CultureSonar talked with Sarah Lohman about her website Four Pounds Flour, in anticipation of her book Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine coming out in December 2016.
How and when did Four Pounds Flour come about?
I launched my blog in December, 2008. After a few years of working at New York Magazine‘s website, and specifically at their food blog Grub Street, I got introduced to the world of blogging. I had played around with another blog that posted links and articles that made a connection between the historical and the contemporary. When I noticed that most of my posts were about food, I decided to launch a new blog that focused on what I called “Historic Gastronomy.” I had worked as a teenager in a Living History museum, making 19th century food; I combined that with the knowledge I had gained of New York City’s food scene where chefs were looking to tradition for inspiration. I realized I had a very unique perspective, and I combined my historical knowledge with my experience with modern food. The past and the present met, and I immediately found a following.What’s been the most popular content on the site so far?
My most popular pieces are when I take on another way of living–and eating–for a day or more. Readers love the schadenfreude of watching me try out an often awful diet of the of past. The most popular piece I’ve written is called “Drink Like a Colonial American Day,” where I research how frequently early Americans drank (a lot), what sorts of drinks they were drinking, and how all the alcohol fit into their daily schedule. Then I sought to recreate that lifestyle, starting with whiskey at 6am. I made it until about 4pm before I fell asleep on my couch and missed the rest of the day.
If you could share one piece of content from the site as an introduction to a new visitor, what might it be?
I love sharing the research I’ve done on ambergris, and specifically when I made ice cream out of it. Ambergris was a desirable, expensive flavoring that was used by the wealthy up through the 18th century. It’s a mass that forms in the guts of whales. The earliest ice cream recipe on record suggests it as a flavoring. I love the story behind ambergris because I am fascinated by the flavors of the past, especially when it comes to ice cream. 18th century ice cream flavors are just as crazy as anything you’ll find in a trendy contemporary ice cream shop.
What’s coming up on the site of particular interest?
Speaking of ice cream, there are two more 18th century flavors I’m going to try out this August: Brown Bread (pumpernickel) and Bay Leaf. I bought a bay leaf plant in anticipation of making it into a historical ice cream. And my first book, Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, is coming out on December 6, 2016, so this fall will feature a lot of the stories and recipes behind the eight most popular flavors in American cooking, from black pepper cookies to a peek inside the Sriracha factory.
PS. We recently discussed some delectable food documentaries on our weekly radio segment. Check them out in our post Where Food Meets Obsession — and Obsession Meets Art. If baking is your thing, you’ll want to read about a British TV import in our post Nothin’ Says Lovin’ Like Something from the Oven. And two Australian women are serving up laughs in a great web series which we highlight in A Food Show for the Rest of Us.