Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Lapham’s Quarterly: Mild, Medium or Hot?

Curry powder illustration by Peter Van Hyning

I’ve got a new piece up on the Lapham’s Quarterly blog, all about how Americans went from adventurous eaters to plain janes—and then back again.

Much of what we view as American identity is English: pilgrims and Plymouth, pumpkin pie and pot roast. It’s seasoned with at most a few herbs, perhaps a few imported spices. It’s from this English heritage that much of our stereotype of being lovers of bland food comes from. But by the early nineteenth century, American cookbooks had begun to move away from pure British cuisine, reflecting America’s multiculturalism with increasingly fiery food. One of America’s earliest cookbooks is also considered one of the most influential: The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph, published in 1824. As food historian Karen Hess points out in her introduction to the 1984 reprint, Randolph’s recipe selection illustrated “an elemental change in palate” from somewhat tame English dishes to highly spiced regional cuisine. Randolph’s book contains half a dozen curry recipes and a homemade curry powder that uses a full ounce of cayenne pepper, as well as turmeric, coriander, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, and mace. The recipes reflected not only her British forebears’ love of curry (which also bucks the bland-food stereotype) but also a common trait of American port cities: a love of spicy cuisine from the Far East. Indigenous American foods are reflected in the recipe “To Barbecue Shote”: the origin of barbecue is the native word and cooking technique barbacoa, and in this recipe a “fat, young hog” is dressed in a sauce that includes garlic, black pepper, and highly seasoned mushroom ketchup (a soy-sauce-like concoction made from salted fermented mushrooms and spices). Enslaved black cooks brought dishes and spicy seasonings from the Caribbean like pepper pot, a tripe soup that includes whole dried chilies in Randolph’s recipe. Based on The Virginia Housewife, it would be safe to say that America in the first half of the nineteenth century was a very spicy place.

Read the full article here!

A Peek into my Next Book–and a Chance to Help Fund it!

I’ve been hard at work on my next project! The working title is OHIO 1910, and the concept combines food history and true crime. I wanted to share with you how it’s going so far, and if you’re interested, you can help support my work by donating (and get yourself some perks in the process.) If you’re interested, there’s more info about what your donation funds here. (Donations will be open until April 19, 2017.)

I’ll be telling the story of a handwritten recipe journal created by a husband and wife from 1880-1910. The journal starts with recipes for the perfect lemon pie, homemade yeast, and chocolate cake. Then, there are chapters on medicine (like cholera cures and PMS aids), beer and wine (root beer, rhubarb wine, blackberry brandy), and finally mushroom foraging.  The recipes in the book abruptly stop being recorded in 1910, because the man writing it was brutally murdered by his son-in-law in a crime so scandalous, it made national news headlines.

As the author, I’ll take you along with me as I experiment with these recipes and use them to reveal how a loving, food-focused Midwestern family unraveled–and ended up the focus of a tragic crime.

Here are a few images from the original recipe book:


You can find the original New York Times article about the murder here.  In it, the murderer claims the victims “exercised a mysterious influence over him.”

I’ve already begun recipe testing the dozen of baking recipes recorded in the book, dating to the 1880s. Here’s a little video of my mom and I working together. We tested 18 recipes together over four days, and went through more than three dozen eggs, nearly 2 gallons of milk, and three jars of molasses!

So far we’ve made yeasted rolls and cakes: Sally Lunn rolls, eggy-sweet coffee puffets, hearty-health food Graham bread, a few fruit cakes. We also test three puddings (custards and a bread pudding) and three lemon meringue pies, as well as biscuits and quick breads. Every day, there was a “winner”–a recipe that clearly stood out as interesting, delicious, and easy enough for anyone to make.


This coffee puffet is very light and slightly sweet. Meringue is folded in at the end to give the fluffy texture.
These are Sally Lunn rolls, rising, a white flour dinner rolls. Mom and I were both pretty pleased at how well these turned out.
The many layers of “Delmonico Pudding,” coconut custard on the bottom, meringue on top.
Two lemon meringue pies! They both had their problems, tbh.
Baking through these recipes was a fun challenge, but more importantly, they told me a little something about the woman who wrote them down, and the family who consumed them. But more on that..soon! If you’re interested in the project, stay tuned here for more updates, and get involved by donating here.

 

The Perils of Assimilation: How what we eat makes us American, for better or worse.

I’ve got a new post up on Notes from the TenementThe Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s blog, that gives more context to the Eating Like an Italian Immigrant Family experiment I did a few weeks ago. The piece takes a close look at the attitudes of American social workers and nutritionists at the turn-of-the-century regarding the diets of new Italian immigrants, and finds some striking parallels in the present day.

To greet this enormous wave of immigration, there were a growing number of American-born social workers occupying settlement houses, early social aid organizations that tackled the “settling” of new immigrants. The social workers offered a helping hand in Americanization. “The settlement ideal has included the preservation of the dignity and self-esteem of the immigrant,” Breckenridge wrote in her 1921 book, New Homes for Old, “while attempting to modify his habits when necessary… .” For Italian immigrants, it was their cooking habits that needed to be modified.

Although some of the nutritionist’s apprehension about Italian food may have come for prejudice or xenophobia, some of their fears may have been grounded in truth. Anecdotally, Wood saw higher rates of heart disease and diabetes amongst assimilated Italians. And we see a parallel in America today with modern immigrants. In 2013, the New York Times published an article called The Health Toll of Immigration:

“A growing body of mortality research on immigrants has shown that the longer they live in this country, the worse their rates of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. … For the recently arrived, the quantity and accessibility of food speaks to the boundless promise of the United States. Esther Angeles remembers being amazed at the size of hamburgers — as big as dinner plates — when she first came to the United States from Mexico 15 years ago. “‘I thought, this is really a country of opportunity,’ she said. ‘Look at the size of the food!’”

Read my entire article here.

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.

 

Tales of the Cocktail Day 2: The Last Word and Old Bars of New York




9am
I’m fresh as a daisy but my colleagues are not. Breakfast at Slim Goodies Diner will fix them up–all the food in NOLS is salty and spicy. It helps you deal with the weather. And your hangover. I highly recommend the diner.

NOLA smells like puke in the morning, which is different than NYC, which smells like all he body fluids.
Also I want to move into every building in New Orleans.


  
10:30 am I’m at my first seminar, the stories behind the Harvey Wallbanger, The Last Word, and the Sazerac.

The Wallbanger was invented in LA in the 1950s and became popular when Galliano adapted it as to promote their liquor in America.
10:30 am I’m at my first seminar, the stories behind the Harvey Wallbanger, The Last Word, and the Sazerac.

The Wallbanger was invented in LA in the 1950s and became popular when Galliano adapted it as to promote their liquor in America.

  
 Can we talk about how perfect this orange peel is from my sample cocktail? They’re made by legions of cocktail apprentices, relative bartenders, who do this shit for free.
the story of the Last Word was told by the always charming St. John Frizell of Ft. Defiance in Red Hook Brooklyn. The last word, Frizell said, was like a secret handshake amongst bartenders, you kept it in your back pocket and pulled it out or when you needed it. It Personified the craft cocktail movement c 2005, because it was a drink from an old obscure source
Invented in Prohibition, it’s Tart and sparkly but also marschino and chartreuse–if you had these things behind your bar it said you were a serious mixologis (a decade ago).
Recipes for you!


 And cocktail historian Wondrich talked on the sazerac. It used to be made with cognac, but switched to rye whiskey both at NOLA became less French and more American, but also because of a fungus that killed a lot of French grapevines in the 19thc.
An 1843 article calls it “Un coup de canticlaire” or called by the vulgar name a cocktail.

An 1842 source says you can make it from Gin and sugar, rum and lemon, or peach brandy and honey.


 12:30 pm I went to a rating of “indie spirits.” Not only were their cocktails, and I had the best caprinha I’ve ever had, but at the bar you could literally point to what you wanted to try and they would pour it.


12:30 I’m at my second talk of the day, on nyc drinking history. David Wondrich mentions some of my fav NYC 19th c personalities.


10:31 PM I think I’ve really hit my stride.

Tales of the Cocktail Live Blog Day 1


It’s 7:00 AM and I’m at Newark airport. I’ve been up since 3:45. Even I am asking why I would subject myself to Newark this early.

But it’s a very special day. At the other end of my flight is New Orleans and Tales of the Cocktail, the annual gathering of industry professionals and cocktail enthusiasts. It’s my first year and I don’t really know what the expect.

Which is why I’m sharing it all with you. I’m going to be live blogging all weekend, sharing with you every historic factoid, adventure, and drink enough stumble the next few days bring. I’m kicking off with a seminar by David Wondrich and Jeff Berry about WWII drinking, and later on the weekend I’m attending a demo on prehistoric cocktail making techniques. Whatever that means.

Check back, stay tuned, and I’ll see you in NOLA!

10:15 AM I have been on site 15 minutes, and I’ve already been handed a drink. Its a Singapore Sling– cherry herring, Benedictine, lime uice and some other stuff. It’s spicy, like a fruit Bloody Mary.

“You can’t make a good speech on iced water.” -Churchill. You got that right, sir.

4:05 PM and I just woke up from a much needed nap. I’ve already been drunk and sober once–the morning lecture fed us 4 (half) cocktails total, and while I noticed the folks around me were pacing themselves by not finishing their drinks, the concoctions were too good and I am too frugal to let them go to waste. That combined with my early flight and the searing heat (which I kinda like)…well, I think part of being an adult is realizing when you’re fussy and need to be put down for a nap. I feel like a new person.

A few words on NOLA: there’s something so eerie and foreign about this place. The pulsating green overgrowth, the unreal above ground cemeteries, the accent like no other I’ve ever heard. Even the clouds are different here–pudgier and puffy. I though I was nuts but my brother (who is here too) noticed the same thing.

The conference itself is a madhouse, bedlam that I haven’t quite figured out. The Hotel Monteleone, where it’s hosted, is not a huge convention center, but an old labyrinthine hotel. I’m not sure where to be, or how to take advantage of the system. It feels a bit like the first day of summer camp, like I’m an outsider not making the friendship bracelets. Yet.


I’ll take some photos of the craziness later.

In my morning talk about WWII I learned:

  • All the drinks seemed to have cherry herring in them. But more importantly it “wasn’t just prohibition” that ruined the American cocktail scene, it was also the unavailability of most liquors during the war. We became vodka drinkers, and most alcohols were produced locally–including Dubonnet, which is still made in the states.
  • Dirty Helen
  • Three dots and a dash

In addition the the Singapore sling, I so had a MacArthur punch and a PB2Y. And a potent martini.


And the event has an official scent? It smells like grapefruit and shrimp.


10:15 PM despite the fact that it’s a toddler’s bedtime back home, I am ready to turn in. Here are my notes, exactly as written, from this evening:

  • Workers with drinks on the st
  • Everyone is drunk and stepping on me
  • No chill out space
  • Bedlam
  • Dudes
  • Forcible removal (not me)
  • Drink responsibly wink wink
  • There is no shame here
  • I am so sweaty I have to throw away my dress at the end of day

I realize it doesn’t sound like I had a good time, but at the pools party at the end of the day, I did! I went out to dinner later at Purloo, which focuses on regional Southern cuisine, then had  a St. Germaine cobbler at Belloqc.Here are my photos from the evening:




And with that a good night.

History Dish: Maple Ice Cream and Maple Custard Pie

IMG_8768An excellent maple ice cream.

My Mom makes her own maple syrup. She taps trees on her five acre property in Ohio, boils down the sap on her kitchen stove, and makes the richest, most buttery maple syrup I have ever tasted.

It was a good sugaring season this year: a stretch of weeks with temperatures above freezing during the day, below freezing at night. Mom made over three gallons of syrup, which meant the last time I visited, I was sent back to New York City with this:

IMG_8701Homemade maple syrup, light and dark, and maple sugar.

I thought it might be a good time to test out some historic maple syrup recipes.

The History

Jefferson wrote to a friend in 1790 and said of maple syrup: “What a blessing to substitute a sugar which requires only the labour of children, for that which it is said renders the slavery of the blacks necessary.” Maple sugar was considered an ideal alternative to white sugar from sugar cane, and was championed by abolitionists throughout the 19th century. Unfortunately, the general population thought maple’s particular taste a negative and preferred the neutral flavor of white sugar. Maple tasted of poverty and necessity, while white sugar symbolized wealth and aspiration.

Today, we seek out the unique flavor of true maple sugar. Well, at least I do. But I always imagined myself as a Shaker or a Quaker, or in one of those wild vegetarian communes in the 19th century, anyway.

The Recipes

I had two recipes I wanted to try out, both came from a stack of handwritten papers and recipe booklets dating to the 19teens. Mark (who also helps my mom harvest the maple sap) gave them to me. The came from a storage unit, or an estate sale, or something–he has a thriving Ebay business and always finds me interesting ephemera.

IMG_9032Maple Parfait Recipe

Maple Parfait, a handwritten recipe, is actually a maple ice cream: maple custard is folded into whipped cream, which is a great way to make ice cream if your don’t have an ice cream maker at home.

Maple Parfait – Jessie

“4 eggs; 1 cup hot maple syrup; 1 pint thick whipped cream. Beat eggs slightly & pour on slowly the hot maple syrup; cook until the mixture; cool & add cream beaten until stiff. Mould, pack in salt & ice & let sand 3 hours. Use 4 parts salt to 1 part ice.”

You’ll notice the original recipes left out a few instructions. After some head scratching–and a recent conversation with Jonathan Soma of the Brooklyn Brainery about how to make ice cream without an ice cream maker–I figured them out.

IMG_8711The eggs after the hot maple syrup is added.

4 large eggs, beaten
1 cup maple syrup, brought to a boil
1 pint heavy whipping cream

1. Pour maple syrup in a slow, steady steam over to eggs while whisking constantly. You want to bring the eggs slowly up to temperature–not scramble them!

2. Return to a saucepan and heat over medium-low, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to a pudding-like consistency. Allow to cool.

3. Beat cream to stiff peaks, and fold in egg mixture. Pack in small individual molds, or simply a Tupperware, and put in the freezer for at least three hours.

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IMG_9037 IMG_9034Maple Marshmallow Pie Recipe

Maple Marshmallow Pie comes from a recipe booklet for Bunte Marshmallows, although I decided to leave off the marshmallow topping. I’m increasingly grossed out by marshmallow topped foods.

Maple Pie
1 pie crust (store-bought or homemade)
2 large eggs
1/3 cup Maple Sugar (You can purchase maple sugar, or make your own by putting maple syrup in a sheet pan, and sticking it in the oven at a very low temperature. Keep an ete on it as the water evaporates and the sugar crystalizes. This process can take and hour or more.)
1 teaspoon flour
2 cups whole milk

1. Preheat over to 450 degrees. Line your pie tin or plate with crust. Make the edges look fancy!

2. Beat two eggs with a fork until light, then add maple sugar. Allow to soak two minutes, then beat until sugar has completely dissolved. Add flour and beat; gradually add milk while stirring constantly. Fill pie crust.

3. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn down oven to 350 degrees and bake 45 minutes more, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, but the filling still has a little jiggle.

The Results

IMG_8728Maple custard pie

The maple ice cream is killer and I highly recommend it. It’s a fun summer treat that takes very little work and delivers a strong maple flavor. Try it with a dark syrup (Grade B) which tastes the most mapley of all the syrups.

The pie was a bit of a disappointment; the texture was pleasant, smooth and custardy, but the maple flavor didn’t come through. It tasted different from a vanilla custard pie, but was not easily identifiable as maple. Which is strange, because maple sugar should have the most flavor, being as condensed as it can be.

Do you have a favorite maple recipe? Share in the comments. I still have so much maple syrup left!

Drink Like A Pilgrim: Spruce Beer

spruce4Two bottles of beer brewed with real spruce limbs.

Liquor.com asked me to find out what it was like to Drink like a Pilgrim; and as it turns out, The Puritans were pretty heavy drinkers. Suprised? Although drinking was acceptable in 17th century New England, drunkenness was not. Massachusetts had extensive anti-drunkenness laws.

The rules:

  • At one time, beer brewed in the home could only be drunk by family members—not by friends.
  • If you went out for a drink, you could only stay at the tavern for half an hour.
  • As higher-proof spirits like rum became available, laws made them prohibitively expensive to buy.
  • You could never, ever drink on Sunday. (Massachusetts still has famously restrictive “blue laws.”)

This Thanksgiving I made a homebrew to accompany my meal. I based my recipe on an early American drink called Spruce Beer, brewed with real spruce branches, hops, dark maple syrup and no grain. Effervescent and yeasty, it’s dramatically different from modern beer. The Puritans would have downed an impressive two to three quarts of this concoction a day.

If you want to know how my beer turned out–and how I felt after drinking three quarts of it–you can read the full article here!

 

I’m Looking for a Fall Intern!

I am looking for an intern for the fall! Read on!

The Basics: This is a partially paid internship: if you work an event with me where I get paid, you will also get paid. I’m also happy to fill out any paper work for you to get college credit for this internship (although you do not have to be in college to apply). Additionally, you get free admission to any Four Pounds Four events and classes. Our main goal will be to tailor this internship so you learn new skills specific to your career goals. I hope to cram your head with as much knowledge as possible. If it is of interest to you, we can complete a project over our time together keeping those goals in mind. However, a lot of of that is going to be on you: I’m here to help, teach and train, and to give you guidelines and assignments. But I also can’t force you to complete those goals: you’ll get out of it what you decide to put in.

 
Your Responsibilities: The time commitment would be no more than 8 hours a week, with one hour spent focusing on your questions and interests. I need someone who is available once a week on a weekday, but would be willing to occasionally help out on a weekend. Half the time would be spent either working from my home office or at an event, the other half doing research projects that can be done from anywhere. General responsibilities include:

-Small research projects and fact checking.

-Help out recipe testing by shopping, doing kitchen prep, and clean up.

-Assisting at Four Pounds Flour classes and events.

 
The Perks: You’ll get an inside look at what I do and how I’ve built my career. You’ll have regular exposure to primary source recipes and learn how to interpret them. You’ll learn how to research, and my process for writing. You’ll get free access to all my events, as well as a behind the scenes look at how they run. The application process should be a time when we decide how this internship could best serve your needs. For example, my last intern wanted to break into the field of recipe testing. I helped her launch her own recipe-based food blog, trained her how to use WordPress, gave her the basics of food photography and Photoshop, and walked her through how to use social media to promote her work. We also focused on having her help me recipe test for my book, and she’ll be credited for her work in the published book.

 
Testimonial: Here’s what Former Intern Jill had to say about her experience this past spring (although, she wrote it to me, so I suppose it could be all lies, but I don’t think so):

Working with/for Sarah Lohman has been unquestionably one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career. Sarah is a delight. She clearly communicates expectations and sets very reasonable deadlines. Her energy, her passion and her enthusiasm are contagious. She is generous with her time and her knowledge. Her projects are challenging and stimulating. She is invested in the goals of her interns and works closely with them to create a path towards career advancement.

Interested? Email me ASAP! I’ll be setting up interviews before the end of August. sarah@fourpoundsflour.com