Seeing what kindness tastes like

Australian-born Paul Carroll moved around a lot as a child but has now lived in the Netherlands longer than he's lived anywhere else. In case the Aussie accent throws you off, he even has a favorite place here to prove it.

As a self-proclaimed bike addict, he can't wait for the day when he and his business partner (the two of them run My Wild Love, a handmade bike shop) can just make bikes all day. In the meantime, he's teaching his son his mother's chicken wing recipe.

Cropbox: Okay, let's start with your story. 

Paul Carroll: The full story? (laughs)

CB: The full story.

PC: Wow… okay. So I’m originally Australian, I was born in Perth. I've lived all over the place but ended up in Amsterdam when I was 16 with my folks. My family lived here for three years. And at the end of that time I met my now wife. My parents left and I stayed. And I’ve now been married for 10 years, known my partner for 20, and we have two kids: a little boy, Miles, who is six and Alma who is nine months old and way more chilled out than her brother.

I studied science, years and years ago. I did a degree in environmental science - people and places and where the clouds come from and how the weather is changing and all that kind of stuff. I worked as an environmental consultant for a while but it wasn’t really me. And then one way or another I started writing and now I’ve been working as a freelance copywriter for about five years. I guess I got entrepreneurial while I was doing that so I took over the work space that I work in now, which is why I know Dom.

And then I started a bicycle business with [my friend] Dario about a year and a half ago now. We make bicycles. So it’s been sort of a slow transition from one thing to another. But hopefully one day it’s just me and Dario making bikes. Right now it’s both of us sort of keeping our day jobs and making bicycles on the side.

CB: So why bikes?

PC: Yah, I just love bicycles. It’s a weird thing kind of, it’s like an addiction. When I was a student living in Melbourne, I volunteered at a bicycle cooperative and we would fix and rebuild bicycles just to get more people cycling. I also did the same thing here for a couple of years, at a little bike cooperative in de Pijp and I was always really into salvaging bicycles and doing things with the parts.

And then Dario was living in Treviso, Italy and Treviso is one of the last places where they still hand-make bikes in Italy. So we would cruise around and visit all the builders, all sorts of old dudes on their last legs and it was just really inspiring to see they were still building. It was something new and something [Dario] enjoyed because he does all the artwork and paintwork and design. And for me it was like coming full circle, old stuff to new stuff. And it was great because we just got to make bikes because it's fun. Bicycles are my creative outlet.

CB: What makes you get out of bed each day?

PC: My children, generally... Because they wake up before me so I have no choice (laughing). It's a funny thing, the last work I was doing before I started writing was consultancy and I actually didn't really want to get out of bed in the morning. I just had no desire. And then when I started working for myself, I think just the fact that I was responsible for myself made me excited about doing what I did. And I was always doing new things and it was really exciting and that felt rewarding. I think it's just empowering to do stuff for yourself and to feel like your life is in your own hands. That always makes me more engaged in my day.

CB: What is comfort to you?

PC: Chocolate cake (laughs, as he takes a big bite of chocolate cake). No really, I think comfort is food big time. Also, my mother is visiting at the moment and I realized I'm way more relaxed now that she's here. It's almost like, with just the security of family, the responsibilities feel less. Being around them is really comforting. Which is surprising, or at least noticeable because I only see them once every two years or so. So anyway, when they're not around, yes, chocolate cake or really anything sweet is my comfort.

CB: Okay so you have a sweet tooth.

PC: Mmmm yah.

CB: How does memory play a part in your life?

PC: I used to always be nostalgic for the places I wasn't. So you live somewhere and wish you were somewhere else. I think it's only since I've had kids that I sort of feel anchored to the place I am and feel like there is less need to be somewhere else or to find something else or to move on.

CB: Describe your perfect date with yourself.

PC: Hmmm just the two of us? We'd probably just watch a movie these days. I think I'd just take myself to the cinema, and then we'd go and have dinner and not talk. We'd just be quiet. No one chattering, no one fighting for my attention. It would be a very quiet, peaceful affair. And it would end early. We'd have spicy food and something chocolatey for dessert... and we'd walk around holding hands.

CB: What is your favorite food?

PC: Chocolate cake... no, I'm sure there are things I love more. I'd say right now it's probably chicken wings. Because my kid just discovered chicken wings recently and has sort of gone mad for them. So we've started making [my mom's recipe] for chicken wings with a sort of sticky, honey sauce.

CB: Describe the best meal you've ever had.

PC: I think it was dinner with my wife at a little Italian restaurant in Amsterdam, maybe 10 years ago. My father was there. I can't remember the details of the meal but I just remember every course being surprisingly delicious, like amazing pasta just with oil and garlic. And the dessert was just some amazing cake with a minty sauce. It was just a point where I was feeling happy and content with my father as I got older. We were more friends and less adversaries and just being there with him and my wife was special.

CB: What condiment really freaks you out?

PC: Pretty much any condiment from the snack bar, from the sperm-filled mayonnaise to the horribly sticky tomato sauce.

CB: What do you want to eat right now, besides chocolate cake?

PC: A burger.

CB: Okay, now for some rapid fire...  

1. Dinner in front of the TV, okay or not okay? Not okay

2. Breakfast for dinner or dinner for breakfast? Breakfast for dinner

3. Champagne or martini? Champagne

4. Food on a skewer or food on a tiny spoon? Skewer

5.  Would you rather have a coffee or red-wine spill on your favorite outfit? Coffee

6. Buffet or sit-down dinner? Buffet

7. Soup or salad? Soup

8. Nutella or Speculoos? Nutella

9. Worst food to get stuck in your teeth: Kale or poppy seeds? Poppy seeds

10. Edible flowers or edible gold? Edible flowers

11. Crushed ice or cubed ice? Cubed ice

12. Pizza or pasta? Pizza

13. Sing in the shower or sing in the car? Shower

14. Are you a hunter or a gatherer? Gatherer

Paul's favorite place in the Netherlands - Kennemerland

Paul's favorite place in the Netherlands - Kennemerland

In the box today:

Sticky mustard "chicken wing" burger on a sweet potato bun

With spicy vega mayo and pineapple relish

Chunky grilled courgette, bicycle cog carrots, marinated fennel, radish and pomegranate salad

Baby gems with a zesty vinaigrette