Pre-Order My Book: Eight Flavors!

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My very first book is in presale, ready to wing its way to your hands on December 6th, 2016!

Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine looks at the eight most popular flavors in American cooking as a way to define American food–and the American people. Moving chronologically through our history,  I explore black pepper, vanilla, curry powder, chili powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and Sriracha. But this book is really about people, the folks who have shaped American food over time; and these are people that don’t normally get a page in our history books: blacks, women, immigrants. There’s Edmond Albius, a twelve-year-old slave, who discovered the technique still used to pollinate vanilla orchids today. And David Tran, the Vietnamese refugee who created Sriracha to support his family.

This book has got it all! There’s gorgeous illustrations (by Peter Van Hyning):

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Fun facts:

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And tempting recipes:

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Let’s face it: I’ve just made your Holiday shopping a snap. You can buy the book here.

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Thank you in advance for reading, and thank you for being fans, followers and readers–it’s because of you that this project has come to fruition!

The History Dish: Cabbage Cake and the Jewish Vegetarian Movement

3Cake Filled with Cabbage: buttery, sweet and savory.

In the early 20th century, a group Jewish people believed that the less meat you ate, the closer you would be to god. By refraining from eating meat and fish, one could avoid the necessity of slaughtering living beings. This idea was epitomized in The Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (originally published as Vegtarish-Dietischer Kokhnukh: 400 Shpeizn Gemakht Oysshlislekh fun Grsin, or Vegetarian-Dietetic Cookbook: 400 Recipes Made Exclusively from Vegetables), a kosher cookbook published in 1938. Originally printed in Lithuania, it was recently re-released and translated into English. For a special event promoting the book’s release, I was asked to prepare a recipe; typically for me, I picked the weirdest recipe I could find: cabbage cake.

The History

Because the laws of kosher dictate the separation of meat and dairy, there are many vegetarian (and vegan) recipes among Jewish cultures. In New York City, as well as in other Jewish centers, dairy restaurants and appetizing stores flourished at the turn of the century, alongside their meat counterparts, delicatessens. Additionally, vegetarian meals were more affordable; so often, a Jewish family on a budget–or in a situation where they had little access to meat–would turn to vegetarian recipes like the ones offered in The Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook.

The book’s author, Fania Lewando, ran her own vegetarian restaurant and kosher cooking school in Vilna, Lithuania. In her introduction, she enthused on the virtues of a vegetarian life, spoke on the health giving properties of plants, and gave a a brief history of vegetarianism as “a Jewish movement.”

And she offered great practical advice, like “Throw nothing out, everything can be made into food. For example, don’t throw out the water in which you have cooked mushrooms or green peas; it can be used for various soups. Don’t throw out the vegetables used to make a vegetable broth. You can make various foods from them, as shown in this cookbook.”

Many of her recipes are simple and practical; others are fashionable, and sometimes even outrageous. In the pages of her cookbook, you can find Pickle Soup, a stew of root vegetables, peas and pickle brine; Buckwheat Kasha Cutlets, a homemade meat substitute similar to the foods Kellogg served at his vegetarian Sanitarium; Stuffed Imitation Kishke, the vegetarian version of a traditional sausage of stuffed beef intestine; and even a recipe for Kvass, a fermented beverage made from rye bread.

Cabbage Cake — or “Cake Filled with Cabbage” — intrigued me because who fills a cake with cabbage? But like the many bizarre recipes I am tempted to try, I saw potential. It layered a buttery, savory yeast dough with a slow cooked mix of butter, cabbage and onions.

2Assembling the cake.

The Recipe

Cake Filled with Cabbage
Adapted from the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook, By Fania Lewanda, 1938
Translated from the original Yiddish by Eve Jochnowitz

4 cups white flour
1 packet yeast
1/2 cup milk, warm
1.5 cups (three sticks) unsalted butter
5 egg yolks
3 eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
Salt
1 Head of cabbage, shredded (about 2 pounds)
1 cup chopped onions
Salt

  1. In a large bowl, sprinkle cabbage with 1 tablespoon of salt. Set aside.
  2. Make the dough: Pour 4 cups white flour into a bowl. Dissolve yeast in milk, stirring gently with a fork. Add to flour. Add 5 egg yolks, 2 eggs, sugar, a pinch of salt and 1/2 cup melted butter, stir until combined. On a well-floured board, knead for three minutes. Return to bowl, cover with a towel and set aside. Let dough rise one hour.
  3. Wrap cabbage in a towel and squeeze–or press through a strainer–to remove water. Over medium-heat heat, melt 1 cup butter. Add cabbage and onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown.
  4. On a well-floured board, divide dough in half, and roll into two sheets, each about 1/4 inch thick.
  5. Grease a baking sheet.  Lay one sheet of dough on the baking sheet, cover with cooked cabbage mixture, and then cover with the second sheet of dough. Pierce it all over with a fork and allow it to rise 30 minutes. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Brush top of dough with a beaten egg, and bake 45 to 50 minutes, until the top is toasty brown and bubbly.
4Out of the oven!

The Results

Since I made this cake for an event, the results were fed to about 100 people. I was worried the cake might be too weird. But in the end, it’s all about the experience; which is why I pick the recipe that sounds the most interesting, not the one that sounds the most delicious.

But thankfully, Cabbage Cake was both interesting and delicious. The yeasty dough paired perfectly with the buttery cabbage, that savory filling contrasting with the slightly sweet crust. The crust was crisp, and the filling melt-in-your mouth. It was an all around hit, and a dish I would make again as a vegetarian side or even a main course.

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If you live in the new York City area and you’d like to learn more about the history of Jewish cuisine, I’m giving a special program at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum on May 18th. It will feature a tour focusing on the diversity of Jewish food, as well as a cooking class! Sign up here!

 

Cocktail Hour: The Ale Flip

IMG_2743The Ale Flip: a beer cocktail heated with a fire poker. Great for both a chilly day or summer camping trip.

One of my first forays into historical gastronomy was inspired by a book called Taverns of Yesteryear.

In 2003, I had just moved into an apartment off of Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. I’d live with my new roommate Jeff for all but one of the next 8 years. Early in our time together, we took a walk down the street to the local antique store, Attenson’s, four rooms and two floors packed floor to ceiling with treasures. We both especially loved the Bargain Basement, down the stairs, where chintzy and unwanted goods sat collecting dust on plywood shelves.

I don’t remember which one of us spotted Taverns first, but I know I bought it at Jeff’s urging. Published in 1960 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of “Schmidt’s of Philadelphia,” (Schmidt’s brewing closed in the mid-1980s, now it’s a dining and shopping center) it’s of a genre of books that were published when America was gearing up for its bicentennial. A slew of historical works came out, including some focused on food history. They were nostalgic, if not always accurate, tributes to historic eating and drinking.

Taverns started with what it calls a “brief ramble among Pennsylvania’s early inns and taverns.” In the back of the book, there were recipes. One caught our eye that seemed particular appalling: an Ale Flip

2 quarts beer
1 lemon
1/2 oz cinnamon
4 teaspoons brown sugar
1 glass ale
12 eggs

Break the eggs and separate the whites. Removed the peel from the lemon and cut in thin strips. Put the beer and ale in a large saucepan, add lemon peel, cinnamon and sugar, and bring to a boil. Beat the egg whites in a large bowl. Remove the saucepan from the fire and pour its contents onto the beaten-up egg whites. Without stirring the mixture, empty it into one of the pitchers. Pour it smartly back and forth from pitcher to pitcher, until the froth is deep. Serve in glass mugs.

Inspired by the book, Jeff & I (along with our third roommate, Tom) threw a party. Our excuse was when our friend Misha got his American citizenship; we celebrated with a Revolutionary War Party. There were costumes, as well as historic food, and the ale flip:

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original_aleflip
Photo cred: bankbryan

That’s me trying to pour it “smartly back and forth from pitcher to pitcher.” It was pretty bad; unevenly cooked meringue sitting on top of sweet, warm beer. One guest called it “hot beer custard.” I tried it again a few years later, and instead of pouring the concoction between pitchers, I beat egg whites into a meringue in a stand mixer, then slowly added the hot, mulled beer. It still tasted like hot beer custard.

The ale flip was indeed a drink consumed in 18th century New England taverns. As opposed to being heated in a saucepan, like the 20th century recipe, it was traditionally heated with a hot fire poker, and included a shot of rum as well as ale, eggs, and sugar. You can see it here in a 1772 bill from Bowen’s tavern in Rhode Island. It appears in Jerry Thomas’ 1862 bartending guide here; he adds grated nutmeg to the mixture. This 1897 book on life in old-timey England (another work of nostalgia) adds a blade of mace, a clove, and a piece of butter.

I decided to give the ale flip another chance when I came across in the modern book Cooking with Fire, which I’ve written about before when I tried the author’s “burnt cream” recipe . I’ve been planning an 18th century tavern dinner with Old Stone House of Brooklyn and Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co. It’s going to be a three course, 18th century meal with beer pairings–tickets and menu here–and I thought it might be nice if guests got a winter warmer when they walked in: the ale flip.

So I gave it one more shot, this time following historic recipes, and using a real fire poker. Here’s what it looks like when you plunge the poker in the drink:

ale_flip from Sarah Lohman on Vimeo.

And now I understand. This ale flip had intensely creamy mouth feel from the protein in the gently cooked egg. It’s slightly sweet from the brown sugar, but the brown ale gave a not unpleasant bitter coffee taste. The rum gave it an extra kicked that warmed inside and out.

So here’s my version. If you have a fireplace, I highly recommend it. And if you live in New York City Are, come on out on Wednesday, March 16th to our tavern feast and I’ll make one for you in person. Proceeds from the dinner benefit the rebuilding of Old Stone House’s outdoor cooking hearth and bread oven–where I teach classes every spring!

IMG_2744The ingredients: beer, brown sugar syrup, rum and an egg.

The Ale Flip
Based on an 18th Century New England tavern drink.

For the Sugar Syrup:
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 of a grated nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
4 blades mace
and if you’re feeling fancy, a couple smashed cardamom pods.

Combine in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over high heat without stirring. Remove from heat.

For the drink:
1 bottle brown or amber ale (12 oz) room temperature and preferably flat. Just open a bottle, or a growler, and let it sit out.
1 egg
2-3 tablespoons sugar syrup
1 ounce dark or golden rum

Combine first three ingredients in a heat safe mug or bowl wide enough to accommodate the top of the fire poker. Whisk until egg is slightly frothy. Add rum.

Heat a fire poker in coals until hot. Pull out of the fire and plunge into mug/bowl. Remove when bubbling stops. If a little ash gets in there, it’s not going to hurt anyone–and you can scoop it off the top with a spoon. If the drink isn’t warm enough; repeat. Top with a bit of fresh, grated nutmeg.

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A finished flip!

Enjoy!

 

Podcast: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know about MSG and Why We’re Scared of it but Shouldn’t Be

I am neck deep in the final draft of my forthcoming book, Eight Flavors. I’m writing about the stories behind the most popular flavors in American cooking: black pepper, vanilla, chili powder, curry powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and Sriracha. When I’m chatting at a party, and I rattle off the list of chapters, the topic I field the most questions about is by far MSG (or Monosodium Glutamate). “Isn’t it bad for you?” “Isn’t it a chemical?” “Why does it have such a negative reputation?”

Good questions–and ones I answer thoroughly in my book. But in the meantime, there have been several great recent podcasts that address those questions and concerns. I’ve rounded them up here so you can binge-listen  and draw your own conclusions!

Stuff You Should Know: How Umami Works!
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For millennia humans have recognized four tastes, but in the 1980s a fifth taste first isolated in Japan gained worldwide acceptance – and took off like a rocket! Learn about meaty, musty, savory umami in this episode. Includes a history of MSG and explanation of it’s savory taste. Listen Here!

 

Gastropod: The United States of Chinese Food

Get the low down on MSG’s long-time association with Chinese Food.

Wander into any town in the U.S., no matter how small and remote, and you’re likely to find at least one Chinese restaurant. In fact, there are more Chinese restaurants in America than McDonalds, KFC, and Burger King combined. And the food they serve is completely unlike anything you’ll find in China. In this episode of Gastropod, we ask one crucial question: why?

 

Masters of Social Gastronomy Podcast: Monosodium Glutamate

This is an oldie but a goodie from me & Soma; the full history and sciense of MSG!

 

Events: Edible Tour of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

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I’m doing a super fun tour of the Tropical Pavilion on Saturday, December 5th! We’ll explore the flavors used in holiday cooking and baking-like vanilla, black pepper, and chocolate-as well as coffee and kola. We’ll use sight, smell, and taste to experience these ingredients in their natural form and learn all about their history and usage. It’s a good time, and the true origins of these tropical plants will amaze you. Best part–admission to the BBG is included in the price of the tour. So you can spend the rest of your day in the warmth of the greenhouses, or touring the grounds!

$18, Get Tickets here! Tours at 10:30, 12:30 or 2:30

 

 

Witches, Bread and LSD: The Story of Ergot

ergotIllustration by Lisk Feng.

Some anthropologists theorize that the murderous mania of the Salem Witch Trials wasn’t caused by religious panic or hectic politics. They blame ergot, a grain fungus that causes paranoia, hallucinations and convulsions—the same symptoms that were thought to be caused by “bewitchment.”

Read the whole story–an interview with me!–on Hopes and Fears HERE.

Fall Events: Candy, Chocolate and Gin!

There are so many Four Pounds Flour events this Fall! Full list below, and always check my events page for updates.

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71cb9722-ceeb-478f-b91b-fcf985b2cfaf_blogMasters of Social Gastronomy: Foods that go Bump in the Night

Tuesday, October 20th. Doors at 7:30pm, talks start at 8pm
FREE FREE FREE, 21+ RSVP
Littlefield, 622 Degraw Street in Gowanus

Learn all about the fascinating connection between monster myths and culinary history, a rye fungus that caused mass hallucinations (and may have led to the Salem Witch Trials!), and famous cannibals from around the world. Get your ticket here!

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Gin-e1444744264369Gin History at LIM Alive @Five
Friday, October 23rd, 5pm
$15 at the door
The Long Island Museum, 1200 NY-25A, Stony Brook, NY

Experience the LIM after hours.  Join us for drinks, light refreshments, and a special program.  Admission is $15; $10 for members at the door.

Join historic gastronomist Sarah Lohman as she explores the history of gin and why it was the alcohol of choice during prohibition. Ms. Lohman will discuss gin’s current day revival and enjoy an opportunity to see and smell the botanicals that create gin’s distinctive flavor profile.  With cocktails!

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candy_corn_blog_bioCandy: From Early History to Halloween
Thursday, October 29th,  6:30-8pm
$14 Tickets Available Here!
Brooklyn Brainery, 190 Underhill Ave. Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Isn’t it weird that one day a year it’s appropriate to threaten people into giving you candy? Where did the Halloween tradition come from? And actually, how did we come up with candy in the first place?

In this class, we’ll cover a brief world history of candy, from the botanic roots ofsugarcane, to the first processed confections from the Middle East, to the magical candy medicines of medieval Europe. Then, we’ll sort out the origins of Halloween, along with modern myths like the “razor blade in the apple.”

And, what would a talk on candy be without lots and lots of CANDY: historic candy samples will abound to help you learn. Get you tickets here!

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Food of the Dead: A Culinary History of the Funeral
Thursday, October 29th, 8pm
$16 Get your tickets here!
Brooklyn Brainery, 190 Underhill Ave. Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

At the end of an early American funeral, participants were given a cookie: spiced with caraway, and stamped with a special design, they were often kept for years as a memento of the departed.

Although mourning traditions have changed over time, and vary from place to place, what they have in common is food and drink.  In this talk we’ll look at the culinary traditions surrounding funerals throughout American history, and we’ll taste beer from Midas’s tomb, funeral cakes, and Mormon funeral potatoes. Get your tickets here!

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pumpkin_recipe2Brooklyn Bounty
Tuesday, November 10th 7pm
Tickets
26 Bridge, DUMBO

This year’s Brooklyn Bounty will feature curated tastings of a nineteenth century Dutch-American meal with a modern twist. Recipes will be inspired by one of BHS’s prized artifacts, Mrs. Lefferts’ Book. This handwritten recipe book, compiled by Maria Lott Lefferts (1786-1865) and her daughter Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbilt (1824-1902), showcases traditional Dutch dishes. The menu is curated by Historic Gastronomist Sarah Lohman and executed by some of Brooklyn’s best restaurants. Our festive special evening will include a live auction, music and more fun surprises! Cocktail attire encouraged.

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Edible Tours of the Tropical Pavilion
Saturday, December 5th, at 10:30, 12:30 or 2:30
$18, Tickets here!
The Brooklyn Botanical Garden,  990 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY

Enjoy the warmth of our Tropical Pavilion on this edible greenhouse tour! We’ll explore the flavors used in holiday cooking and baking-like vanilla, black pepper, and chocolate-as well as coffee and kola. We’ll use sight, smell, and taste to experience these ingredients in their natural form and learn all about their history and usage.

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cacao2Cocoa in the City: NYC Chocolate Makers
Thursday, Dec 10, 7 pm
$12/$8 for BHS and G-W members Reserve Tickets
Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Historic gastronomist Sarah Lohman returns to BHS, this time to explore the history and intricate production process behind everyone’s favorite treat: chocolate. With a panel of chocolate makers, from bean to bar producers to confectioners of fine chocolates, discover the origin story behind some of your favorite chocolate bars and mouth-watering truffles. Tastings included!

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At the Kid’s Table: Cornelia’s Kitchen
Saturday, December 12th, 2-4
$16 RSVP required to familyprograms@nyhistory.org
New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY
Family Program

Dutch families in New Amsterdam were known for their delicious holiday confections—can you imagine all the good smells that would have come out of their kitchens?

During this program, participants will take the place of Cornelia van Varick in her seventeenth-century kitchen as she prepares traditional food for the New Year. We’ll handle objects and ingredients that Cornelia would have had, such as sugar cones and nippers, Dutch ovens, and mortar and pestles. Then we’ll use them to make two Dutch holiday treats, orange caraway cookies and fried doughnuts, that participants can taste and take home.

 

Video: Distilling Brooklyn

If you missed the panel I led in May about Brooklyn distillers, it’s now online! See below! We explore the rich past of distilling in Brooklyn, as well as how New York paved the way for craft distillers in the present day. The NY Distilling Co., Kings County Distillery, Brooklyn Gin, and Van Brunt Stillhouse tell their personal stories of how they came to the craft, and talk about the challenges of craft distilling.

Distilling Brooklyn from Brooklyn Historical Society on Vimeo.

Podcast: Gastropod and Ice Cream!

I’m featured in the latest Gastropod podcast, and it’s all about ICE CREAM!

It’s one of the most complex food products you’ll ever consume: a thermodynamic miracle that contains all three states of matter—solid, liquid, and gas—at the same time. And yet no birthday party, beach trip, or Fourth of July celebration is complete without a scoop or two.

Contrary to popular myth, ice cream was not brought to Italy from China by Marco Polo, and then introduced to France by Catherine de Medici. In fact, it is a delicious love-child, born of the union between a culinary tradition of custards and burnt creams in medieval Northern Europe, and the fruity, floral, sherbets (sharbat in Persian) that were typically served over ice as a refreshing drink in the Middle East.

This episode of Gastropod serves up a big bowl of delicious ice cream, topped with the hot fudge sauce of history and a sprinkling of science. Grab your spoons and join us as we bust ice-cream origin myths, dig into the science behind brain freeze, and track down a chunk of pricey whale poo in order to recreate the earliest ice cream recipe written in English

Listen here to learn more!

Tales of the Cocktail Day 4: Prehistoric Cocktails and Dale DeGroff


10:28 am : I went to bed relatively early last night (midnight). Down side is I turned down entrance to a VIP party (should I have gone??) upside is I didn’t sleep through my morning seminar, like yesterday.

I was on site early for a booze free ginger smoothie to settle my digestion, and for a turn through Cocktail Kingdom’s shop. I bought a copy of The South American Gentleman’s companion, from 1939, which has been on my wish list for a long time. CK’s bar ware is also the most lovely I have ever seen.


I’m at the Prehistoric Cocktail Technology Demo (really it was more 19th century techniques useful today) presented by Alcademics.com. A few fun facts:

  • Milk Clarifying:  used in 19th century punches.  Adds proteins that makes the alcohol frothy when it’s shaken- he called it a “frothy bonus!” but also I’ve notified changes the mouth feel. It’s full and soft. Creamy. Just pour milk in your sprit and wait; it cuddles, then you filter it through a coffee filter. Recommended as a way to filter out tannins in a tea infusion.
  • Ammonium nitrate – cooles water by 30 degrees. Used today for instant cool packs for injuries, Used before ice was readily available. Even when there was ice, it was often impure and not fit to mix in drinks. 18th c punch bowls had pockets to pour ice that would cool, but not touch the drink.
  • Tasted Baked agave- tastes like something from thanksgiving
  • Rye straws: original 19th c straw I’ve been obsessed with for awhile. Apparently there was a kickstarter to start remaking them! Let me product test for you, straw straws!

And he had some interesting slides, so here they are!

  

 


Demo on how to inpregnate water with air–carbonating.

 12pm I went to Lucullus Culinary Antiques. Mind blowing- and expensive! Because they have the best examples of what’s out there.

  

Afternoon: I had a few hours of chill out time, so I went to Cane and Table, which is describe as upscale tiki. I wanted something with their house made orgeat, and I’m not sue what in got, but it was crest and delicious. Also, fresh puffed pork rinds and three bean hummus with chips! Salty. Helpful.

  My last seminar was with cocktail legend Dale DeGroff, who talked is through bitters and how they can change the taste of a classic Manhattan. My phone died, so I have but the one photo.


And now I’m at the airport. The last four days have been a whirlwind, and I’m not sure if I’m sad or relieved to leave. I would do it again. Next year? Ever other year? I’m not sure. But when I come back, I want to see more, do more, flirt more, drink more.