Sunday 9 August 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 9/8/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Breath of fresh air

We’ll start with a scene-setter. A rather elaborate one. We’re in Gstaad, it’s Friday evening and we’re on the terrace of a very grand hotel – perhaps one of the grandest alpine retreats in all of Europe. It’s absolutely packed and, despite our late arrival, it’s difficult to get a table. “Not to worry, we’ll have a drink over there while you arrange things,” I suggest to the gentleman in a dinner jacket who’s running the show. At the edge of the terrace we settle in and breathe in the cool air drifting down the slopes – chamomile, clover and cow shit. Why hasn’t Comme des Garçons turned this into a fragrance yet?

On the steps by the entrance a lanky Italian lady and her partner on the keys are taking turns singing bossa and jazz standards. They sound wonderful, as though they’re only whispering into their microphones, and there’s just enough showmanship to make you listen in and so very little that you don’t feel as though they’re intruding on your lobster bisque. A couple of tables along, Roman Polanski is dining with a woman (it might be his wife) and two other French gentlemen. The one beside Polanski has a nose so large that he could challenge one of the nearby peaks of the Berner Oberland. Who else is here this evening? Where are our drinks? Ahhh, there they are. A junior dining room cadet is striding toward us with flutes in one hand and a bottle of champagne in another. A quick scan of the licence plates in the carpark earlier in the day has given me some assistance in reading the room. Assessing dinner attire also helps.

An essay in a Swiss newspaper recently suggested that there’s a danger that we will no longer be allowed to gauge where people are from – or ask them. That “reading” people will be seen as judgemental, racist and out of step with the times. Thankfully, the writer was suggesting otherwise and making a case for the fact that humans – indeed all animals – instinctively sniff out a situation to assess threat or opportunity, place of origin and possible amorous conquest. By our very nature we listen to accents, assess hair colour, analyse skin tone, look at shoes and size-up eyewear, and instantly compute whether a person is dazzling or dull, a menace or harmless. The essayist suggested that it’s a complete waste of time to make broad, sweeping attempts to correct something that we’re programmed to do: observe, judge and analyse.

Humans – indeed all animals – instinctively sniff out a situation to assess threat or opportunity, place of origin and possible amorous conquest

Which brings us to the family seated behind Mr Polanski. They sound English but it’s doubtful that they live in the UK as the children have assumed a more alpine style and the parents are dressed head to toe in Loro Piana. As Loro Piana are the official uniform suppliers to all residents in and around Geneva who want to stay safe and somewhat current in sartorial terms, I reckon that this bunch live somewhere near Morges and that papa is either at a bank or running legal affairs for one of the tobacco multinationals headquartered near the lake.

And who’s the crowd getting up from the table and making their way to the bar? The boys (ranging from 12 to 17) are all in navy blazers, chinos and loafers, and two girls are in floaty dresses in espadrilles. Pulling up the rear are the parents and grandparents, and there’s a linen janker (think Tiroler-style half-belted jacket with horn buttons and stand-up collar) on dad, in green, and a similar one on what must be his father. Their manner is confident, they don’t look around but straight ahead. They all have impeccable posture. They must be from Hamburg. And what about the chic Japanese lady in her sixties – or is she 90? She’s Japanese after all – with the ultra-bronzed Italian chap? And why do they know everyone on the terrace?

I could have carried on making character sketches all evening but bed called and so I climbed the stairs and obediently went to sleep. If you’re in need of a bit of summer escapism, generally well-behaved people and a few days to remind you that all is (or can be) well in the world, a classic alpine hotel is hard to beat.

Image: Sophie O’Keefe


Pizza mind

Two days into fatherhood, French-born engineer Remi Pham confessed to his partner that he wanted to give up his job to pursue his secret dream of making pizza (writes Aarti Betigeri). “I told him where to go,” recalls Sonia Lear, the mother of their then-newborn baby. That was in 2009, but within four years the Melbourne-based pair had invested their savings in a 1963 Airstream van, had it refitted and shipped from Colorado to Australia. There, they fitted it out with a pizza oven and launched Happy Camper Pizza. The gamble paid off: seven years later they had a fleet of five customised vehicles making and serving pizzas, a staff of 26 and a roaring business, mostly servicing weddings.

The advent of the pandemic forced an immediate halt to their trade at events. To stay afloat, the pair moved to home delivery of pizza from their warehouse. But Lear remains optimistic, noting that a trend towards backyard weddings will likely become more entrenched in 2021. “Already we saw people veering away from expensive events. We’re mobile, so backyard weddings are a perfect fit.”

For more stirring stories about businesses and places on the move, subscribe now in time for our September issue, which will be available on 20 August.


Dressing down

Hirofumi Kurino is the co-founder of fêted brand United Arrows and a pivotal figure in Japanese fashion. He’s also a fashion star in his own right: he is well known for his personal style and is relentlessly photographed at fashion weeks. His new book, Mode go no sekai (The World After Mode) is out now. Here, Kurino talks about his need for natto (fermented soybeans), walking his dog Juno and the calming power of his morning martial arts routine.

Where do we find you this weekend? In my house in Tokyo. Sometimes I spend my Saturday dinner at my favorite organic restaurant with my family, including my daughter, who lives independently.

How are you handling all this extra time at home? I try to walk as much as I can. After the lockdown in Tokyo, I realised that walking is important, both physically and mentally. I also like to organise my closet. I do it to rediscover my clothes and try new stylings.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt? I like gentle mornings, especially on Sunday.

Soundtrack of choice? On Sunday I will play some Brazilian music, such as an album by Chico Buarque, my favorite MPB [Brazilian pop] artist.

What’s for breakfast? The same as every other morning: earl grey tea with milk, bread from my favorite restaurant and cheese from France.

News or not? Every morning I start my day with reading the newspaper, usually the Tokyo Shimbun and the Senken Shimbun [a fashion business paper]. I’m a newspaper freak; I can’t live without them.

Walk the dog or downward dog? I walk Juno, my dog, every morning.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping? Not to get my blood pumping but my morning always starts with qigong.

What’s for lunch? My wife is a great chef. I like everything she makes but I particularly love her salad dish with fresh fish, grapefruit and nuts.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?Natto made from black beans.

Sunday culture must (book, film, radio)? Nothing particularly but I like going to a museum or walking.

A glass of something you’d recommend? Single malt whisky, of course. But not in the morning.

Dinner venue you can’t wait to get back to? If I can travel to London soon I would like to book Moro at Exmouth Market in Farringdon.

Who would join? My friend in London, Paula Gerbase, who is the designer at [shoe brand] John Lobb.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine? Nothing special. Qigong every morning is the thing I can’t miss.

Will you lay out your look for Monday? What will you be wearing? Next Monday will be very hot, so I will wear a white linen shirt from Margaret Howell, a navy cotton seersucker jacket from Caruso and wide beige-cotton pants from Kolor. And grey suede trainers from New Balance, the 990 V5 model.


Huevos rancheros

The origins of this breakfast staple lie in the hefty breakfasts of Mexican farmhands. Our London-based recipe writer offers a refined take.

Serves 2


For the tomato sauce 2 tbsps sunflower oil 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 1 small onion, finely chopped ½ tsp ground cumin ½ tsp sweet smoked paprika 4 ripe tomatoes (about 450g), diced 1 chilli (ideally jalapeño), finely chopped with seeds ½ tsp sea salt 2 large pinches of crushed black pepper

For the guacamole 1 large avocado, cubed 1 small red onion, finely chopped 10g coriander, finely chopped ¼ tsp sea salt Juice of 1 large lime 1 tin of black beans (or refried beans) 1 tbsp oil 4 to 6 soft corn tortillas 2 eggs

To serve Coriander, roughly chopped Lime wedges Hot sauce


To make the tomato sauce, place a pan over medium heat and add the oil and garlic. Cook until it turns golden, then add the onion and sauté until it becomes transparent. Add cumin and paprika. Keep stirring for 2 minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes and chilli. Heat until the sauce thickens – it will take about 10 to 15 minutes – and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm. While tomato sauce is simmering, prepare the guacamole. Mix the avocado, red onion, coriander, salt and lime juice in a bowl. Blitz until smooth and set it aside. Open the tin of black beans and drain, add them to a small pan and warm it through over a medium heat, then keep warm. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the 2 eggs. Cook until the egg white is set but the yolk is still runny. Plate up the eggs, guacamole, black beans and tomato sauce divided between 2 plates. Cook the corn tortillas using the frying pan in which you fried the eggs. Toast them for 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Wrap them in a clean kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft. Sprinkle coriander over the dish and serve with lime wedges and hot sauce.


On the grapevine

Set in gentle hills near Reggio Emilia, the 11-room Roncolo 1888 bed-and-breakfast is a spruced-up take on the area’s time-honoured pensions (writes Ivan Carvalho). “We opted for an interior design that isn’t overly rustic or traditional,” says its Austrian owner, Julia Prestia. Exposed wooden beams and vintage 1950s furnishings mingle with Boffi bathtubs, custom-made seating and brightly coloured linens. It was in 2015 that Prestia and her Sicilian husband, Giuseppe, acquired the 130-hectare Venturini Baldini estate, which produces organic wines, including a sparkling rosé made from native lambrusco grapes. Along with plates of prime prosciutto crudo and parmigiano reggiano, there’s the added treat of balsamic vinegar – reputedly the region’s oldest – from the hotel’s cellar, as well as top quality condiments for guests to take home.

Image: Getty Images


Out for the count

I’d forgotten how wonderful it is to fall asleep to a baseball game (writes Christopher Cermak). American Football fans just don’t get it: baseball might be “boring” but there’s nothing better to have on in the background, listening to the inane chatter of the commentators as you finish your chores, cook dinner or take a cheeky snooze on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The trick is to know when you should be paying attention; that one heart-stopping moment when a home run or a strikeout could change the course of a game.

One such moment that catches the attention of many is the ceremonial first pitch, a quirky US tradition that’s mostly – and wisely – ignored by most other sports. It’s an honour that was handed to US health expert Anthony Fauci (pictured) at the Washington Nationals’ first game of the season on 23 July. His pitch, it must be said, was pretty awful. But that didn’t stop him from drawing Donald Trump’s indignation (jealousy, maybe?). The president – the only White House occupant never to throw a pitch at a baseball game – hurriedly announced that he would join a New York Yankees game this past week. He then ended up backing out, perhaps when he realised that there would be no crowd.

It’s fair to say that this year’s shortened season (yes, 60 games is a short in baseball terms) will be anything but a snoozefest. Players and teams have had to get used to empty stadiums and a rising number of coronavirus cases (more than a dozen Miami Marlins have contracted the virus, delaying their season). Baseball is also setting a blueprint for how other sports, including American Football, might work – or, indeed, whether they will. And me? I’ll be cheering on the Washington Nationals from my sofa – just don’t expect me to have my eyes open.


Dish the dirt

A few years ago I visited the sleepy hamlet of Shanagarry in East Cork (writes Josh Fehnert). I was off to Ballymaloe Cookery School to interview its founder, the Irish chef, TV personality and prolific author Darina Allen. Of all the things she told me (she’s a good and swift talker, so there were many), it’s always stuck with me that the first recipe she teaches students is for humus. No, not the modish chickpea-and-tahini number but plain old compost: specifically the fecund fragments of the soil made from decayed animal and vegetable matter that nourish crops and keep plants hale. “We’ll have a wheelbarrow of soil and I run my hands through it and I say to them, ‘Remember, this is where it all starts,’” she told me. “I have to shock them out of thinking that food is something that comes wrapped in plastic off a supermarket shelf.”

So if you have a little room and want to boost how your garden grows, then why not turn your hand to humus? All you need to transform organic waste into homemade fertiliser is a sunny spot, a compost bin and a cordoned-off corner or large container. The top tips are to rest the container on soils so that the decomposers from the deep can aid the process (though some wire will keep rats and mice away). You’ll also need to get a mix of green and brown waste to help balance the levels of carbon and nitrogen inside. You should turn the mixture with a pitchfork every few weeks to speed up the process. Oh, and cover it to keep the rain out. In six months, after the mixture turns brown and begins smelling a little sweet, you’ll have compost aplenty. And the recipe for the mix? Think weeds, grass clippings and fruit peels, not to mention egg shells, cardboard and paper bags, which can all be profitably transformed into nutrient-rich soil for your patch. Have a good Sunday.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00