Sweet Paul, Magazine
Paul’s magazine Sweet Paul is a source of inspiration to anyone who enjoys easy, yet elegant recipies, entertaining ideas, and stylish crafts. The magazine is all about helping its readers create a unique style that is home-made and hand-made. Paul also wrote a book called Sweet Paul: Eat and Make.
I am so thrilled to have Paul Lowe of Sweet Paul here on the show today.
On How Sweet Paul Evolved From Blog to Magazine:
Well, I actually started my blog out of blog envy. Because a friend of mine had a blog, and it kind of looked really cool, and she got comments, and I was like, “Oh, I want comments.” So I was like, “Okay, I guess I have to start a blog.”
But then of course the question is, what are you going to blog about? Because I thought the world doesn’t need another shopping blog. So I’m just going to blog about myself and my work. I started out and I can still remember the first comment that wasn’t a family member or a friend, a stranger, how exciting that was. And it sort of became a sport. I would post a lot. I would be very excited about it.
The idea of having my own magazine was in the back of my head, but, of course, unless your name is Rockefeller or Hearst, it’s a little difficult, because it’s very expensive. But I thought about it when the whole online magazine came about and I thought, “Oh, I can actually do that.” So that’s how it started. It started five years ago.
It started out only online, and then, after two and a half years, I got an e-mail from Anthropologie, who said, “We love your magazine and we really want to sell it.” And I wrote back, “Thank you, that’s awesome, but it’s an online magazine, so that’s a little difficult.” But they were very persistent, and they are the reason why Sweet Paul magazine came into print that early. I would have got maybe into print, but not that early. So you can thank Anthro for that.
On His Introduction to Cooking:
Well, these were two very smart, little old ladies, because they could sense very early that I was kind of a different child. I wasn’t too interested in playing with other kids, I wanted to stay home. I was drawn to food and everything that was pretty. So they started cooking with me really early. And, actually, I had my own little cutting board, I had my own knife, very dull, but still, it was mine. And they would show me what to do and help me and we’d prepare a lot of meals together.
I was an only child up until I was seven. Then my sister came along, and, you know, my life was over. But up until then, their whole existence was to make me happy. So if I wanted to bake an apple cake, we’d bake an apple cake. If I wanted to make new pillows for my bedroom, we’d make new pillows. And they would always let me help.
On How Perfection is Boring:
The great thing with these two ladies was that they both had impeccable taste, but they weren’t too much into perfection. That means that the cakes are always a little bit lopsided, the seams weren’t perfectly straight, but the cakes tasted wonderful. All the food was wonderful. The pillows were stylish. And if I would point out to my grandmother, if I would say, “Look, the cake is a little higher on one side than the other.” She’d always look at me and she would say, “Oh, honey, perfection is so boring.” And that is something I have actually taken with me, and I have also taken with me to the magazine. If a thing’s too perfect and looks too intimidating, no one is going to make it. And I don’t make a magazine or books to show you how clever I am, I want to make a magazine and books that you actually can use. Because there’s nothing worse than seeing a beautiful picture and reading a recipe, and there’s, like, 30 ingredients, and the how-to is three pages long. It sort of takes away from the fun of it. And I also know that people aren’t going to do it.
If there’s a picture that’s still beautiful, but you can see that it’s made by human hands, and if there’s a short ingredients list, and a short how-to, it kind of makes you want to make . . . You’re like, “Oh, I can actually do this.” And that’s my goal for everything I do. I want people to actually make it. And there’s nothing more inspiring to me personally than to get e-mails, messages on Facebook and stuff from people who actually make it. Because sometimes you do wonder. I sit here in my little office, and I’m like, “Does anyone really make the stuff?” But people actually do. And they all give me feedback, and that’s very rewarding.
My goal is to create something that I know that you actually can do. Not want to do it, but that you actually physically can do it. So there’s not too many different techniques or difficult stuff, everything’s very simple. And we strive very hard, both me and people I work with for the magazine, that we want to keep things very, very simple. I always say, “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” Let’s make it easy for people.
On Where He Gets Inspiration:
It can be anywhere, really. When it comes to colors, when I’m putting stuff together, I find a load of inspiration from fashion. I love going up and down Fifth Avenue at night and look at the windows for the fabulous stores, and I can’t afford to buy anything, but I can look in the window.
When it comes to food, I’m lucky enough to live in New York, where there’s so much amazing food going on, so just going to lunch, or going to eat, to get a coffee, there’s so much inspiration everywhere. So I feel like I can’t really say that there’s one thing that inspires me, it’s a bunch of things.
What I can say is that I do think best and I come up with my best ideas in the bath tub. That is why I always have a notebook and a pen next to me in the bath tub. I don’t know why, because I really relax well. That’s when I come up with my best ideas.
Some people think really well in a car. My thing is, I think really well in the bath tub.
On a Time When Cooking Didn’t Turn Out As Planned:
For everyone, things don’t always turn out the way you plan it. Sometimes things will suddenly develop by chance. I have this really wonderful go-to recipe that I use a lot. It’s a roasted chicken with maple syrup. And the original recipe had that you glaze the chicken with apricot jam, which is also really good.
But I was out of apricot jam, the store was closed, I had friends coming over, and I was like, “Oh, what do I do?” I always feel like chicken needs something sweet. I had maple syrup. So I covered the chicken in maple syrup, I roasted it, and then I used the drippings to make a gravy with cream. And it’s the most amazing, delicious chicken and gravy that you’ll ever have. It’s sweet, and salty, and creamy.
And then you roast fingerling potatoes with the chicken, so the chicken juices and the maple syrup also go into the potatoes. I tell you, it’s divine.
On His Book, Sweet Paul Eat and Make:
It’s a really fun book because when I was asked to make a book, I was like, “Oh, do I want to make a cookbook or a craft book?” And I couldn’t really make up my mind, so I kind of made both.
It’s mainly a cookbook, but it also has some craft projects in it. And the craft projects are very much based about my kitchen or entertaining. It was a really fun book to make and it’s also very personal, because there’s a lot of stories from my childhood, a lot of stories of growing up, a lot of stuff about my grandmother and my great aunt, and I’m very happy with it. It’s become a very personal thing to me.
I have to tell something funny about the book.
There’s actually a cake in the book that is called the World’s Best. And I don’t claim it to be the world’s best cake, but that is actually the Norwegian name translated, World’s Best. It was a few years back. It was the biggest radio show in Norway, everyone got to vote on what was their favorite cake, and this cake won. And it’s a cake my grandmother used to make. And it’s really wonderful, and it’s so easy, because what it is, it’s a very eggy sponge cake that you bake with a layer of meringue on top and then sprinkle slivered almonds on top of that. And you bake everything in one pan.
Then you take it out, you cut it in half, and you sandwich it with whipped cream in the middle. The great thing about it is that it’s not so sweet.
American cakes are very sweet. When I first moved here, I was like, “Oh my God, this is disgusting. All the frosting on stuff. Now I love it. But it’s such a good cake. Of course, whenevever you call something World’s Best, you kind of get into trouble.
The cake is wonderful. It’s really, really, really good. You should really try it. We definitely got some comment, because, you know, how could it be World’s Best Cake, there’s no chocolate, and there’s no this or that, but it’s fun, because it’s actually the Norwegian name, I just translated it.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
That’s so embarrassing, because I don’t watch any of them. Sorry.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
You know something? That’s another thing I don’t really do. I don’t really look on blogs and food websites too much. I used to do it, but I really don’t anymore.
I look at stuff, and people send me stuff, but nothing that I’m like, “Oh my God, this is amazing.” I’ve seen some beautiful websites and stuff around, but remember, I’m old. I’m almost 50. I don’t do so well anymore. I honestly don’t remember.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook that make you happy?
I follow a lot of people on Pinterest and Instagram. I can’t really say one person. What I think is amazing is that there is so much talent out there. There’s so many people that take beautiful images and make stuff on their kitchen table, and it always amazes me when I see all these people and all this amazing talent that is all around the world.
The funny thing is that, I say that if the world was run by bloggers and Instagrammers, the world would be a much better place.
No wars, but there would be a lot of good food, and very stylish.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
The item I use the most is an immersion blender because I’m really into making mashes right now. So I try to make mashes with everything. So I love that.
I love my Le Creuset pots. They’re really good.
And an old whisk I have from my grandmother.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
I used to hate tomatoes. It’s still kind of a love-hate relationship. If it’s a ripe, beautiful tomato, then I love it. But if it’s one of those you get in the winter . . . I don’t eat tomatoes in winter.
It has to be fresh in the season. A little olive oil, salt and pepper, wonderful.
What are a few cookbooks that have made your life better?
I also think Nigella Lawson makes really good cookbooks. Oh, if I ever am to watch a cooking show, I would watch one with her. Because I think she’s just so chic and stylish, and I trust her when she says that something is good. I kind of trust her. Because she eats, and breathes, and lives deliciousness. She’s a very believable chef.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
I really like listening to bossanova when I cook. Brazilian music. There’s no artist or album, really. I just put it on a playlist.
Get the hips going, it kind of makes everything a little easier. I also listen to that kind of music when I clean. Because I feel like it’s the kind of music that gives you a little energy. It’s fun if you can clean, and dance a little, and drink some wine. It makes cleaning and cooking so much more fun.
On Keeping Posted on Paul: