Liz is a cook, photographer, and writer. And on her blog, Floating Kitchen, she explores and shares seasonally inspired recipes that are sometimes healthy and sometimes indulgent, but always fun and delicious.
I am so psyched to have Liz Harris of Floating Kitchen here on the show today.
(*All images below are Liz’s.)
On Her Career Before Food:
Before I started blogging, I was actually a research scientist. I went all the way in school. My undergraduate focus was biology, and then I went on to get my PhD in Biochemistry. That was five years of training, post undergrad degree.
Then I went and did a post-doctoral fellowship in Cancer Biology. That was another four years of training. I spent about thirteen years working towards becoming a research scientist, and then I was working in that field. It just wasn’t clicking for me anymore so I made a drastic change in my life.
Making the change was very hard, mentally, because I had committed so much time and you feel compelled to continue on this path.
I still love science. I find it really interesting. I love reading about it in my free time. I liked actually doing it, but at the end of the day, the lifestyle that I had created for myself around this career wasn’t very healthy for me anymore, and so I needed to change that.
On Her Introduction to Cooking:
My family is pretty into food. I come from a line of great cooks. My grandmother, my great aunts, my mom is a big cook as well. I was always just in the kitchen or around the kitchen with them. So I was always very interested in it. My family also owns a farm and a wholesale distribution business in New Hampshire, so food is just something that we think about a lot and have always been really interested in. It’s just what we do.
My great auntie, Dot. She was probably the best cook in the family. She also was always very patient with me and she let me help her. She didn’t get mad if you messed up or anything. Because I’m sure I messed up a lot when I was little. I owe a lot of my cooking abilities to her.
On Turning Her Hobby into Her Career:
About five years ago is when I really started doing it. It was still a hobby at that time, but I started being a lot more serious about cooking every day for myself, cooking for friends, having people over.
That’s when people started suggesting to me, too, “Hey, you’re really good at this. Have you ever thought about having a blog or doing something with it?” And I was like, “No. Computers hate me. I would never have a blog. I can’t even do email!” That just seemed really out of reach for me.
I was spending so much time on my career, so it was like, “No way I could do that on the side.” So that’s when I really started getting into it. Around 2012 or 2013 is when I made this choice to leave my career as being a scientist, and that was the obvious thing to do, is to pursue something in cooking.
I think whenever you make a really big drastic change like that, there is a fine balance between courage and sheer stupidity. You just have to say, “Alright, I don’t know what’s going to happen and I’m just going to do it and go for it.”
My parents obviously were really supportive. I didn’t feel like I was going to be letting them down. I also was giving up a paycheck and all these other practical things. They were encouraging me and telling me that it would be okay. It gave me the guts to do it.
I’m just a really determined person. Once I get something in my head, it does not escape my head until I do something about it. So I just decided to do it and now here I am.
When I first left science, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was mulling around for a few months, figuring it out.
I actually simultaneously started my blog and started working in restaurants. I had never had a restaurant job before in my whole life, so that was a really fun and eye-opening experience. So I started on those two paths; I had the blogging and I had the restaurant work. After doing both those simultaneously for about a year, I decided that I just wanted to pursue the blogging for now. Restaurant work is hard. I mean, it was fun but it’s a lot of work for not a lot of gain. And my blog was picking up and was growing, and I decided to put all of my energy into that.
On the Type of Cooking that’s Most Natural:
I think the savory dishes come more naturally to me. I’ve developed a style where I just like to throw things together. I cook mostly vegetarian food and it’s just easy to roast up a bunch of vegetables and make some grains, make a quick dressing. That is definitely more my everyday style. Although I do love the baking.
I think the enjoyment I get out of the baking is not the actual doing it but it’s the sharing it. Because that’s the stuff that’s easy to share, and that’s why I loved cooking to start with. I loved bringing people food or inviting people over.
Cookies and brownies are something I would take to work all the time, or bring to my neighbor’s house. So I like that aspect of the baking. But in terms of the following the instructions, I can do it and I’m great at it, but I just prefer to not have to think that much about it. Which is funny because being a scientist, all you’re doing is thinking about instructions all the time.
On Where She Finds Inspiration for Her Blog:
Mostly from other bloggers.
I read an enormous number of blogs. I have like 400 blogs on my feed. It’s insane. Because people are just doing so much great stuff, so I love just seeing what everyone else is doing.
I’m really inspired by cooking with the seasons. That’s something that’s important to me. Growing up in a family that has a farm, I’ve always been aware of that and try to follow that as much as possible. It’s better for your wallet and the environment. It’s good for your body. It tastes better when you buy food that’s in season. I love going to the local markets and looking for things that look great, and bringing them home and making something from them.
On Things Not Going As Planned in the Kitchen:
I feel like at this point, I’m pretty knowledgeable of what is going to work together, what flavors will go together, and what techniques are going to work.
I guess the only things for me, that it’s not actually the cooking part, it’s always something else that happens. I remember I made this huge tray of eclairs and they were glazed. And I dropped them and they went glazed side down on the rug, with dog hair stuck in them. It’s that kind of stuff.
I will finish a whole thing and then I’ll have some klutzy moment at the end and ruin everything, which is very unfortunate. But those things happen to me more than actually with the cooking part.
In the beginning, when I was in graduate school and during my fellowship when I was learning to cook, I was very strict about following recipes. I had to have a recipe or I couldn’t make something. Because I didn’t have that awareness of what things went together. But now that I have been cooking for so many years, it’s easy for me, just something that I’ve picked up.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
I do like to watch the Barefoot Contessa.
A show I used to love to watch that’s not on anymore is Alton Brown’s Good Eats. Of course, that’s like a science-y cooking show, so you know I’m going to love that one. I don’t really watch any food competition shows because they kind of stress me out. I get nervous for the contestants.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
From the 400 that I follow, let’s see. One blog that I love is called Local Haven. Her name is Ashely, and she has really great photography and really authentic, unfussy recipes that just feel good when I’m on her site and look at her photos. So I think everyone should check out Local Haven.
I also really love Foodie Crush by Heidi. Heidi has great recipes and great photography, but I think the thing that I appreciate most about her site is that she spends a lot of time talking about other bloggers and other blogger’s recipes. It’s really refreshing in a job where you talk about yourself all the time. I mean, that’s really what we have to do, is promote yourself. So it’s so nice to see somebody who is talking about other bloggers so much. I’ve been introduced to a lot of new sites through her blog. So I think that’s a good one everyone should check out.
And I love How Sweet It Is by Jessica. Her stuff is just so over the top and fun, and it just makes you feel good when you read it.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook that make you happy?
On Instagram, I love Sweet Paul Magazine. He has a lot of not just food pictures, it’s food and crafts and gardening. All the photos are really bright and fun and whimsical. He has a great feed.
I also love, on Instagram, all the meta-sites, like Food 52 and The Kitchn. Great photography, great recipes, and again, they reshare a lot of stuff from the community. So it’s been a great way to connect and find new Instagram accounts and new food bloggers.
On Twitter, I love Sarah from The Sugar Hit. She is just hilarious. She has really funny tweets. I definitely recommend people checking her out.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
I guess the thing that would be the most treasured, is I do have recipes from my great aunt. She was the one that was sort of the biggest cook in our family. And all the recipes from my grandparents and other family members, and I think those are probably the most treasured things, just having those cards with the stains on them and the handwritten notes. It’s just really fun. You feel like you’re cooking with them when you’re using them.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
This is a tough question because I used to dislike everything. I was that kid that only ate grilled cheese, chicken, and peanut butter and jelly for like twenty years. So it’s very surprising now that I will eat everything.
I think one of the main things is tomatoes. I used to hate tomatoes, raw tomatoes. I didn’t like tomato sauce. I would wipe the sauce off of my spaghetti, which horrified my parents. But now, I love fresh tomatoes. I love making sauces.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
I really like Vibrant Food by Kimberly Hasselbrink. It’s really colorful. I want to eat everything when I flip through the pages. It’s just a spectacular book that I think everybody should own.
I also love all the Ottolenghi books. I don’t cook from them that often, because all the recipes are really involved, but just such a great source of inspiration and great photography as well.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
On Keeping Posted with Liz:
The best way, the first way is my blog, of course, floatingkitchen.net. I post new recipes two to three times a week. So you can check me out there. Instagram is my favorite, so that’s a fun place. I love connecting with people on Instagram.