5 Questions with Lauren Kodiak

May 14, 2014

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Today: Lauren Kodiak of dishes about the challenges, victories, and communities behind food blogging.

Lauren Kodiak on Food52 Pavlova on Food52

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Sometimes, it seems as if food bloggers aren't real people. They have spotless kitchens where the light is always perfect, their dishes are always arranged just so, and their recipes always turn out perfectly. It can be easy to forget that food bloggers have bad days along with good, failures along with successes -- we just might not always see them.

Lauren Kodiak is an exception. Though her photos are poised and her prose artful, she manages to come off as a real person. Lauren is someone you wish you knew in real life; not only because she would be really fun to cook with, but because she seems like someone you can be yourself around. Let loose with. Drop a cake in front of, then laugh about it -- and you can bet she'll write about the whole thing.

Recently, we spoke with Lauren about how she found her way into food blogging, the friendships she's formed because of it, and her killer recipe for pavlova with coconut cream.

Vegan Coconut Ice Cream on Food52

Why did you decide to start a food blog? Did you have previous food writing or photography experience?
I started a blog in 2010 when I moved from Connecticut to Portland, Oregon to get my master’s degree. I wanted a platform from which to share my new experiences with family and friends back home -- but given my affinity for cooking, it morphed into a food blog fairly quickly. Prior to starting the blog, I had no food writing or photography experience. I just learned as I went -- and I’m still learning today! In my early days of blogging, I spent hours searching for basic codes and tips to spruce up my site. Later I made the switch to Squarespace, which has 24/7 support -- much more effective than my previous method of doing things (read: Googling “how do I make a photo grid?”).

Many of your recipes are adapted from other sources -- how do you decide what to tweak, and what to preserve?
When I read recipes, they go through a “Lauren filter” in my brain. Besides the obvious adaptations required to accommodate my dietary restrictions (no meat or gluten), I’m always looking for ways to boost the nutritional value of a meal without compromising flavor. I’ll experiment with substituting honey for sugar, or coconut milk for heavy cream. I’ll add fresh herbs or a big squeeze of citrus to simple, wholesome dishes that run the risk of being bland. I try to keep my adaptations minimal -- I tweak the supporting actors, but hardly ever mess with the star ingredients (they can be such divas, you know?).

More: This simple sauce from Marcella Hazan is all about letting tomatoes hog the spotlight.

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce on Food52

Do you find it hard to be disciplined about posting? 
Yes, I find it terribly hard to be disciplined about posting! When I first started blogging, my flexible grad student schedule left ample time to make and document recipes. Now, between my full-time job at an alumnae magazine in Massachusetts and my freelance work (including Link Love and Required Reading on this lovely site), I have little time or motivation to write on my own blog at the end of the day. The blog started out as a creative outlet, and now that I’ve found other creative outlets through my work, it doesn’t hold the same weight as it once did. But I haven’t given up on it -- I still love having my own space to retreat to when the mood strikes.

Have you met any friends through blogging?
I’ve met some wonderful friends through blogging back in Portland. It’s a special kind of friendship when you meet someone that way -- you don’t feel silly pulling out your camera at lunch to snap a photo, or doing a fist pump when you find ramps at the farmers market. There’s a shared understanding. When I first started the blog, I had no sense of where it would lead me -- but the connections and doors it has opened in the creative community of bloggers are truly priceless.

What advice do you have for aspiring food bloggers out there?
Small victories add up. The people I’ve met, the comments readers have left, and the professional writing opportunities that have come out of my blogging are proof enough that I made the right choice to start my site four years ago. When it comes to blogging, I’ve never set lofty or unrealistic goals or put limitations on myself. There are plenty of blogs out there with impeccable styling and photography, book deals, and thousands of devoted followers. I read them every week and appreciate the incredibly hard work that goes into them. However, once you start comparing yourself to other bloggers, or try to transform your site to fit a certain aesthetic, you lose the joy. My advice is to appreciate each small victory and be open to whatever direction your blog takes you.

Also, be prepared for many fails. I’ve dropped a perfect batch of granola on the floor right before taking a photo, and made completely inedible gluten-free “pizzas” or “muffins” on more occasions than I’d like to admit. But admitting it feels good! We should all do it more often.

Pavlova with Whipped Cream on Food52Meringues on Food52

Pavlova with Whipped Coconut Cream

Serves 6 to 8

4 large egg whites
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot starch
1 cup muscovado sugar

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos of pavlova and Lauren by Lauren Kodiak, photos of meringue and tomato sauce by James Ransom, photo of ice cream by Ashley McLaughlin.




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Karen August 13, 2015
Great information and inspiration!
BetteratHome May 19, 2014
I'm loving this series! It's great that Lauren is so up-front about cooking/kitchen mistakes; I agree, we should share those more often.
Hannah P. May 18, 2014
Loved reading this... just the inspiration I needed.
Gia R. May 18, 2014
As an aspiring & new food blogger myself, I really needed to read this. My blog is actually about my failures & documenting the rights & wrongs of what happens in my kitchen, but I still find little frustrations along the way. Thank you for sharing your story, Lauren!
Anni May 18, 2014
Love this article! It's refreshing to see a side of food blogging that feels a bit more relatable (but is still incredibly beautiful!)
Christie C. May 18, 2014
Great article! Love the tips on keeping the joy in blogging...and keeping it real!
Hermione May 18, 2014
Are there resources for basic substitutions of ingredients that can make baked goods healthier like the substitutions the blogger mentions?
Amy May 18, 2014
Enjoyed the article~ Lovely sharing!
Terry H. May 17, 2014
Started a blog but lacked focus. Too bad.
Caty May 17, 2014
Beautiful blog and tips for aspiring food bloggers! I would love to start blogging again but as an undergrad student I can't seem to find enough time to devote to creating, executing and photographing dishes. Also, love your Portland recommendations. I've only been once but would love to visit again!
AntoniaJames May 17, 2014
Interesting blog. Food blogs -- even quite beautiful ones - are a dime a dozen. I enjoy learning about food bloggers with wider interests and other skills. ;o)
Liz @. May 16, 2014
Lauren- awesome advice and inspiring words for beginner food bloggers. I'll definitely have to check out Squarespace. And of course, beautiful, beautiful pictures, as always!
Lauren K. May 16, 2014
Thank you, Liz! Squarespace is awesome. Can't recommend it enough!
Sini |. May 16, 2014
Such a great interview, Lauren. I'm totally with you when it comes to fails in the kitchen... Yesterday I was shooting a new post for my blog. Actually, it already was the second shooting of the day because I wasn't satisfied with the first results. So I was shooting, a bit tired and hungry. In hurry because the sun was already setting. And then it happened: somehow I managed to spill a glass full of white wine with my tripod! Well, well. I probably should have taken a photo of that catastrophe but I'm afraid I was in too big a hurry to clean up all that mess while trying to stay sane ;) Real life situations of a food blogger.
Lauren K. May 16, 2014
Oh no! To lose a full glass of wine is a terrible thing in my book :)
pretty_pathetic May 16, 2014
Lauren, your blog is gorgeous. And it's nice to hear that people whose work I admire mess up their cooking sometimes, too. :)
Lauren K. May 16, 2014
Thank you so much! :)
Kerry A. May 15, 2014
You're inspiring. <3 you.
Lauren K. May 15, 2014
I could say the same about you, my friend!
Kate |. May 15, 2014
Great blog, recipes and writing. And a mint green Kitchenaid. I'm so jealous I could smash my face into a really amazing-looking gluten-free pavlova. Twice.
Lauren K. May 15, 2014
Love this. Thanks, Kate!
Amy W. May 14, 2014
As an Australian living in the US now, who is experimenting with gluten & meat free cooking , and dabbling with blogging, this article was a triple treat: pavlova that's gluten-free with some blog advice. Thanks - I will look forward to checking out more of your work (and tasting it)!
Lauren K. May 14, 2014
Thanks, Amy W-R! Hope you find some more recipes to try on my site!
molly Y. May 14, 2014
Lauren K. May 14, 2014
Your baked falafel! Making them this weekend :)
Kari O. May 14, 2014
I really enjoyed reading this post and find it interesting that Lauren didn't have previous experience in writing or food prior to starting her blog. I think we all have experience in these areas but find the difficulty in sharing openly as she does. I love the candid advice, but most importantly the poignant choice to find joy through what you are doing, and to hold on to that once you find it. Happy to have found encouragement through this.
Lauren K. May 14, 2014
Kari, thanks for your thoughtful and kind words!
anne May 14, 2014
OK, that PAVLOVA!!! Giiiirrrrrllllll! if you can do that, you are a star in book. I don't know why my meringue is so much trouble. New reader here. :)
Lauren K. May 14, 2014
Thanks, Anne! :) Did you see the peanut butter pavlova Alice Medrich posted recently? Definitely trying that one next!
anne May 17, 2014
Yes, I saw it.
You are trouble, aren't you?