Sunday 27 December 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 27/12/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Leading questions

We start this Sunday with a thank you to all who found the time to place fingers on keyboards over the past week and tap out a few lines about the importance of journalism, the benefits of sensible radio before bedtime, the delights of fine illustration and everything else you enjoy about Monocle. After a tough year on so many fronts, it’s rewarding to hear stories from our audience about the role we play in their day, week or month. Having just put the finishing touches to a rough 2021 editorial plan, I can promise that there’s more to come in the form of new books, sharp radio shows and a lineup of mini summits and conferences.

You’ll hear more about these projects and a few more over the coming weeks once we’re back at our desks with, we hope, a tighter grip on how 2021 is going to unfold. But first, it’s time for that big Boxing Day trek, so let’s pull on the long johns, Rohner socks, Adidas Terrex shoes, Descente windbreaker and other basics because I’m on a mission to find some butter for my mom and some good leadership too.

You would think a daily dairy staple and smart leadership would be easy to find in a wealthy Alpine country like Switzerland but as we near the year’s end both are in very short supply. This wasn’t always the case. As recently as Christmas Eve butter was readily available and up until early October the Swiss were forging their own “middle way” in dealing with the pandemic. Then it all changed – fast. The steady, pragmatic, pro-individual-freedom approach combined with understandable, proportionate regulations had so far kept most of the country on side. Then as numbers started to increase across Europe, the Swiss tried to balance their open-society, unstressed-healthcare model and for a couple of weeks it looked like it might work until the neighbours started to impose various lockdown measures and Switzerland suddenly looked a little out of step. Leaders in Berlin and Vienna started commenting that the Swiss approach was almost as reckless as Sweden’s and then came cross-border spats about open or closed slopes and who has the right to ski. It seems that at a certain point, external pressures, infighting and threats to the sacrosanct ski season were too much for the cantons and Federal Council to deal with, and the country lost its nerve. Clear, comprehensible and well-timed communications came to a grinding halt and soon the biggest stories were a national outcry about bakery opening hours and what constitutes a takeaway versus a grocery service, a discussion which brings us somewhat messily to those elusive blocks of butter.

As things currently stand in (most of) Switzerland, you can shop in all stores six days a week up till 19.00 while restaurants and cafés are shuttered for all but takeaway or delivery. Even at the best of times Sunday shopping is tricky in Switzerland but the country has managed to engineer a way for kiosks and family-owned corner shops to be open while also allowing national rail operator SBB to turn its main rail hubs into seven-day-a-week shopping malls.

Thus far, Sunday retail has been untouched. But recent measures called for everything to be shut on Sundays and public holidays in order to cut down on contact and keep people at home. What a concept! With restaurants closed and everyone forced to eat at home food retailers are busier than ever as the trading hours are reduced by up to four hours a day and everyone is scrambling to shop. Instead of spreading out the traffic across these weeks where cooking and entertaining are at a high point the government has created bottlenecks and a crush of contacts at checkout, eroding well-earned trust from the public in the process. In the case of this columnist’s kitchen, even the best-stocked fridge cannot support the odd menu mishap and three days without access to butter is a long wait. Fortunately, some clever farmers have been doing a brisk business installing vending machines stocked with Alpine essentials, so today’s walk involved a mercy mission for the last three sticks of butter to make a fresh batch of Estonian kringel.

One year on we know much more about this virus but over the coming months I’m keen to see what kind of scrubdown governments will engage in to not only avert such a crisis but also deal with similar outbreaks. Have we witnessed original, inspired governance or has it all been herd-style leadership over herd immunity? At this point would it not have been cheaper to fly all vulnerable Scandinavians to the Canary Islands for the winter?

Given that we now have a clear picture of mortality patterns, could tiny Switzerland not have organised itself around a shopping and dining schedule that allowed those at risk to consume during special hours while allowing the rest of the economy to tick along? And then there are those leaders who have built policies around aiming for zero cases but have imprisoned their citizens within their own borders in the process – how do you reopen to the world? All questions to be considered over coffee and a few slices of mom’s kringel. Until next week, happy New Year from all of us at Monocle.


Kitchen service

It has been a rough year for the hospitality industry. But as restaurants closed their doors, a food charity in Sydney teamed up with top chefs to offer sustenance to the vulnerable (writes Carli Ratcliff). Former event organiser Ronni Kahn founded OzHarvest in 2004 to help reduce the amount of food being discarded at events. It currently rescues 180 tonnes every week, delivering the food to some 1,300 charities that help hungry Aussies.

Unsurprisingly, requests for assistance have increased during the pandemic. So the charity responded by opening a second fresh-food market in Sydney for locals, stranded international students and holders of temporary visas. Having launched the project early in 2020, while Australia’s bushfires were raging, Kahn has since built relationships with like-minded professionals who are keen to help the cause. Among them are chefs Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana in Modena, whom Kahn met in 2015, and Neil Perry of Sydney’s Rockpool Group.

“We have many skilled migrant-visa holders among our staff,” says Perry. “The restrictions of their visas mean that they can’t work for anyone else, not even digging a ditch. When the restrictions were announced, I figured that mass unemployment across the hospitality and other sectors would not be far off. Sudden unemployment can make people vulnerable quickly.” Perry hopes to train refugees in hospitality to stand them in good stead for better days ahead. “I figure that I can teach a man to fish as well,” he says.;;


Fresh territory

Slotted between the Swiss Alps and the wine-making heartland of Burgundy, the Jura – a slender strip of sub-Alpine land, just 80km in length – is one of France’s most eclectic, offbeat and therefore overlooked wine regions. It’s an ideal hunting ground if you’re looking to spring some newfound wine on your guests.

Although Jura’s identity is tied to its vines, production was damaged in the late 19th-century when a blight wiped out most of the region’s vineyards. Today the yield is a tiny 2,000 hectares (Burgundy, modest by French standards, has about 30,000 hectares under vine). Much of the remaining lush farmland is reserved for cows whose milk produces another regional export, comté cheese, which goes rather well with the wine. “Our generation is very lucky in the Jura,” says wine-maker Stéphane Tissot. “Land was inexpensive and we owned our vines. There was no uniformity stylistically and we were free to make wine as we wanted.”

Tissot and his fellow wine-makers have made much of the lack of rules and freedom to experiment with organic practices. And, though it has taken time, the region is being recognised for more than just the vin jaunes (yellow wine) for which it has long been pigeonholed. “Today we have no problems selling our wine,” says Poligny-based wine-maker Ludwig Bindernagel. “The biggest challenge now for the new generation of wine-makers in the Jura is not the cost of the land, as in neighbouring Burgundy, but the scarcity of it.”

Here are a five choice Jura wines to work well alongside the comté, or whatever festive feasts you have planned:

1. Lulu Vigneron, Côtes du Jura Sous Le Cerisier, 2016
Former architect Ludwig Bindernagel came to the Jura 17 years ago and his commitment to making wine in a hands-off way remains. His chardonnay is bright and lean as a result of the limestone soil.

2. Domaine des Miroirs, Côtes du Jura Berceau, 2015
Bottles from Japan-born Kenjiro Kagami have cult status. Based in the Sud-Rivermont, where whites reign, Kagami makes tiny quantities of his tricky-to-find wine.
14 Quartier à la Citadelle, 39190 Val-Sonnette

3. Domaine Macle, Château-Chalon, 2010
Domaine Macle is the big daddy when it comes to making vin jaunes. The unique, smaller bottle size, known as a clavelin, makes these special tipples easy to spot on the shelf. 14 Rue de la Roche, 39210 Château-Chalon

4. Bénédicte et Stéphane Tissot, Trousseau Amphore, 2018
A beautiful example of trousseau from a great Arbois producer. Reds are king in this area, being light in colour and complex in the glass.

5. L’Octavin, Potion Magique, 2018
Alice Bouvot’s wine has a strong identity and is wilder than most. Potion Magique is a field blend of poulsard, chardonnay and savagnin from La Mailloche, one of Bouvot’s best plots.


Class of her own

Nick Wakeman is creative director and founder of London-based fashion label Studio Nicholson. Launched in 2010, her men’s and womenswear brand is well known for its functionality, playfulness and Japanese influences – all elements we can expect to see in her forthcoming collaboration with British brand Sunspel, due for release in early 2021. Here, Wakeman tells us how her greengrocer helps her decide on dinner, what living in an old school has taught her and why she never wears clothes at home.

Where do we find you this weekend?
At home in East London. I live on the corner of Well Street Common in a big, old school building. Half the building was for girls and half of it for boys, and I live in the boys bit, which is pretty much me. My apartment is an old classroom but it’s been really well designed.

What’s for breakfast?
On an ideal weekend I’ll have my breakfast delivered from Little Duck Picklery – the eggs are amazing. I generally don’t eat breakfast during the week but on weekends I get up a bit later, so I’m hungry.

Soundtrack of choice?
I’m a massive electronic music fan and I have the radio on a lot. I like BBC Radio 6 Music, particularly Cerys Matthews on Sunday. We always had the radio on when I grew up and I don’t understand people that don’t like it. I just find that really odd, it’s such great background noise.

News or not?
I read it online; I don’t get the papers any more. I do get magazines though. I’m a subscriber to Monocle and Luncheon, and I read a lot of others that come to the office.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
Ideally I’ll walk my friend’s dog with her. In an ideal world I would have a dog in a minute though. I could have got one this year but I know that 2021 is going to be full of travel, if it’s permitted.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
Yoga is the only thing that will keep my bones moving these days, after years and years of shifting boxes on my own and ruining myself. I’ll ride my bike in summer but I'm so inherently lazy.

What’s for lunch?
I like to go into town on a weekend and meet my friend Charlene to have a nice lunch somewhere. My choice would be Japanese food in Soho: Jugemu on Winnett Street. It’s a really traditional izakaya restaurant serving small plates.

Larder essentials you can’t do without? Leila’s on Calvert Avenue keeps me well stocked. The food is sourced from all over the world: she buys the best pasta from Italy, the best cheese, and apples from Kent. I can go in there and say, “Leila, I don’t know what to make tonight. Can you help me out?” And she’ll say, “Yes, do this, this, and this, and you’ll be fine.”

Sunday culture must?
I’m a massive fan of Columbo. He’s a hero of mine just because he wears clothes that generally don’t know what colour they are, in such an amazing way. I would liken him to the old Japanese men I see when I go to Tokyo; they have these crumpled old clothes that have no colour left in them – there’s almost no pigment – so you don’t know if it’s grey or moss or sand or beige.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
I don’t drink alcohol. What I would drink is a nice cup of tea. In fact, when Charlene and I go to restaurants, even if it’s somewhere insanely expensive, when they ask us what we want to drink, we’ll say in unison, “Cup of tea, please.” They look at us like we’re utter grandmas.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
My bathroom is my favourite room of the house. I’m a product nut, so I’ve always got some kind of crazy treatment on my face. There’s a brand called Clé de Peau, which is Japanese and owned by Shiseido. The story goes that it was one of the first ever beauty brands, which is insane.

Will you lay out your look for Monday? What will you be wearing?
No, absolutely not. The whole ethos of Studio Nicholson is to not have to think about it, to be able to put your look together really quickly and know that it’s all going to work. Hence the modular wardrobe. I know I can pull out any shirt in my wardrobe and it’ll go with my trousers. When I’m at home, I never have clothes on – not that I’m naked, I’m always in a robe. I think I’m at an onsen in Japan every day.


Risotto with smoked cod and bitter leaves

If you’ve overindulged in the Christmas fare this year (and you wouldn’t be alone) then fear not. Swiss chef Ralph Schelling has a seasonal favourite that’s topped with bright and slightly bitter radicchio, smoked cod and a reassuringly warming risotto.

Serves 2

500g smoked cod, deboned
450ml milk
2 bay leaves
Black pepper from the mill
1 shallot
50g butter
200g risotto rice
100ml white wine
500ml hot vegetable broth
2 large handfuls of radicchio leaves
Salt to taste


  1. Put the fish in a pan and cover with the milk and bay leaves. Add pepper, bring to the boil once then simmer for 5 minutes on the lowest heat. Remove the cod and set aside, while saving some of the milk.
  2. Finely chop the shallot and sauté in the butter in another pan. Turn up the heat to medium and add the rice to the shallots and deglaze with white wine for about 45 seconds so some of the alcohol cooks off. Keep stirring. Add the vegetable stock and cook to packet instructions until it’s almost completely absorbed – then add in the milk you saved. When the risotto is done (keep stirring) add in the cod and the chopped radicchio leaves.
  3. Season to taste and enjoy.


Close encounters

The sight of long queues outside supermarkets has returned to Toronto this December (writes Tomos Lewis). Unlike during the first wave, however, there has been a greater urgency for Torontonians to stock up on the essentials at smaller, independent grocery shops in their own neighbourhoods.

Among those companies to have benefited from this change is Fresh City Farms, a farm-to-table online grocery delivery service launched in 2011. It now operates several bricks-and-mortar bakeries, butchers and grocery shops across the city too. Founded by trained lawyer Ran Goel, Fresh City’s shelves are now stocked with essentials by smaller Ontario-based food producers, including organic washing-up liquid and locally churned butter.

Fresh City’s physical outlets also represent a new take on an old approach to food retail in Toronto. Its first two supermarkets are housed in condominium developments, retail spaces that are traditionally the preserve of larger, marquee supermarket, pharmacy and coffee-shop chains, rather than independent businesses. It’s a practice that has given some recently developed parts of the city a slightly flat-pack feel.

What constitutes an essential business has been debated widely this year. But as Fresh City Farms has demonstrated, smaller, more thoughtful retailers in residential neighbourhoods are more essential than ever.


Head for the hills

It’s high up in the mountains where I feel most at home (writes Victoria Cagol). I was born in the heart of the Italian Alps, just a few kilometres from the Austrian border. Growing up, we would head into the mountains on long family hikes – nothing reminds me of my childhood more than the sound of gently clinking cowbells. On these adventures I picked up an armoury of new skills, including how to identify edible mushrooms and how to determine north by looking at the moss growing on a rock (a skill that I should probably add to my CV).

When the city’s frantic pace becomes too much, I grab my hiking boots and hop on a plane back home (lockdowns permitting). Once there I head straight for the hills to breathe in the crisp air, and I bask in the rugged beauty and quiet that envelops those ancient peaks. Time seems to flow more slowly up there and – as anyone currently Christmassing in the mountains will surely affirm – food seems to taste better at altitude too. You can’t beat a big meal in a snug wooden cabin followed by a glass of homemade schnapps, all best enjoyed with a sunset backdrop and the promise of a warm bed. There’s a resolution for you.

If you’re looking for a kinder, quieter year in 2021 then we’d like to direct you to ‘The Monocle Book of Gentle Living’, published by Thames & Hudson.


Much obliged

Say it. Everyone knows that part. “Thank you”. But do you mean it? Sometimes that’s not so simple. And that means you, whether or not you really wanted that leather jacket or just grinned through its opening for Aunt Greta’s sake. But if 2020 taught us anything it’s that time spent together matters much more than gifts or gaudy celebrations. A simple “cheers” to acknowledge all of the things that went our way – and the gifts we received, in whatever form – is a powerful message to take from this messy year into the next with a little hope and humility. Speaking of which, thank you very much for reading and have a great Sunday. Happy holidays.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00