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Historic Food for Thought

Sarah Lohman is a foodie with intimate knowledge of 18th and 19th century recipes – and a self-taught historian with a knack for drawing people into the past.

She cooks up recipes she finds from bygone eras to see how they taste today, and shares her findings on her blog, FourPoundsFlour.com.

The lessons she learns from making old recipes are not always so sweet.

This was the case for one of her first projects, which stirred excitement in the foodie and history buff worlds in 2008. Lohman, who lives in Queens, decided to spend one week cooking from the menu of a penny-pinching 1870s pamphlet. She documented her progress on her blog, in a series called, “Living Like a Tenement Family.”

The pamphlet, titled “Fifteen Cent Dinners,” was distributed in New York City in 1878 for free to working class families. The author, Juliet Corson, writes that the guide is not for the financially comfortable man, “But for the working man, who wants to make the best of his wages, I pray it may bring help and comfort.”

In her posts, Lohman drew parallels to the challenges facing today’s working poor.

She has since embarked on more food-history experiments, and speaks at venues ranging from historical society events to a Williamsburg. She’s scaled down her hours as a tour guide at the Tenement Museum in Lower Manhattan as her speaking engagements have grown.