Two things distinguish writer Alice B. Toklas in the public's mind. One is her longtime lesbian affair with Gertrude Stein. The other is The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book, the 1954 collection of recipes that was notorious for its inclusion of a formula for marijuana-laced "Haschich Fudge." In truth, the septuagenarian wasn't a closet dope smoker; the recipe sneaked into the book when Toklas, panicky over an impending deadline and only half-finished with her culinary opus, solicited dishes from her art-world buddies. As a goof, a painter pal submitted the fudge instructions and Toklas (unfamiliar with what her friend called "canibus sativa") sent it on cluelessly to the publisher.
It's unfair, really, that the furor over that one inclusion stole all the attention, since the rest of the book is a gorgeous, lusty paean to food and fine French cooking. It's stuffed with wonderful recipes for classic dishes like boeuf bourguignon, witty kitchen discourses (the author's memoir of dispatching a carp in the section titled "Murder in the Kitchen" is an all-time favorite), and reminiscences on meals shared with Stein and famous associates like Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway.
Today Toklas' masterpiece is finally given its due in "A Life in Food: A Celebration of the 50th Anniversary ofThe Alice B. Toklas Cook Book," an afternoon of readings, Toklas anecdotes from folks who knew her, a short biographical film, and scenes from the new play Cooking With Alice B. Eat it up at 2 p.m. in the Main Library's Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin (at Grove), S.F. Admission is free; call 557-4400 or visit www.sfpl.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
Animator Lotte Reiniger created a creepy, dreamlike world of evil sorcerers and filigree demons using menacing cutout shadow puppets way back in 1926. Her low-profile movie, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, has just recently been released on DVD almost 80 years after its birth; you just know it has to be good. See Achmed along with another silent classic -- the Danish film Haxan (Witchcraft Through the Ages), with scenes of grave robbing, torture, and possessed nuns that were enough to get it banned in numerous countries -- accompanied by live music from the Ahl-i Nafs at "An Evening of Fantasy, and Dread" at 8 p.m. at Brain Wash, 1122 Folsom (at Seventh Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 861-3663 or visit www.brainwash.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
Love, Armenian Style
A bad place for a diet
Buttery sheets of crunchy, syrup-drenched phyllo dough, studded with nuts. It's not that the St. John Armenian Church 62nd Annual Food Festival doesn't offer a ton of other delectables, but for us, it's about pastry. Some of you are shaking your heads, we know. "What about the shish kebab, and its relative, ground-lamb luleh?" you wonder aloud. "And for the love of all that is good and right in the world, what about the dolmas?" You've got a point, we'll give you that. Savory rice dishes, heartier dinner fare, and roasted meats all have their draw. But we are adamant, and loyal: Our hearts belong to pastry. The only question is, do the triangular cheese-filled phyllo packages known as boeregs count as pastry? Develop your own sympathies at noon at the St. John Church Hall, 275 Olympia (at Clarendon), S.F. Admission is free; call 661-1142.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Get Your Kink On
Gape and flirt at the Exotic Erotic Ball
Curious pervs can come play naughty at the Exotic Erotic Ball, celebrating its 25th year with 100,000 square feet of B/D demos, an S/M dungeon, DJs, latex body painting, revealing fashion shows, and enough porn personalities and strippers to get your G-string in a knot. Started as a fund-raising event by Perry Mann (who was seeking the cash to launch nudist pal Louis Abolafia on his presidential campaign), the sexy soiree has since garnered worldwide notoriety among denizens of the sex-play underground. And though the ball has taken on some of the characteristics of a typical business expo -- particularly in the vendors' area, despite the presence of nearly naked dildo- and video-hawking girls -- it's still a great excuse to haul out your stilettos. The fetishists frolic starting at 8 p.m. at the Cow Palace, Geneva & Santos, S.F. Admission is $69.95-185; call 567-BALL or visit www.exoticeroticball.com.
-- Charyn Pfeuffer
Our Boy Ellroy
His books are stuffed with sex and violence, and often a good dash of racism as well -- witness the slurs that littered L.A. Confidential. But the fact remains that James Ellroy writes ripping-good detective stories with a panache that hasn't been seen since Dashiell Hammett shuffled off this mortal coil. Ellroy's latest, Destination: Morgue! -- hard-boiled fiction and nonfiction tales from what the book jacket calls "America's capital of kink: Los Angeles" -- is a seamy trip through scenes that are fascinating to read about simply because we wouldn't want to live them. Hear Ellroy read tonight at 7:30 at Books Inc., 2251 Chestnut (at Scott), S.F. Admission is free; call 931-3633 or visit www.booksinc.net.
-- Joyce Slaton