Sunday 1 November 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 1/11/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Five-point plan

We start this Sunday with a big thank you to all those Monocle Weekend Edition readers who spent a not insignificant amount of time considering how to keep our visitors to Zürich warm. The city has placed a ban on most types of outside heaters, while encouraging the hospitality community to keep diners and drinkers outdoors as much as possible. From all corners of the world we had suggestions, including customers bringing their own hot-water bottle, proprietors offering the first drink free and even hydrogen cells to power electric heaters. Seven days on, we have multiple projects in play – and most of them involve wool, wood and fire.

Yes, dear reader, if you were in any doubt, we’re moving backwards, not forwards. The cave is calling us and, surprisingly, many are only too happy to make their little nests and hope that it will all go away so long as their employer has deep cash reserves, their government has a plan for something it never planned for and the schools remain open. Of course – as France, Belgium, Germany and many more go into semi-hibernation – we already know that this approach isn’t working. From tomorrow, tens of millions face at least a month of abandoned streets, hollow city centres and home-delivery fatigue.

So what’s the plan? How does one soldier through it? A few observations and pointers.

1. Keep it sharp – head to toe. Earlier in the week I bumped into an acquaintance who had been working from home since March. While he said that everything was moving ahead in his mid-sized retail agency, he looked as though he hadn’t been in front of a mirror or seen himself on screen for considerably longer. Once you stop shaving, combing your hair and tending to other personal-care essentials, things can deteriorate swiftly. Rule one: make sure you’re showered, dressed and wearing proper footwear before your first call of the day.

2. Reinstate the diary. I’ve heard many people say that they’ve stopped making entertaining, holiday and even work plans because the times are too uncertain. Over dinner last week my friend Eli said that she’s reinstating the diary and planning short-, mid- and long-term. For mental-health reasons alone, this is a smart idea. Yes, you might have to invest in a big eraser to rub out dates and shift things around – but don’t we all need to look forward to sunnier days?

3. Support your local florist. In the absence of sunshine, it’s good to support your local florist – assuming they’re open. Keeping things fresh and fragrant indoors can only have a good effect.

4. Start a grand project. Buy a house, build a little hut (this might figure in our plan to keep our café customers warm), commission a new-build boat. These are good days for side projects – and why not invest in something that you can actually enjoy rather than just monitor as a graph on a screen.

5. Sing with friends. No, I’m not suggesting you sing in a choir. I’m thinking more living-room karaoke – well ventilated, plenty of space, a couple of good friends and a super sound set-up. I did this a few Sundays ago and it was one of the best nights I’ve had in the past eight months. In fact, the last time I enjoyed a similar session was at Monocle’s favourite bar in Shinjuku. Ahhh, Tokyo. I do miss you. A lot. Hopefully we’ll be back soon.


Bond, farewell

…and on the subject of Tokyo and things we miss: sayonara, Sean.

We’ll miss Mr Connery as the finest James Bond, the most impeccably Brylcreemed Mr Universe and the executor of the world’s most infamous consonants. With an eye on the specific, we admired Edinburgh’s best-built son worrying the seams of an indigo yukata in 1967’s You Only Live Twice, smoking beautifully in 1964’s Goldfinger and being the sort of belligerent rail passenger that many poor services deserve in 1963’s From Russia With Love – there wasn’t much sleeping car left after he’d finished with it. And who else could do justice to The Man Who Would Be King (1975) or conceivably play the father who makes Indiana Jones look prim?

In fact, “From Russia With Love” has always been one of Monocle’s key theme songs – the romance of travel, eyes meeting across crowded rooms – and will again be sung in Mr Connery’s honour, just as soon as circumstances allow.

And it turns out that you do live twice: once in your shoes and then forever in those of everyone who admired you. So leave the trilby on the hatstand: he’ll be back to get it.


Sound bites

Daunt Books has served up a culinary treat at an oddly poignant moment when many of us are missing the joys of breaking bread with friends and family (writes Josh Fehnert). In The Kitchen: Essays on Food and Life is a sparkling, generous and non-judgemental addition to the constellation of food books. Mercifully it doesn’t censure you for eating meat, castigate calories or crow about gut flora, either. The book itself is as glossy and tactile as an autumn squash, offering a peek into the kitchens and cookery of 13 scribblers, including bakers, a publisher and a poet.

Among the bite-sized essays is a life recalled through the 20 ovens owned by food writer Rachel Roddy, a reverie prompted by a stolen kitchen kiss from Nigerian essayist Yemisí Aríbisálà and plenty to graze on in cogitations about the philosophy of hor d’oeuvres and a resolutely un-snobby evaluation of the merits of recipe boxes. Like a good dinner-party guest, these essayists don’t hector or harangue; they don’t dollop on the guilt or demand that you sign up to a cynical diet, eat insects or forage. Instead they remind readers – well, me, at any rate – that food can nourish, trigger and sustain us, and that the act of eating is indelibly tied to our inner lives, homes and hopes. You’ll be glad you ordered it.


Finding space

Wee Teng Wen’s hospitality firm The Lo & Behold Group’s openings represent a roll call of some of the best places to eat in Singapore. From The White Rabbit in a renovated chapel in Dempsey Hill to chef Julien Royer’s Odette and the always lively Tanjong Beach Club, Teng’s touch transforms kitchens, clubs and hotels in spaces where people love to linger. Although this year has been a challenge for restaurants and hotels, Teng has found consolation in the time that he’s spent at home with his family. Here he talks skateboarding with his daughter, Singapore’s best nasi lemak and his retro listening habits.

Where do we find you this weekend?
Playing ping-pong. It keeps me quick-footed and the repetitive, clock-like sound of a bat smacking a ball is my therapy.

How are you handling all this extra time at home?
Although tumultuous, this year has delivered some silver linings. It’s been a welcome reset. We guard our time together as a family and make fewer plans now; there’s very little “fear of missing out”. Our home is filled with my wife’s art, as well as lots of plants and children’s books. It’s our happy place.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle or with a jolt?
Our daughter lives to eat so there is rarely much time between waking up and breakfast.

Soundtrack of choice?
Recently it’s been very nostalgic: Beirut, Death Cab for Cutie, The Lightning Seeds. And lots from the 1980s – Tears for Fears, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, The Cure and a number of unmentionable one-hit wonders.

What’s for breakfast?
A mixed platter of fruits. I’m happiest when it features nashi pear or dark cherries. We usually have homemade granola or, if we are lucky enough, some of Dearborn’s amazing small-batch granola.

News or not?
News, in bed, on my phone. The New York Times is part news, part rant and always entertaining.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
Downward dog, every Friday morning. But nothing is more comforting than the “child’s pose”.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
I often go skateboarding in a park with my daughter. I skated as a kid and picked it up again during lockdown. It feels great to rekindle an old hobby and share it with her.

What’s for lunch?
The Coconut Club’s nasi lemak is one of my favourite comfort foods

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
Lightly salted butter and naturally leavened sourdough bread from Le Bon Funk. It’s the best bread in town.

Sunday culture must?
“Must” is perhaps subjective but in our house it’s currently Peppa Pig.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
We have been drinking well and broadly thanks to the team at Clink Clink, the sommelier-led wine shop we started this year. Lately I’ve been enjoying joyous wines from Hirsch and Jean Foillard.

Dinner venue you can’t wait to get back to?
Blue Hill at Stone Barns. The owners and their team have made seasonal, sustainable cuisine an incredibly tasty and immersive experience. They recently announced that they’ll be closing the restaurant and pivoting to a chef-in-residency programme. I pray this will only be temporary or the world will be losing a legendary restaurant.

Will you lay out your look for Monday? What will you be wearing?
I’ve given this pretty much no consideration lately. I wear a T-shirt when I can get away with it. In these times, that’s most days.


Clam chowder

Our Japanese recipe writer mixes the subtle flavour of seafood with the bite of bacon to create a favourite winter warmer. We’d recommend crackers to dip or a good sourdough loaf cut into generous slices to soak up the soup. Note that clam stock is quite salty so there’s no need to add extra for seasoning (taste the dish first and see if it needs it). Enjoy.

Serves 2


750g clams
1 tbsp salt
25g unsalted butter
4 slices smoked, streaky bacon, cut into small pieces
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tbsps plain flour
300ml whole milk, warmed up
1 bay leaf
2 floury potatoes (300g approx), cut into 1cm cubes
1 carrot, cut into 1cm cubes

To serve:

Chopped curly parsley
Crushed black pepper
Sprinkle of extra crispy bacon
Squeeze of lemon juice,
Cream crackers or crusty bread


  1. Wash the clams in water to rid the outer shells of dirt. Place them in a deep baking tray.
  2. Measure 600ml of water, add 1 tbsp salt and mix until the salt dissolves. Pour the salted water over the clams, cover with a tea towel and leave at room temperature for 1 hour. This will help the clams to release the sand from their body.
  3. Drain the clams and wash them again. Place in a medium pot with 300ml water. Bring it to a boil, cover with a lid and cook until the shells open (about 3 minutes). Drain the clam stock through a sieve over a bowl and set it aside. Pick the clam meat and discard the shells (along with any unopened shells). Set the clam meat aside.
  4. Place butter and bacon in the same pot that you used to cook the clams. Cook until the bacon becomes crispy, then remove about a quarter of the bacon and set aside. Add onion and garlic, and cook until onions become translucent, then add flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the clam stock and warm milk, turn up the heat and bring it to a boil. Scrape the burnt bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add a bay leaf, potatoes and carrots, and turn down the heat to low, cover with lid and cook for 20 to 30 minutes. When ready to serve, add the clam meat and stir through.


Silent nights

Christmas is, of course, a good way off (writes Andrew Mueller). But this is the time of year that Christmas starts trying to persuade us that it’s closer than we might think. The first tinsel has been hung in your supermarket. The first festive television advertisements have been broadcast. Whether you find Christmas’s consumption of the entire last quarter of every year charming or irritating, it might all feel reassuringly normal – until you remember that it’s 2020 and nothing is.

Here in the UK, Christmas has been more than usually anticipated this year. Back in July, Boris Johnson waffled breezily of the coronavirus pandemic being over by Christmas, which was a bold move, given the association of that timeframe with a few optimistic predictions made in the summer of 1914. To state the obvious, the pandemic won’t be over. So the plans that many people would normally start making – or at least start thinking about making – at this time of year are being rethought or abandoned.

Without wishing to appear glib about the genuine angst that this will be causing in many households, there is a minority for whom it won’t rank high among the disruptions of 2020. I couldn’t tell you the last year that I did anything recognisable as a traditional Christmas. I’m not actively hostile to Christmas in any performatively Grinch-ish kind of way. I’m glad that other folks enjoy it. It just doesn’t interest me, so I don’t really participate.

I’m therefore in a position to offer reassurance to those already scaling back or abandoning their Christmas ambitions: it’s not as grim as you might imagine. The close of the year can be a calm, quiet period of reflection and recuperation, as opposed to the prescribed carnival of stress and excess. You can begin a new year – take a wild guess regarding my feelings vis-à-vis New Year’s Eve – with a clear head, rather than a hangover.

Whatever your 2020 has been like, there’s little doubt that you’ve earned some time off – from everything. Look forward to it.


Fixed assets

The constant churn of fast fashion would have us believe that the lifespan of our clothing is limited (writes Jamie Waters). Don’t fall for it. Quality clothes deserve proper care and can last a lifetime if they’re well looked after. Not gifted with the needle and thread? There are plenty of talented tailors and canny cobblers out there to lend a hand when it comes to granting your wardrobe a new lease of life.

There’s something uniquely satisfying and comforting about having your favourite brogues resoled or taking your trusty coat in for a fix-up job around the elbows. Visiting your nearby cobbler or tailor is a badge of honour; you must earn the right to repairs by wearing something over and over again. A well-worn shoe, jacket or pair of jeans looks better than anything you can buy off the rack; the patches and stitches are little reminders that these items have seen things – days in, nights out, train rides, holidays and birthdays.

Having something fixed, rather than trading it in for a new model, is also good for the planet. It’s a win-win situation. Fortunately, retailers and consumers are increasingly embracing the idea of repairs. When the well-heeled residents of Milan need to breathe new life into a pair of shoes, they turn to father-and-son duo Ermanno and Luca Alvisi, who specialise in resoling high-end men’s footwear. Los Angeles-based Ateliers & Repairs, meanwhile, upcycles worn items by adding patterned patches and pockets – making the point that repairs can become a design detail, a thing of beauty. Clothes and accessories are made to be worn, not confined to the wardrobe or tossed in the bin once a new trend emerges.

For more ways to repair and rethink, our latest title, ‘The Monocle Book of Gentle Living’, is available now.


Seed it and reap

Spring might leap to mind as the best time to sow a few seeds for summer but autumn has its advantages too (writes Josh Fehnert). Sure, you won’t see much flowering until next year or a hefty harvest before Christmas but giving seeds time to bed in, bud and become established can make them hardier and healthier – think broccoli, broad beans, sweet peas and sprouts. By allowing them time to root before the cold snap, they’ll get ahead and you could even see a little germination this year. If you’re less blessed in the garden stakes then growing indoors is an option too. Home cooks should look into chives, mint, rosemary or thyme, which all grow well inside and can be hardened off (no giggling at the back there), then planted outside when the weather gets a little milder again. Have a super Sunday.


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