In fact, the more the better. In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that Texas Toast and I come from the same hometown (and that at least one of us is totally having a moment right now). If you don’t know, Texas Toast is white bread, doubled in thickness, buttered on both sides, and then grilled. When you bite into an authentic piece of Texas Toast, you can practically gargle with the butter that oozes out of the plushy bread.
As simple as it may seem, it hadn’t occurred to me that the connection between Texan and South Asian cuisine is butter — that is, until a few weeks ago. Ghee had always been the delicious buttery dollop on top of my Koki, a typical Sindhi breakfast. My bond with this thick masala roti is so deep I even named my 5 lb. chihuahua after it. Koki, the food not the dog, is a dish that my Sindhi brethren eat in the morning with dahi (yogurt) and ghee to keep them full for a long day of work. If you’re hardcore, you forego the yogurt all together and go full force on dipping each bite in ghee before it hits your mouth. Ghee is also used in and on top of a plethora of other South Asian dishes. One in particular, Murgh Makhani, simply translates to Butter Chicken.
I grew up thinking that India and Texas were worlds apart, and they are, but sometimes they have more in common than I give them credit for. Recently, I’ve been on a mission to celebrate my desiness through weed. That mission, my childhood in Southeast Texas, and my in-born love of butter drove me to make Texas Toast with weed ghee.
But before we get to my THGhee experiment, let’s talk about the history of ghee. It has been part of Indian culture for millenia and India is not alone. Many other countries also count clarified butter as one of their pantry staples. In Egypt it’s called samna baladi and the preparation is almost identical to the Indian preparation. In Eritrea it’s tesmi but includes garlic and spices. Ethiopia also ads spices to its niter kibbeh. Northern Africa ages spiced ghee and calls it smen. Even Switzerland and Brazil make a clarified butter. As for India, sheep herders in the northeast came upon it by chance as they were sloshing around milk in containers on their travels. But ghee really took off in sweltering Southern India where butter spoils quickly. Ghee is simply butter heated until the fats and milk solids separate. The milk solids are discarded and now you have a cooking fat with a high smoke point and a longer shelf life.
According to ancient Ayurvedic scriptures, ghee is the food of gods. Anything cooked in it is elevated to this status and it’s frequently used in religious Hindu ceremonies and rituals. In Hindu mythology it is said that the lord of creatures rubbed his hands together to churn milk and created ghee. Prajapati bore offspring by pouring ghee into a fire. To this day, many Hindus recreate this ritual during ceremonies that mark major life events like weddings and funerals. Ghee is considered a cooling food that aids in digestion and is even used topically to soothe burns. There are eight types of ghee, which can be made from the milk of cows, goats, buffalos, or sheep. Apparently, you can even make it from human breast milk.
Not only does ghee have deep cultural significance, it’s actually pretty good for you too. You can see its influence on the west in Paleo, Keto, and bulletproof coffee. It’s high in butyrate, which reduces inflammation, rich in vitamin A, and has only miniscule traces of lactose or casein if you happen to be intolerant.
In short, ghee is mmm-mazing.
Burgwald found out that each region’s ghee had its own flair. Its own terroir. And its own flavor profiles ... It’s just like wine, y’all. Or cheese. Or, these days, weed.
Texans love buttery toast, but it's not all bread and butter in America. The US has its own unique history with ghee. The first documented mention of ghee in the US appeared in an Edgar Allen Poe short story, MS Found in a Bottle, in 1831. Then, in 1895 Mark Twain sent a letter to Rudyard Kipling asking him to bring back bottles of ghee from India because he was feeling “thirsty” for it. Ghee had a juicier, more prominent mention in a recipe for “A Sinee Kabob” in an 1863 edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book, a popular Civil War-era magazine.
It wasn’t until almost a century later that ghee had its big American moment -- well, almost. In the 1950s, the government was trying to find a solution for 260 million pounds of surplus butter. They wanted to turn it into ghee and sling it in India, so they sent dairy expert Louis H. Burgwald on a three-week reconnaissance mission to give American ghee taste tests to Indian buyers. Burgwald found out that each region’s ghee had its own flair. Its own terroir. And its own flavor profiles. What the buffalos ate in Kolkata, was not the same as the cows in Mumbai. It’s just like wine, y’all. Or cheese. Or, these days, weed.
The only thing to come of Burgwald’s mission to India was “Ghee for Good,” a 1955 New York Times article by R.K. Narayan, a renowned Indian writer who is often compared to the American author William Faulkner. The article is basically a poetic love letter to ghee and a primer on the subject for Western audiences. Narayan was a master of the short story and wrote about the lives of ordinary Indian people, some of which happened to use bhang in daily life.
Which brings me back to our sticky, green raison d'être.
Ganja ghee is pretty simple to make, especially if you’re starting out with store-bought sticks of butter. I read a few recipes on the Interweb and ended up following the directions in this Bon Appetit recipe. I didn’t start from scratch because I had extra bhang balls from making a dosed thandai. That means our weed ghee had all these extra spices and nuts in it. If you want to try to make bhang paste to infuse your butter, you could leave out the nuts, seeds, and spices in my recipe. All you really need is marijuana and butter. If you live in an apartment with a strict landlord or have canna-averse roommates, you might want to explore this odorless sous vide infusion method from Sousweed.
Our creative director, Christopher, put a little cannaleaf shaped pat of butter on his tongue for a failed photo. He said the bitter greens were coming through strong, but when we slathered the ghee on a piece of herbed Acme bread, all those herbs worked. The herbs in the bread canceled out the bitter taste of the bhang and we had Texas Toast soaked in THC.
As an homage to Beaumont, Bombay, butter, and bhang, Christopher and I created a Ghee “popscicle” on a platter of Texas Toast. We wouldn’t recommend eating that much in one sitting, but hey...YOLO.