Q&A with Sarah Copeland
Q&A with Sarah Copeland
This week we check in with Sarah Copeland, cookbook author, tastemaker and curator of good living. We asked her 15 questions about her journey, creativity, new cookbook, inspiration and how she finds balance as a mother and a writer. Her answers are so fluid and full, and you may want to read them more than once.
- Share the short version of your journey to where you are now career-wise?
I came to New York City a few days after college with a journalism degree and a camera, toggling between wanting to write or shoot. I dabbled in both in magazine jobs as a photo assistant or an editor–before falling completely in love with the New York food scene. I went to culinary school, studied and worked in France and then wove it all together in a career as a food writer, styling and shooting some of my own work.
Along the way, I was always vying to work with the city’s best chefs (my restaurant time included stints at Cafe Boulud and Savoy, both in their heyday) the best editors (like my two former bosses at Real Simple), and the best photographers, like Gentl + Hyers, who shot my latest book, because working with people better than you pushes you and polishes you. I feel like I’m getting closer to where I want to go, but am always looking forward to more growth and challenges.
- Tell us more about your new book Every Day is Saturday.
This book feels like my best work so far, the culmination of years of bubbling inspiration. It is an ode to good living, to being in flow with yourself and your life, to really stopping and enjoying the hard work I already put in, and hopefully inspiring my audience to do the same.
Life is moving so fast. In Every Day is Saturday I’m carefully willing us to slow down, to cook epic meals (without doing epic amounts of work), to open our doors and our tables to friends, to create magic and memories for the ones we love most. It’s also about taking really good care of ourselves in subtle ways–treating ourselves, without overindulging in ways that we may later regret. To me that is abundance and wellness and good health.
- What is a key part of your creative process?
Being in my garden has become a bigger and bigger part of my process every year. Of course I take inspiration from other artists–and from the grit of urban life. To visit museums or a really layered cafe, full of people and beautiful vignettes–is essential for me at least once a week. But for me to really feel in a flow, creativity has to come from within. I like to be alone in my office, in my kitchen or in my garden, surrounded by the textures and colors of nature: flowers, herbs, flowering herbs, big stacks of ceramics, bright colored radishes and leafy greens. All of it.
- What are 5 things inspiring you right now?
I’m more into flowers than I ever have been. I just got back from Seattle and I love how the gardens there are really wild and every texture and color brushes up against each other. There are tons of long grasses and pampas and I want them all in my yard. There seems to be no order, but it all really works. I think that’s my very ordered mind finally embracing that chaos can be beauty, too.
Freckles and wrinkles on human skin and portraiture and black and white images and natural dyes and all kinds of fabric, in no particular order, are all my current muses. I think we have lived in a clean white world of perfectly pretty images for too long, and everything I crave right now has a very lived in quality
- How do you manage being a hands-on mother with your career? Whats your way to balance it all?
Usually one or the other is thriving, and the other is surviving okay but could use some TLC. Right now I’m on book tour, and for the first time in almost 8 years I’m able to give total focus to my career–but my husband has his hands extremely full at home with the kids and his own business. When I get back, I want to drop it all and just play and cuddle them, and invite a million kids over to play and eat watermelon in the yard, which I keep doing, but it’s one of those rare times in life when I know I also have to preserve energy for the week ahead, the next trip, the next book signing. I think there is no master plan or schedule that works for my family–we have learned to take it week by week, or day by day even, and give ourselves a lot of grace.
- How was the transition from city living to moving to Upstate New York? Do you miss New York City?
When we first moved here, after years of only spending weekends here, it felt like pure bliss. But I was also on a paid maternity leave, and the baby bubble of euphoria and happy hormones was totally real for me. I never wanted anything to change. Then one day, while walking our daughter to preschool down our very sleepy village street I gasped and thought: what if this is it, forever? I started missing the city intensely in that moment. But then I remembered that coming here was a choice and we could always choose to go back. And knowing that, that it’s in our hands, has made living here feel very good and right. The more I go back now–more frequently and for more than just work–the more I understand the privilege of having this quiet life, and the city just 90 miles within reach.
We have the best community here, and more like-minded support than we ever had in 15 years in the city (particularly as parents). Our kids have a built-in crew of friends who they are growing up with like family–we adore their parents and kids alike, which feels like a daily gift.
- What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
I think the gift of loving to read and write. My parents gave us a love of reading, particularly my dad because he was always reading. He loves movies too, but at the end of the day he was always in bed with a huge book and he loved to tell us detailed stories about what he was reading. My third grade teacher gave us all journals and required us to write in them daily–and that stuck for years. Writing my dreams and feelings and details about people and characters both helped me to overcome any hard or dark feelings immediately as they arose, and created a pathway for me to write my own books, which was my ultimate dream.
- If you could go back 5 years, what advice would you give yourself?
Five years ago, my oldest child, Greta, would be 3. I would tell myself that the innocence of it all–of the children and our life as a young family would fade a bit as they discover the world, so soak it in, slow down, take more time off. I would tell myself that hustle isn’t the way. Also, I would tell myself to stop apologizing–to own my choices and not worry about what anyone thought of them–or me.
- What is your ideal Saturday?
Not having to go anywhere. We’d make breakfast as a family, but some magic faeries would come and do the dishes. We’d play in the yard, lay in the hammock and read and garden for hours. Then, because we choose to–not because we’ve made plans or promised anyone we would–we’d go get a beer and some oysters and maybe run into some friends. We’d be home early, watch a short anime with the kids and then they would put themselves to bed (so far that has never happened) so my husband and I could watch a grown-up movie together, for like, the first time in five years.
- What beauty products can’t you live without?
I love my rose water face mist (I might be borderline obsessive about it) and my weekly pumpkin glycolic mask from Andalou. Also, my dear friend told me I needed a grown-up lipstick on my last birthday, and bought me a tube of Rodin called Tomato Rouge. It gives me an instant lift–and it looks good on everyone.
- Can you share a scent- or perfume-related memory?
I love the smell of boxwood. My grandmother had roses and boxwood lining her driveway leading up to her big front porch. To this day, when I smell boxwood I’m immediately at ease–as if I’m embodying my childhood. Jasmine, lemon-verbena and lavender equally relax me and draw up memories of my time working in France, when I was young and carefree. I try to surround myself with them at all times, even when I travel.
- To what do you attribute your biggest periods of self-discovery and growth?
Being alone for long periods–in my early twenties but even now–whenever I travel or can get away, always offers me the biggest space for self-discovery. Eating at a restaurant alone and taking nothing but a pen and paper to write whatever thoughts come to me feels like such luxury.
- Do you have any current obsessions?
Roll-ons. My husband teases me that it’s witchcraft because I can’t go anywhere without them anymore. Even my four-year-old son asks for them on his wrists before bed. I always have one in my purse or pocket and at least two beside my bed–aromatherapy has become essential to my working mama life.
- What are you currently reading?
I’m reading Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs. I’m obsessed–I picked it up on a recent cross-country flight and didn’t quite finish so I keep stealing away to my bedroom whenever my kids are playing to get in another chapter. Such incredible writing and reflection. I love memoir–it always grabs me so much more than fiction.
Simultaneously, I’m reading the Aesthetics of Joy by Ingrid Fetell Lee and it’s full of discovery. It explains my mind and why I need and crave space and movement and order so much.
- How do you take realness into your social media platform?
I don’t want to spend time looking at images online that aren’t lovely in some way, but too beautiful or perfect is increasingly off-putting to me. You can tell when something is staged. I still strive for (loosely) beautiful moments from real life, but in my writing I like to reveal the chaos behind the serene looking scene, the small struggle or mini triumph of that day. In a sense it’s like a good memoir–no one would read it if it were all rainbows and unicorns (except, maybe, our 8-year-olds).