Sunday 24 January 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 24/1/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Leading by example

What a difference half a day makes. No sooner had I filed last Sunday’s column about the splendour and silence of a proper snowfall than warmer winds started to blow across peaks and valleys across Switzerland. When I set off to our radio studio for our Sunday morning show the streets of Zürich were in full meltdown mode: clumps of snow were falling off of trees and slanted roofs onto passing and parked cars; snapped branches were emerging from craggy snowbanks; and eager joggers were doing their best to keep their pace while dodging ice blocks and collapsed hedges. In a matter of hours the city had transformed from a fluffy, white wonderland to a battered, damp mess of amputated pine boughs and maple trunks.

By the time I pulled up in front of our building it was clear that the city would have a big week of cleaning ahead of it and Zürich’s garden centres would be able to count on brisk spring sales, as villa owners would all be in need of intensive interventions to replace cherry trees, ornamental bushes and other greenery crushed by the snow. In front of our café, hearty locals were already lined up for their morning coffee-and-croissant fix and though I was running a little late for the start of our broadcast (we were going live in 15 minutes) I paused to chat to one of our German regulars about the weather and the week ahead. “What’s your feeling on all of this?” he asked, motioning to the queue of masked customers, the dripping branches and the quiet street. “Are we moving out of this now? Is the public fed up?”

“That’s a hard one,” I replied. “I think there are plenty of people who are happy to go along and not question what’s asked of them and then there are those who see that this is not sustainable and are starting to push back. Our neighbour’s a good example.”

“Oh, what’s our neighbour doing?” he asked.

“He’s filing the Swiss version of a class-action suit against the federal government for what he believes are disproportionate measures that have led to a collapse in his business,” I explained, making a polite, ducking motion toward the door. “I’m sorry but I have to excuse myself and do radio.”

“Another quick question,” asked our regular. “Do you think it’s a one-off or will we now see more of these?”

“Tune in to find out more!” I suggested.

An hour later I walked back to the car, kicked away a small branch that had fallen near the driver’s side and headed home. We hadn’t managed to tackle the topic our regular asked about on the show and I’ve been thinking about the mood that’s settled over much of Europe and North America. Are we caught in a tangle of measures and hastily proposed laws that offer little in the way of hope? Or, just like the warm after the storm, are we starting to see the first signs of a thaw and a need to seize upon this momentum? Do we need to block out the negative media narrative and start venturing out into the world? Is it time for companies to allow staff to hold proper meetings again and recognise that a year of colleagues seen only on screen is proving debilitating to many?

The next morning I boarded a train bound for Geneva to meet a client whose company believes in the power of being present. No surprise that this attitude has meant that, despite everything, 2020 was almost a record year for their business. “Our boss wants us out in the world, when and where possible,” explained the client. “It’s why we’re now sitting here together on a Monday, despite a lockdown, discussing what projects we can work on – it’s efficient and it’s human.”

In the absence of effective political leadership in many capitals, we need more CEOs and business owners to show their partners and the public that there are other ways to move forward that don’t involve endless video conferences with a chorus of people wrapping up with the now very annoying ‘stay safe’ sign-off. (By the way, what does that even mean? If I was travelling to Mali to report on France’s intervention in Sahel then “stay safe” might work. Sitting in an office in Zürich, reading it in countless emails, I’m left wondering what happened to a simple “best regards”.) In the spirit of keeping things moving – and taking a bit of inspiration from my colleague Andrew’s column yesterday – I’m off to Paris on Tuesday where it seems that CEOs and CMOs are only too happy to receive adventurous visitors from exotic lands.


Net profit

Canned food might evoke images of wartime rationing rather than indulgence but there’s a new product popping up in North America’s better-stocked larders that’s bucking the trend (writes Tomos Lewis). Launched last year, Scout has set out to elevate a home-cookery staple: tinned seafood, with the contents of every can sourced sustainably from waters in Canada and the US. “I just started experimenting,” says chef and Scout co-founder Charlotte Langley. “I was trying to understand how I could bring prepared food to the masses, made by a chef, that was not only tasty and delicious but also came from a great ethical standpoint.”

The results are tinned triumphs: the dill-infused rainbow trout from Ontario is a treat atop a slice of buttery toast; the Atlantic lobster makes for a dreamy dip; while the Prince Edward Island mussels with tomato sauce, fennel and smoked paprika are best with a fresh baguette. Canned foods as a culinary commodity aren’t new but in North America, tinned fish as craft food is, says Langley. “It’s a growing market; there’s growing demand,” she says. “I’m feeling very fortunate. I really just do the best that I can with what I have.” For now, things are going swimmingly.


Singular vision

After more than a decade working in some of the world’s best French restaurants, chef Ricardo Chaneton switched focus to pay homage to his Latin American roots at Mono (writes Nina Milhaud). “I use my technique and savoir-faire to tell the story of my origins,” says the Venezuelan-Italian chef. Having spent seven years behind the stoves of the three-Michelin-starred Mirazur in the south of France, Chaneton took over the kitchen at Island Shangri-La hotel’s Petrus in Hong Kong for four years before hanging out his shingle with his own spot in 2019.

From the chef’s table to the playlist made from his father’s vast vinyl collection, Chaneton designed Mono to make his guests feel at home rather than on ceremony. As with any chef worth their salt, Chaneton’s menu changes with the seasons – all the more reason to swing by while it features quinoa sourdough, Venezuelan tamales and ceviche. Round the meal off with a refreshing maté cocido (tea) or something stronger from the cellar.


Great dane

Architect and curator Lasse Andersson is director of Aalborg’s Kunsten Museum of Modern Art. Also head of the Utzon Center, a gallery that showcases the work of architect Jørn Utzon, the late visionary behind Sydney Opera House, Andersson is celebrated for championing Danish design at home and abroad. Here he tells us about his new talk show hosted from an electric Jaguar, a must-see Danish film and how to mix a mean dark and stormy.

Where do we find you this weekend?
At my small wooden house at the beach. My wife and I bought it in 2016 and are so lucky. It was built in 1969 and a lot of the original interior was preserved, so it’s a bit of mid-century modern placed in coastal dunes 60km north of Aalborg. It’s all about being close to nature and getting some off-grid hygge.

What have you been working on recently?
I am working on an exhibition, hopefully opening in July, called The Magic of Form, showing the relationship between design and art in a Danish context. I’m also powering up my talk show, Utzon on the Road, where I invite architects and designers to discuss and find great architecture in an electric Jaguar I-Pace.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
I always get up first so I have the house all to myself – my wife and daughter will join me two hours later.

Soundtrack of choice?
I recently rediscovered [English band] The The, which brought me back to the early 1990s; for the first time in years they are releasing singles. Also London Grammar and the fantastic Danish band The Minds of 99.

What’s for breakfast?
I follow a keto diet: so it’s fried eggs, avocado, spinach, cheese and a special bread baked with nuts and seeds.

News or not?
Definitely news – The New York Times, Monocle, The Art Newspaper, ArchDaily and local news.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
I don’t have a dog and I am not into yoga. I am a cat person and I prefer squash.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
Squash is the perfect architect’s sport: you play in plan, section and elevations. It’s the most fun and technical cardio-based sport I know.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
Hot sriracha sauce and organic olive oil. I also love cornichons and salted almonds.

Sunday culture must?
I really enjoy watching movies with my daughter and wife: we just saw Druk [also known as Another Round]. It’s a fantastic Danish movie that is a candidate for an Oscar – a tribute to youth culture and getting a taste for good and for bad. It’s a must-see by Danish director Thomas Vinterberg.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
A homemade dark and stormy. Grate a lot of fresh ginger into a glass, add a bit of natural sweetener, lime, some sparkling water and dark rum.

Dinner venue you can’t wait to get back to?
One of my good friends, Kenneth Toft-Hansen, runs Svinkløv Badehotel just up the coast. Kenneth won the Bocuse d’Or in 2019 and is a fantastic chef.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
These days it’s a cup of tea and a game of [board game] Kalaha or a walk in the dunes with my daughter, Vigga.

Will you lay out your look for Monday? What will you be wearing?
I will work from my summerhouse, so probably a pair of Nike jogging bottoms and a jumper. If I have important meetings, I will switch the jumper for a shirt and a grey jacket from Tiger of Sweden.


Apple and fennel sausage rolls

Pubs might be closed in some countries but those craving a snack could well find solace by making a sausage roll from scratch. Our recipe writer’s version has a fresh twist, with the inclusion of apple and the subtle flavour of anise from a fennel bulb. Enjoy.

Serves 4-6


1 small fennel bulb (about 120g) diced into 5mm cubes
2 tsps olive oil
1 granny smith apple, diced into 5mm cubes
3 tbsps breadcrumbs
350g sausage meat
Large pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Large pinch of sea salt
230g all-butter puff pastry
1 small egg
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 200C.
  2. Heat olive oil in a small frying pan and sauté the chopped fennel until it looks slightly transparent. Turn off the heat and leave to cool.
  3. Tip the sausage meat into a bowl with the fennel, chopped apple, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Use a clean hand to combine well.
  4. Remove the puff pastry from the fridge and lay it on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Place it so that the long side is closest to you. Spread the sausage meat along the pastry from left to right, about 7cm from the bottom edge. It should be about 7cm thick and 3cm high. Leave 2cm on each end empty.
  5. Lift the bottom of the pastry and drape it over the sausage meat, roll and place it sealed side down. Then seal both ends of the pastry by wetting it with a little water and pressing together.
  6. Beat the egg in a small bowl and paint the sausage roll with a pastry brush. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and fennel seeds.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Slice. Serve warm with mustard or ketchup.


Culture, cancelled

Like a hungover employee emailing the boss at 08.03 to croak wanly about a migraine and score a day on the sofa, Somerset’s premier musical attraction has phoned in its excuse suspiciously early (writes Robert Bound). It was announced this week, the third full week in January, that Worthy Farm will be silent in midsummer. There will be no Glastonbury Festival this year, just as there was no festival last year, due to Covid-19 (the disease, that is – although, sure, it also sounds like a collective of moody South London grime artists that might have been booked to play the festival’s West Holts stage).

Founder Michael Eavis and his daughter Emily expressed the regulation “great regret” that the festival would not be staged but they also said that the decision came “in spite of our efforts to move Heaven & Earth”. Eavis is a devout Methodist and uses those capitalised terms with purpose and belief. A bit more belief, however, might have reconciled his crew to stage a smaller event more in keeping with the freewheeling vibe that attracted long-haired lovers to see T Rex (still known then as Tyrannosaurus Rex) in a field in 1970 in the first place.

Belief is a festival’s most valuable stock and scrapping a summer signifier so early will sound the murderous cancelling klaxon to the rest of the season. A pared-down event, staged sensibly, purposefully and with belief (upper case or otherwise) could have been the inspiration for a hugely valuable culture and events industry populated by small businesses and freelancers who haven’t earned a penny in a year. Murmurings that a small September event might be green-lit are very welcome. Otherwise, Worthy Farm is living up to its name, just not necessarily in a good way.


Rural idyll

“The countryside has changed in people’s imaginations,” says Margherita Ramella who, with her sister Beatrice, created La Pescaia Resort in the ruggedly rural Maremma region of southern Tuscany, along with their husbands, Mariano Fiorda and Gonzalo Müller. “It’s no longer just a place for travel and relaxation; it’s become a destination for an alternative lifestyle.” Younger guests, says Margherita, are full of questions about starting their own countryside hotels. Rural living has become more enticing and the move seems easier than ever before now that working remotely is widely accepted. (Do check current restrictions before booking, of course.)

La Pescaia’s reverie-inducing location helps to fuel aspirations of rural living. Set among sprawling farmland, the stately villa was once a racehorse ranch and guests can embark on horseback excursions through the surrounding Tuscan woods. The spacious house was constructed in the early 1500s by the Tolomei family, whose aristocratic descendants still occupy its outbuildings. It is now teeming with heirlooms and antique treasures found at flea markets. The manicured central garden is flanked by the vine-covered patio of the resort’s restaurant and a bar is tucked in to the farmhouse. Further afield, a long stone pool borders the farmstead, with donkeys, horses and Maremmana cows wandering among the olive groves.


Any wonder

Anyone who thinks that writing a children’s book is easy should be smugly confronted with Christian Borstlap’s laconic and lovely This Thing Called Life. Published by Prestel, this handsome hardback book corrals a weight of wisdom and wonder into a few short lines of prose that’s crisp, clipped and pithy (writes Josh Fehnert). It’s ostensibly about life (its nuance and nastiness, beauty and the speed with which it’s gone) but really it’s about how the book makes you feel.

While the words are worldly and wise, it is illustrator and art director Borstlap’s beguiling daubing that transports tots into another, kinder and softer world: one of colour, charm and intrigue. It’s resolutely for younger readers and although you can leaf through in a matter of moments, the book rewards a slower scan and older eyes too.


Time to gather yourself

In 2016, Sotheby’s sold much of the late David Bowie’s art collection (writes Robert Bound). The notable thing about it was that it mostly comprised work by less fashionable artists, schools and eras – and none of it was shocking. We shouldn’t be surprised. Like any curious collector, Bowie’s urge to understand a work or an artist was to attain the sort of intimacy that only ownership can bestow. His collection was honest and deeply personal. It was things that he liked, things that reminded him of things. Honesty like this is the key to a collection. Collections aren’t meant to be tidy résumés. They’re not an application letter to the club secretary and shouldn’t be a statement of intent. If they are then they’re wrong; they’re like lying in your diary – who are you kidding? There are some museum-quality collections about which the owners can’t stop talking as fans, like these paintings could be sports memorabilia.

There are also collections that could’ve been made by an algorithm, that have been put together like a contractual necessity, the Greatest Hits CD, that have no weirdness, no rough edges, no questionable selections. Collections start as pure interest made actual; they are fascination made concrete; the accidental become material. You can spot the real ones and smell the fakes. The great artist-collectors can also be surprisingly uncomplicated in their hoards: Warhol and his cookie jars; Peter Blake and his… everything.

Collections can be about a desire to see many similar things together or the same thing in different guises – as if to solve the mystery of them, replicate them, marvel at them. What makes us take that pebble from the beach? Keep that archive of National Geographic? They’re nostalgia mixed with a knowing fooling of the self: that this will come in handy, that you’ll refer back to that. At its best, collecting is instinctive, unschooled, innocent. Liking things is fine but good taste often hinders a collection. The spectre of minimalism haunts private collections gone public and this is wrong.

A collection is a collision, not a car but a car crash; so it shouldn’t be displayed as though it were pristine, with new tyres, for sale. Happily, most people display their treasure troves in their homes, on shelves, in boxes, in bubble wrap in old suitcases. Or they’re just pictures, hung on walls – too many, all jumbled up. But you like them that way and you’re the boss. They say that the key to dancing is to do it like there’s no one watching. Bowie might have practised that in the mirror but not the collecting. He did it just because he could. Now take a moment to collect yourself – and have a lovely Sunday.

‘The Monocle Book of Gentle Living’ is out now, published by Thames & Hudson.


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