Sunday 4 July 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 4/7/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Exceptional ideas

We start today by wishing all our American readers a very happy Fourth of July and, to my countryfolk north of the 49th parallel, a belated happy Canada Day. For all other readers in far-flung corners of the world: savour your first espresso hit of the day, say something nice to your dog, nod to the person across from you and buckle up because we have a lot of ground to cover.

Newsflash: I recently started running again. I’m not putting in the same number of kilometres at the steady clip of my colleague who fills this very same space on a Saturday but after the lung surgery and hospital stint last year I’m very happy to be out in my crazy-jazzy Ultra Boosts trotting along the lake and up to the exquisitely groomed running track. I could come up with more creative routes that would take me up into the forest, along gurgling brooks and over tiny bridges that I’m quite sure are teeming with little trolls beneath. But for now I like the stability of the track, the big scoreboard and the occasional javelin-thrower and hurdler. A few weeks ago some fencing started going up along the entry to the field and some other fencing came down. Warning signs were placed here and there (“stay off the grass” and “no playing, off limits”) and over the following days, teams went about resurfacing the basketball courts and levelling the playing field for the summer sports season. As I watched them go about their work with great care and precision I was reminded of a conversation I had a few days earlier that was rather the opposite.

It was a sunny weekday morning and I decided to do my meetings at one of the outdoor tables at our café in Zürich. The first was quite social and chatty, the second brisk and efficient, and the third was more of a meandering catch-up with no set agenda. We talked about summer plans, the return to the office and various autumn projects in both of our businesses. We went back to holidays briefly and then returned to her new gig, some restructuring and positions that needed filling. Of course we had to talk vaccines (Moderna, Moderna) and then she explained more about her role (headlines: new comms, workplace diversity, equality, inclusion, global stakeholders, roll-out now). She told me how she was happy to have found a woman in Asia for one position and another in Africa for a similar post, and then leaned in to whisper about the problem of white, middle-aged men. As this was relayed on a public pavement in Zürich and the Swiss aren’t huge fans of CCTV I don’t think there’s any footage of my expression at that moment. Was it quizzical? Neutral? Confused? Or was it simply frozen while I tried to compute the following: I’m the white, male, middle-aged host of this little get-together (even though I don’t feel middle aged and many would say I don’t look it!) × my guest is all about diversity and inclusion + I always try to be polite × she somehow thinks it’s acceptable, even funny, to single out white men.

I believe I pulled a surprised frown (that’s one eyebrow down, the other up, eyes slightly narrowed and lips curling downward to ensure it absolutely cannot be confused with a deranged grin) and was about to move on and change the subject with “fancy another coffee?” but I didn’t. “I have an issue with that comment,” I said, surprising myself. “Why is it okay to bash white men when your job is about equality and creating inclusive work environments? I get that it’s all a bit in vogue and we should just laugh along and roll with it but it’s now becoming quite wrong and boring.” At this point a “you’re right, you’re right, I’m sorry” was uttered from across the table followed by agreement that it is an issue, that it was a point well taken and that it should be addressed. Which brings us back to the running track and the levelling of the playing field. If we’re going to come good on all the ambitious goals of the modern workplace, either we all sign up to a charter of “no exceptions” or we accept that it’s not feasible for most companies to be governed by codes cooked up by unwieldy multinationals or ministries staffed by people who’ve never run a business.


Slice of the action

Being an Italian abroad means constantly having to weigh in on pizza-related disputes (writes Chiara Rimella). “Is it authentic?” people will ask me as I lift up a slice like an art expert examining an almost-perfect forgery.

“And what about pineapple on pizza, how do you feel about that?” they’ll scoff, hoping that I’ll be apoplectic at the suggestion. Sometimes I will feign the outrage that the audience desires: a good, old-fashioned, Italian rant with a side of wild gestures. But honestly I’m much less concerned about tweaks to traditional Italian recipes than most of my compatriots. That’s why, when pizza restaurant Mike’s opened in south London (led by the team behind seriously good pub The Camberwell Arms and rooftop bar Frank’s), I was intrigued by the promise of “a pizza style all of their own”.

In reality, the slices that the kitchen turns out are pretty influenced by the pizza al taglio of Rome – in particular, those made by Gabriele Bonci at his hugely popular Pizzarium – but that is a good thing. Mike’s piles high toppings that suit British tummies and can be found from local suppliers: there’s pork belly and chard, or Tropea onions with creamy mascarpone. At weekends, there are brunch-pizza experiments, which might upset the purists: these include thin slices slathered in nduja with poached eggs, or beans with a side of focaccia: all perfectly pleasant – but to me less lovely than the main courses.

Come in the evening to try another under-represented Roman delicacy, crispy supplì (the central-Italian cousin of arancini). Or, whatever the time of day, order a spritz. See, I’m not a snob – a real Italian rule-follower might insist that it’s only an aperitivo.


Perfectly seasoned

Our well-turned-out sister publication Konfekt is on newsstands now. Issue 3 is an ode to the summer road trip: we meet the French cowboys of the Camargue (and the artisans crafting their distinctive apparel), then hit the road with Slovakian fashion designer Kristína Šipulová. We pull up a chair for a glass of soave and a long, searching lunch with a circle of formidable designers at the Venice Architecture Biennale, and sit down for a meal with the residents of the Turkish town of Izmir who are cooking and preserving their Sephardic Jewish recipes.

As an extra treat, you can now buy a Konfektsubscription and have the next four issues in the series delivered straight to your door. You will receive Konfekt with the seasons: Issue 4 will drop as autumn descends (August), Issue 5 will land in winter (November), and Issues 6 and 7 will come back for a spring and summer 2022 debut.

Image: Shutterstock


Ich bin ein Berryliner

When Sophia Shakhatreh arrives at her strawberry booth in Steglitz, Berlin, she hangs up a blackboard indicating the day’s variety and restocks the piles of strawberry jam and strawberry sweets (writes Kati Krause). She also checks the inventory, delivered in the early hours: 59 trays, each carrying 6.5kg boxes of strawberries, totalling nearly 180kg. But what happens with the trays that are left over? Shakhatreh laughs; there are rarely any left after lunchtime.

It’s a weekend morning and I’m now at a sales stand belonging to family-run company Karls Erdbeerhof. In Berlin the season is marked by the appearance of Karls’ strawberry-shaped booths, which sell punnets all the way through the summer. Strawberry season has an exultant air in this part of Germany, where it has long been a tradition to go out picking with your family on sunny Sundays. It’s a custom that has assumed epic proportions: Karls operates five strawberry theme parks, complete with berry-bush rollercoasters, strawberry-bear mascots and buildings made to look like enormous fruit baskets. Strawberry-mania extends to the streets. Shakhatreh recalls when she opened on 12 May for the first time this year: “People were euphoric.”

Though far from being Germany’s sole strawberry-booth proprietor, Karls is one of its largest. The family’s roots in the business run back to 1921 but the company was founded in 1993 near Rostock by the Baltic coast. It now grows more than 7,000 tonnes of strawberries every year and sells most at its 420 booths in northern Germany; more than 300 are in Berlin alone.

The popularity of the booth design (now used by many of Germany’s strawberry vendors) is also down to Karls. Inspired by stalls at the UK’s Wimbledon tennis open, the founder’s father, Karl-Heinz Dahl had a boat-maker create 15 of these now-unmistakeable sales points, from which he sold the family crop directly.

Among the customers, there are those who recognise that all strawberries look the same and those who value the illusion; a young man in pink running shoes asks Shakhatreh to select “really pretty ones”. Suddenly, an elderly lady in a camel-coloured coat greets Shakhatreh heartily. “I buy a kilogram every day,” she says. Her children, she adds, always ate strawberries from their grandmother’s garden in Ontario, Canada, and claim that Karls’ strawberries taste exactly like grandma’s. You can tell she is Canadian; she is a little jolly for a natural-born German. But judging by her fealty to Karls, she’s a Berliner through and through.


Mind’s eye

Designer Teo Yang is the man behind the Seoul-based studio that shares his name, whose recent projects include a deft redesign of the Gyeongju National Museum’s Silla History Gallery and the karaoke lounge for a major K-pop label in Los Angeles. Here, he discusses Korean piano music, his ideal dinner venue and taking a hike.

Where do we find you this weekend?
Hiking near Bukhan Mountain, north of Seoul. It’s a good way to relieve stress.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt? I’m more active in the morning, then I relax later. In the afternoon I’ll watch movies and read Japanese comic books.

Soundtrack of choice?
I love listening to Korean pianist Seong-Jin Cho.

What’s for breakfast?
Two soft-boiled eggs and yoghurt.

News or not?
I prefer not to look at the news while I’m having breakfast – I find it overwhelming so I’ll take a look afterwards. When I’m having lunch with my family, they’ll usually tell me about what’s happening too.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
I’ll take my dog for a walk. She’s a Korean breed who kind of looks like an English sheepdog. She gets a lot of attention when we go out; people really love her.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
Hiking. On Saturdays, I jog – I live right next to the Royal Palace of Korea, so I like to run there.

Lunch in or out?
In. I love ordering dim sum.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?. Green tea and multivitamins.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
Burdock-root tea. It’s actually a popular drink here and it helps you to lose belly fat. I drink that while I’m reading or watching a movie.

The ideal dinner menu?
Peking duck. Chinese food is a favourite.

Ideal dinner venue?
Yu Yuan, a very nice restaurant at the Four Seasons hotel in Seoul.

Who’s joining?
I think everyone just loves family time now. My parents, sister and nephew are always around at the weekend.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
I started a cosmetic brand, so I use my own face mask, Eath Library’s Overnight Mask, every night. It’s hydrating and contains antioxidants, so it helps to prevent wrinkles.

Will you lay out your look for Monday?
Monday is always a fashion disaster because I don’t want to think about anything other than work. It’s always a black shirt, black trousers and black socks.


‘Jambon-beurre’ with black truffles

This French classic couldn’t be simpler and there’s a reason why many people are wary of messing with the classic mix of ham and butter. Our recipe writer’s take includes just one slightly indulgent addition: black summer truffle. Use fresh truffles that are in season and be wary of shop-bought truffle butter: many are punchy but flavoured with chemicals, so invest in a good one – it can be frozen for later.

Serves 4

2 small baguettes or ideally one large one, baked that morning
50g truffle butter
8 thin slices of good-quality cooked ham
4 cornichons, sliced if desired
Freshly shaved truffle (optional)


  1. Track down the freshest and best baguettes you can.

  2. Cut the bread in half lengthways and spread the inside generously with the truffle butter, leaving a few chunks – this is an indulgent affair. Add a pinch of salt to bring out the flavour.

  3. Add the ham and the diced cornichons, press closed and enjoy. This sandwich travels much better than most and, if you’re transporting it to a faraway picnic, you can tie it up with cooking twine to help it keep its shape.


Don’t call it a comeback

Atlantis Records in Hackney stocks a selection from the sizeable record collection of Geoff Travis – founder of cult record shops Rough Trade – featuring music from every genre, in every format. This means dusty old seven-inches of disco sitting alongside hip-hop cassettes and hard-to-find CDs.

Step inside and you’ll find a simple, understated space that’s replete with rarities to keep crate-diggers occupied for an eternity. An excellent encore from the seasoned shop owner.

Subscribe to Monocle’s Digital Editions to read the latest issue of the magazine, our back catalogue and regularly updated tips for exploring key cities – such as this editor’s pick from our guide to London.

Image: David de Vleeschauwer


Moving mountains

For at least 3,000 years the transumanza, a tradition of moving flocks of sheep and herds of goats between mountain and pasture, has been practised across the rocky slopes of Abruzzo in central Italy. Something about this almost tidal rhythm captures the mood of the sparsely populated mountainous territory midway between better-known Tuscany and Puglia. Abruzzo is one of the last places in Europe where the seasonal migration of animals continues to define almost every aspect of life. In its medieval villages, nearly everything you can do or consume is closely linked to the animals and land, including the very strong wine that is poured, generously, throughout long, joyful lunches.

A typical transumanza for visitors might take three days and cover about 60km. The accommodation is homely but that means home-cooked meals, Abruzzese wine and plenty of impromptu dances to mountain folk songs. The landscape, despite being only 70km east of Rome, seems very far from the concerns of fast-paced city life. The rhythm that’s important here is that of the animals who walk, stop, eat and graze on the mountains. In October the transumanza moves in the opposite direction, from the mountains to the farms, as the cycle begins again. Here are some stop-offs to help get your trip started.

Abruzzo address book:

Sextantio Albergo Diffuso. This is a must-stay in Santo Stefano di Sessanio: a collection of hotel rooms distributed over 32 age-old village houses (albergo diffuso means “scattered hotel”), thoughtfully restored to preserve the soul of Abruzzo.

Ristorante Casadonna Reale. In a restored monastery in a small mountainous village near the town of Castel di Sangro, Casa Donna Reale has nine bedrooms and the three-Michelin-starred restaurant of chef Niko Romito, which serves clean, straightforward dishes of Abruzzese origin.

Taverna de li Caldora. The simplest and most sumptuous food of Abruzzo can be eaten on the huge terrace, which has views over Pacentro, or down in the cool cellars of this restaurant. It’s the perfect place to try fabulous regional cheeses and meats.
+39 0864 41139

Trabocco Pesce Palombo. In the old days, trabocchi were wooden fishing installations that endured the fierce seas along the coast. Now these shacks are the most charming of seafood restaurants. Try this excellent example near Fossacesia.

Rio Verde Tartufi. It’s a well-kept secret that Abruzzo has the best truffles (both black and white) in Italy. Vittoria Mosca goes out truffle-hunting every day with her husband and runs a little shop. She also supplies many of the top chefs in Italy.

For our full report delve into our out-now July/August issue of the magazine. Or subscribe today so you never miss an issue.


Going nowhere

Building is an optimistic endeavour and although you might not see it in every cut-price apartment block or drab development, each flick of an architect’s pencil contains at least the promise of helping to shape the cities we live in for the better (writes Josh Fehnert). This sense of the positivity, power and occasionally the arrogance of architects is the thread traced by design writer Christopher Beanland in his new book Unbuilt: Radical Visions of a Future that Never Arrived, soon to be published by Batsford.

Told in clean, clear prose accompanied by collages, sketches, models and maps, Beanland’s book plumbs the archives of 20th-century plans for alternate visions of our cities: from the layout of Canberra to an aborted civic centre in Pittsburgh and a bulky, biscuit-tin-shaped monument to Hitler’s plans for a post-war Berlin. None were completed but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be contemplated.

Many of the wonderful, woebegone and wild “what-ifs” look well wide of the mark to contemporary eyes. Readers today will rightly ask whether we need more towers. What would have happened if London’s King’s Cross had landed an airport? Or if Lower Manhattan gained an expressway? Many of the suggestions read like wrong turns that were mercifully avoided.

But the book is about more than a few ideas that never made it. In amassing these suggestions – sometimes misguided, sometimes intriguing – Beanland brings bigger questions to mind. How might things have been done differently? How might we build better in future? More than a collection of daft drafts or loose ends, Beanland’s book shows how urbanism and architecture have changed and how each discipline in turn has the power to change us. Whether those changes to the built environment are always for the best is a question that we need to ask ourselves. Have a super Sunday.


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