Alice B. Toklas, photo by
Carl Van Vechten, 1949
Alice B. Toklas (April 30, 1877 – March 7, 1967), a writer, was the life partner of writer Gertrude Stein.
Early life, relationship with Gertrude Stein
She was born Alice Babette Toklas in San Francisco, California into a middle-class Jewish family and attended schools in both San Francisco and Seattle. For a short time she also studied music at the University of Washington. She met Stein in Paris on September 8, 1907 on the first day that she arrived. Together they hosted a salon that attracted expatriate American writers, such as Ernest Hemingway, Paul Bowles, Thornton Wilder and Sherwood Anderson, and avant-garde painters, including Picasso, Matisse and Braque.
Read a chapter, called "Beautiful Soup," on cold soups from The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book, published in 1954, free from soupsong.com.
Acting as Stein's confidante, lover, cook, secretary, muse, editor, critic, and general organizer, Toklas remained a background figure, chiefly living in the shadow of Stein, until Stein published her memoirs in 1933 under the teasing title The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Ironically it became Stein's bestselling book. The two were a couple until Gertrude Stein's death in 1946.
After the death of Gertrude Stein, Toklas published her own literary memoir, a 1954 book that mixed reminiscences and recipes under the title The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook. The most famous recipe therein (actually contributed by her friend Brion Gysin) was called "Hashish Fudge", a mixture of fruit, nuts, spices, and "cannabis sativa" [sic], or marijuana. Her name was later lent to the range of cannabis concoctions called Alice B. Toklas brownies. The cookbook has not been out of print since it was published. A second cookbook followed in 1958 called "Aromas and Flavors of Past and Present," however Toklas did not approve of it as it had been heavily annotated by Poppy Cannon, an editor from House Beautiful magazine. She also wrote articles for several magazines and newspapers including The New Republic and the New York Times.
In 1963 she published her autobiography, What Is Remembered, which abruptly ends with Stein's death, leaving little doubt that Stein was the love of her lifetime.
Her later years were very difficult because of poor health and financial problems, aggravated by the fact that Stein's heirs took the priceless paintings (some of them Picassos), which had been left to her by Stein.
Toklas became a Roman Catholic convert, and asked the priest attending her at death if she would meet Gertrude in heaven. Toklas died in poverty at the age of 89, and is buried next to Stein in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France.