Cooking with cannabis: Necole Hines teaches clients to ‘start low, go slow’

Necole Hines started Faded Living in 2020 to normalize adult cannabis use. She teaches virtual cooking classes, cooks for cannabis-infused dinner parties, hosts a podcast and sells apparel to spark conversation.

If you ever tried cooking with cannabis before legalization, there’s a good chance the experience was intense.

Maybe your weed was too potent — with no regulation or safe supply, there was no way of knowing exactly which cannabinoids were in the bag. Maybe the person cooking was inexperienced and didn’t thoroughly blend the ingredients, leaving some brownies benign and others overwhelming. Maybe you thought it wasn’t working, and bit off more than you could chew.

Necole Hines, a cannabis chef and educator based in Vancouver, is on a mission to make cooking with cannabis less intimidating — and more predictable. Her company, Faded Living, offers virtual workshops and in-person cannabis-infused dinner parties, catering mostly to first-timers and experienced smokers who’ve had an negative edible experience.

“I teach a micro-dosed approach, and really embrace ‘start low, go slow.’ If you create low-dosed oil, butter or honey, you can incorporate cannabis throughout the day as opposed to one-off heavy experiences,” she says.

Like a cosy blanket, not couch-locked

At her ‘Faded Feast’ in-person events, Hines starts by educating, and sharing her intention for the evening.

“I tell my clients I want them to walk away feeling like they’re wrapped in a cosy blanket, not couch-locked and so immobilized I have to roll them out!”

That empowers diners to take control of their own experience. Hines shares tips to alleviate feeling too high (CBD can help, as can citrus) and the names of some low THC strains to look for at your local cannabis retailer. If you take one of her cooking classes, you’ll leave with a simple, three-step calculation to know exactly how much THC is in a tablespoon of any infused butter, oil or honey you create on your own.

Armed with this knowledge, any fears of rollercoaster edible trips will fade into distant memory.

When Necole Hines cooks with cannabis, she doesn’t always hide its flavour. “Those Caribbean flavours work really well with the cannabis plant. Cannabis can taste wonderful.”

Soft-baked chocolate chip cookies dipped in infused apple chutney

Hines was a food entrepreneur with a decades-long relationship to healing plants, who turned her focus to therapeutic cannabis use after a car accident left her with chronic pain. In 2020, she decided to combine her two loves — cooking and cannabis — to create her own business and try to reduce stigma around marijuana.

“People aren’t usually as fearful of food. You can have fun with it.”

In recent classes Hines has added infused cannabis to ginger beer, created infused oat milk nog, and cooked an infused apple chutney served with soft-baked chocolate chip cookies. Sometimes the cannabis flavour is in the background, but often Hines treats it as any other herb — especially when making meals inspired by her Jamaican roots.

“Those Caribbean flavours work really well with the cannabis plant. Cannabis can taste wonderful.”

She keeps recipes simple and uses equipment most people already have in their kitchen, to ensure her classes are affordable and accessible. It’s all part of her broader goal to increase cannabis education and normalize adult cannabis use.

“It’s been legal for three years, and I live in the cannabis mecca of Vancouver, and there’s still lots of stigma around the plant.”

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