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