by Barbara Gallo Ferrell, Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal)
Paul Lowe doesn't strive for perfection.
In fact, the Norwegian-born food and craft stylist — who goes by the moniker Sweet Paul, thanks to his godmother — finds perfection "boring" and touts a mantra he adopted from his grandmother: "fullkommenhet er kjedelig," which means "perfection is boring."
"I've incorporated it and her sheer joy of creating into everything I do," the author of Eat & Make: Charming Recipes & Kitchen Crafts You Will Love (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 288 pages, $30) says in the introduction to his first book.
"I really don't care for visual perfection," he continues. "I want the food I cook and the crafts I make to look like a real person made them. My philosophy is very simple: few ingredients, easy steps and amazing results."
Lowe, who lives in Brooklyn, started the blog, Sweet Paul, in 2008, which garnered followers and praise, resulting in a quarterly magazine, which turned digital in 2010.
His first book is a collection of enticing recipes and easy craft projects, lessons he nurtured from the two women who raised him in Oslo, Norway: his great-aunt, Auntie Gunnvor, and his grandmother, Mormor, where the kitchen was his playground.
With recipes that include Auntie Gunnvor's Skillingsboller and Maple-Roasted Chicken with Maple Gravy, the book is divided into chapters that include "Morning," "Brunch," "Noon" and "Night" with "Eat" and "Make" subheadings for each. Darling craft projects include Swizzle Sticks made with wooden skewers and beads, and Pie Tin Frames for keepsakes. Photography by Alexandra Grablewski softly captures the folkish charm infused throughout the many recipes and projects.
Question: What made you decide to do a cook/craft book after your successful blog and magazine?
Answer: I have made a book about the two things in life that I love: cooking and crafting. For me, this goes hand in hand. Many of my readers have been asking for years for a book and finally it's here.
Q. What is your earliest kitchen memory growing up in Norway with your great-aunt and grandmother?
A. The first memories that come to mind are the smells — I would wake up and the house would smell of coffee, Pall Mall cigarettes and from time to time, cinnamon buns. Then I remember my grandmother's fish pie, it's so easy and so good, it was my favorite dish from the first bite.
Q. What was it about these two women that so inspired you?
A. My grandmother and great aunt had impeccable taste but believed food and home should be 'real' — that DIY should look like real people made it and it should be simple, fun, delicious, and beautiful, even if it's not visually 'perfect.' That was, and still is, so inspiring to me; so many of us try to be perfect, but really 'perfection is boring.'
Q. When did you decide that cooking and crafting was the course your life would take?
A. I kinda always knew that this is what I wanted to do. I have been a florist, stylist and editor, so the creative field is where I belong. I'm really happy with my life, I feel that I have found my calling and love every minute of it.
Q. Is Eat & Make a book that would appeal to kitchen/craft novices as well as those with more expertise?
A. All the craft projects are really easy to do, you do not need to be a 'crafter.' And the fun thing is that most are made with things you have around the house, like clothespins, hangers, etc. I love recycling and find it really fun to come up with ideas using everyday objects and turning them into something stylish.
Q. What advice would you give to someone who has never cooked a meal but would like to get started?
--Start with reading the recipe and how-to, that way you know beforehand what to do.
--Lay out all your ingredients and what you need.
--Pick something easy to start with, nothing crazy.
--Go slow, take your time and try to enjoy.
--Put on some music, have a little wine and just have fun with it.
Q. Do you have a favorite recipe in the book?
A. Where to start? Coddle eggs for brunch. Croque Madame for lunch and my maple roasted chicken for dinner, the sauce is divine. And then the 'world's best cake' for dessert.
Q. What is your go-to meal to make when you don't want to fuss?
A. One of the recipes in the book got created out of what I had in the fridge. It's chicken baked with lemons, capers and olives, so good! Easy, fast and tasty.
Q. What's next for you and your craft?
A. Who knows, more magazines, books and maybe some TV.