5 Questions: Liz Avery


Meet Liz Avery, master knitter, teacher, and scrappy solo cook. When she’s not working, or hiking, or rollerblading, or finishing crosswords and drinking coffee, or skating for her local roller derby club, or engaged in her board-game or trivia group, Liz is impressively pulling together a delicious hodgepodge to fuel her uniquely active life.

What does eating well look like for you?

Prepared at home, in a simple manner, and with a bit of impromptu creativity thrown in. This is the way my mom cooked, and she loves to tell the story about me chiding her when I was a teenager: “Can’t you just follow what the recipe says?” But this kind of flexibility in my cooking helps me honor economy, tailor a meal to my preferences, and is a favorite kind of puzzle. My friends tease me for loving leftovers, but I love the thrift and ease of enjoying a dish for many meals. I mostly make a batch of something, then eat it all week. Usually it’s a curry with rice or quinoa, a pan of something - or a stew. Interspersed are salads, and eggs for at least one meal a day. There’s usually a plethora of fresh fruit and veggies in the fridge as well, so those are usually my snacks and are packed into dishes probably more than is enjoyable to most people.

What is a favorite and reliable everyday dish for you?

Usually eggs and veggies find their way into a wrap, onto toast, or atop leftover rice with garlic, greens and toasted sesame seeds.

What I called ‘impromptu creativity’ comes from my tenuous relationship with most recipes. I’ll start to make a dish, figure out I am missing some percentage of the ingredients, and then make it my personal challenge to make some semblance of the dish only using what’s in my fridge and cupboard.

Can you share a defining food memory?

Any time I’ve ever had freshly fried cake donuts. Just plain, no sugar or icing. The time I had apple cider donuts hot out of the fryer at the orchard in Champaign, IL - that was living.

What topics around food are you most interested in, and why?

In a past life, I sourced foods for a small business and I worked on an organic farm, so I appreciate the relationships businesses and consumers can have with small distributors and producers. For this reason, I have particular loyalty to my favorite coffee roasters, and will always seek out a farmer’s market in season. I’m also interested in thoughts around eating out vs. eating in. I am secretly someone who will always prefer to eat at home or at someone else’s table over going out to a restaurant. It turns out I consistently feel overwhelmed with choices on a restaurant menu. I prefer to indulge in providing or sharing special foods I love at home, where things are more casual. I rarely eat out as a convenience, but only on special occasions, for a meal I crave and can’t do justice to at home.

I have to ask. What would you hope for as a last meal on this earth?

Any pizza from Salvatore’s Tomato Pies (in Madison, WI) with red sauce and an antipasto with garlic confit on a perfectly-toasted baguette with a fresh greens salad and a Lake Louie’s Reserve Warped Speed Scotch Ale.