Bob Marley has become such a legendary icon that it’s sometimes easy to forget he was a real man who loved porridge and roasted fish, and sat down regularly and eagerly to supper with his family — including his eldest daughter Cedella, who still refers to the international superstar as, simply, “Daddy.”
Today, as legalization spreads across the United States, and around the world, his children have continued the family legacy through a number of projects, including the Marley Natural brand of cannabis products, and now, this beautiful new cookbook.
Guiding readers through the basics of how to use cannabis safely and responsibly, this collection of 75 recipes is the first authentic representation of Jamaican culture as it relates to cooking and eating the sacramental herb. After explaining how to infuse cannabis into a few base ingredients including butter and oil, Marley shares recipes for a ‘cannavanilla’ extract and spiked jerk seasoning, plus full instructions for preparing classic Jamaican dishes like spicy patties, Red Stripe battered fish, cornmeal porridge, curry rundown and Marley family favorites like veggie lasagna, mango salads, and sticky sweet potato pudding. Cedella even includes a chapter on natural beauty, with homemade options for cannabis-infused facial masks and skin scrubs.
Complete with personal anecdotes about growing up as reggae royalty, a glossary of Rasta slang, and tips on living a vital life aided by cannabis, “Cooking with Herb” is full of inspirational instructions that answer many questions beyond just “what’s for dinner?”
As a singer in The Melody Makers, CEO of the family’s Tuff Gong International record label, and manager of House of Marley and Hope Road Merchandising, Cedella works to protect and perpetuate her father’s image, name and legacy, while also directing the family charity, The Bob Marley Foundation. Speaking by phone from Miami, she educated Cannabis Now on the Jamaican pantry, Bob’s favorite foods, healthy ital living, and how she explains the herb to her children.
Let’s start by recalling your early fond food memories. What were the things you used to make frequently as a family?
For Jamaican families, Sunday dinners are the big deal, that’s when you do everything buffet-style. My parents were often on the road, so whenever they were back in town, it was extra super special. Everybody would be in the kitchen working on a dish. Our great aunt was the head chef, and we were more like the sous chefs… it was amazing for us to be all sitting at the table enjoying Sunday dinner — sometimes it was roast chicken or it was fish, rice and peas, fried plantain, potato salad. And we would always make this tamarind juice… You guys eat tamarind here?
It’s a much more rare ingredient.
It’s a big thing in Jamaica. We used to juice the tamarind, it’s a very tart juice but it cleanses the palate; that was our typical Sunday, always a good memory.
When you have a really good experience ingesting cannabis, what does that feel like?
It feels really good… (laughs) It feels happy, you’re chill, calm. You can have really good conversations, at least that’s been my experience. Everyone has different experiences and I can only share mine.
I’ve had friends who do the brownies and the cookies and they get very “trippy trippy” you know? I don’t want to have that experience, but some people do. I’d rather have the experience where I can sit down, meditate, have good conversations and be among friends.
Do you find that’s a preferable experience as compared to the effects of alcohol when socializing?
It’s a totally different thing, but anything enjoyed responsibly, whether it’s alcohol or the herb, you can have good experiences. But I think it’s definitely so great that people now have the option to substitute a much healthier substance.
Cooking with herb is in no way a new way to experience the medicinal and spiritual benefits of the herb, but I think nowadays we have the option to re-educate ourselves about the plant, so it’s not just about “we smoke to get high or we eat to get high” it’s more than that now.
It’s medicinal, it’s recreational, it’s spiritual — all rolled into one. That’s what I like so much about your philosophy of using it as an ingredient in a more holistic way…
The thing about herb is that it has a pretty diverse flavor profile, it blends well with sweet spices like cinnamon, and it also compliments powerful savory flavors like curry and cumin. In Jamaica, the herb was always one of two colors: green or brown. So when I first went to Amsterdam and visited the cafes, it was a totally new experience for me. I didn’t realize that there were so many different flavor profiles for herb. I had to re-educate myself. And now we have that freedom in certain parts of America to walk into a cafe and actually enjoy the different flavors and educate ourselves about what’s good for what, you know?
Are there particular types you like to use for certain dishes?
Oh gosh, um, Kush? In Jamaica we call it “kushumpeng.” It’s a strong flavor, so I like to use very little because I don’t want to overpower a dish, I just want to enhance it, and that’s what’s cool about the recipes. I’m not just trying to get you high and you’re having a blast, I’m trying to make you have an experience.
The book includes a lot of great healthy options. Can you explain how ital fits into the Rastafarian philosophy of diet?
Before everybody was into healthy foods and green juices, the Rastafarians were — that was their way of life. How they eat — that’s their livity. I remember my father smoking his herb before he went to jog, blending up the herb with his green juice and carrot, he was doing that long before it became the thing to do. The Rasta way of life, it’s clean living, and anybody can do it. You don’t have to be a Rasta to live clean, it’s just how we grew up.
Daddy loved the ital stew, it was his favorite dish, with the red beans and cut-up veggies with coconut milk and you cook that down. I don’t think brown rice was popular back then, but cassava, which Americans call yuca, was a staple for us.
He loved fruits, he liked fish too, a specific fish called a sprat, which is like mackerel, and he would roast that on a piece of zinc. And he loved porridge.
How does cannabis fit into your concept of ital and clean eating?
It is like a vitamin, a nice green earthy vitamin. (laughs) We’ll have to put it in capsule form next!
What are the unique Caribbean fruits and herbs included in this book that give the cuisine its authentic flavors?
Jamaican culture draws on cooking styles from all around the world, it’s a very flavorful country — a fusion of Chinese-Jamaican, Indian-Jamaican, Spanish-Jamaican. And I’m not afraid to experiment with those flavors. For instance with “The Jerk Tofu Taco with Black Bean and Mango Salsa.”
One thing I really like about my book is that everything in it is something we actually made in our kitchen at home and taste-tested. Some of the recipes are not easy, but in my kitchen growing up, it was never easy. It took hard work and sometimes you’d bust a sweat! My Granna taught me how to stream a black Christmas pudding; it took me almost a month to perfect the technique and that’ll surely make you bust a sweat!
Have you ever had ackee?
So the weird thing about ackee, it’s our national dish. It’s also poisonous [when unripe] and there must be a historical reason why we eat poison as our national dish. But it’s so good, it has the consistency of a hard scrambled egg, cooked with salt fish. And we love coconut oil! That’s a funny thing too, Jamaica has been living on coconut oil for centuries and now it’s the hippest thing!
Ginger, green banana, plantain, pimento, pigeon peas, Scotch bonnet pepper — that’s
Jamaican flavors. We bring it all together from British, Spanish, African, Indian and Chinese influences, so that’s what I tried to put into this book as much as possible.
Do you have any tips for people who’ve never ingested cannabis before?
Follow the recipes, have a very trusted source for your herb, and enjoy your dishes slowly. Don’t rush into it, eat a little bit, relax a little bit and see how you feel. The mistake that some people make is to misjudge and have a little bit more than you should have. Allow your body time to respond to it.
When you’re in the kitchen, creating a good vibe, what type of music do you like to listen to?
We have an on-demand reggae station, and when I’m cooking, I open all the windows and blare it. I disturb my neighbors, but they can come over if they want to! I have three boys and a husband, so I have a lot of sous chefs. It’s gets pretty crowded in the kitchen, but we really have a good time…
As a parent, how do you explain cannabis use to your children?
I tell them my own experience. When I was 16, I used to hide and smoke, and I used to do some of the dumbest things ever! I loved feeling high, but the more we toured, I realized smoking wasn’t the best thing for my voice. That’s where cooking with it came in. I didn’t get as high, but it calmed me down. They’re gonna have their own life experiences, so you just let them learn from it and guide them along the way.
Check out the recipe for spicy Jamaican patties excerpted from “Cooking with Herb” here.