A place in the sun.

The minute temperatures start rising, our dining table falls into some kind of hibernation – is there actually a term for hibernation in summer? It can’t be summernation, that sounds like a Tommy Hilfiger fragrance. Anyway, we declare the sombre mahogany totally useless, and adjust ourselves to teak. From then on, we not only have breakfast, lunch and dinner in the garden, we also prepare the meals outside, at least any part of the dish whose prepping doesn’t require gas or running water and allows us to enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of wine alongside cutting, peeling, trimming, snapping, or whatever you do with it. Asparagus, green and white, but the white ones especially, is the best example, peeling those bastards is such a pesky business, it makes you want to employ a cook, for my sake even with a staff of her own, but since nobody can no longer afford servants, we have to blame socialism, no doubt about that, we have do to such things ourselves, however tedious. But when sitting in an apple tree’s shade and sipping some red wine, the whole undertaking suddenly makes you feel blessed. And while I’m peeling away another spear’s tough outer layer, I hope autumn will come late this year, a week before Christmas will do.

The Roman Recipe.

Many, many years ago, I was still at university, my parents spent some time in Rome, they visited churches, had gelati and Campari, once settled in, they still had gelati and Campari, but visited fewer churches – dolce far niente, what can I say – and wanted to move as soon as possible, which is quite understandable, in my opinion, people who don’t want to move to Rome when in Rome are not to be trusted, or are they? Anyway, at that time, a former colleague of theirs was living in Rome as a correspondent for a German newspaper, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, and invited them over to his place where he changed my mother’s life forever, he made the first spaghetti my mother would not only tolerate, but would prepare in the exact same way as soon as she was back home. You have to know that my mother’s spaghetti bolognese were actually quite good, as a child I even loved them, but she would never have some herself, too boring, she’d say, Klaus’ spaghetti all’amatriciana, however, were different, they were sensational, all that bacon, the fresh sage, the chillies, the grated pecorino, all that was much more to my mother’s liking, she brought home vast amounts of DeCecco pasta, the brand Klaus used, in these days totally unknown in Germany, totally, I very much blame Klaus for that brand’s international success, and the design and colour combo of their packaging at that time, yellow and turquoise, which I loved, but that’s another story, anyway, for these last 25 years, we’ve had this dish over and over again, it’s still called The Roman Recipe, and I have absorbed it so well, one might say, it’s part of my DNA. What can I say, everything Roman seems to be eternal.

Lake Zurich outlakes any other lake.

Berlin has so many lakes, little ones, big ones, small ones, huge ones, a friend of mine lived near one of the smaller ones, in a beautiful villa next to Nikolassee, but however small it was – the lake, not the villa – the neighbourhood’s real estate renommée was huge, nothing but hoary villas set in beautiful gardens, with mature treestock and a rhododendron population to die for, if these bushes suffer from anything, they do from old age, then there’s Wannsee, one of the biggest, which has become quite infamous due to a conference held in 1942, in an even costlier villa, waterside property, the lake’s image, however, hasn’t suffered much, obviously you can’t blame a lake for its residents, but I digress, all I wanted to say is, after a year of living in Berlin, I almost never made it to any of them, they are all so very far away from where I live, Lake Zurich on the other hand was part of my life, I lived nearby, a five minute walk, I crossed it at least twice a day, in the morning on my way to work and back home at night, I swam in it, I sat on its border having Bratwurst and beer, I walked along its shore, back and forth, I watched the sun setting over it, the sail boats crossing on it and stalked the ducks swimming in it, well, what does one do with a lake on your hands, I did all of those things and enjoyed it deeply. Do I do any of these things in Berlin? Some, at least? Not so much, I’d say. I don’t seem to respond to these lakes’ sex appeal. Not in the least, actually. Lake Zurich has ruined me for other lakes, that’s the awful truth.

Any raspberry‘s raison d‘être.

If I were a raspberry, I would hope to end up on a tiny little cake by Sprüngli. You don’t live long when you’re born a berry, you grow, you get plucked, you get devoured. Hence, it is of the utmost importance to achieve some importance, to make yourself heard, to be recognized as the wonderful individual that you are and make yourself unforgettable. You have to rise from the raspberry fields and seize culinary power in Zurich, if you play it right, you end up on Sprüngli’s Himbeertorte before you get eaten by some self-styled gourmet, just like Napoleon rose through the ranks of the military, seized political power and crowned himself emperor of France before he was devoured by Europe.

The paradise that is spring.

Within a week, everything went from pale green to bright green, the magnolias and the azaleas burst out into splendour, the apple blossoms overcame their basic shyness, they’re not yet in full white bloom, they’re just peeking, all pink buds, but blushing is very becoming, that’s at least what Oscar Wilde once said and he should know, all while the camellias try to outbloom everything else. I spent all day readapting my eyes to spring, to tell apart all those different shades of pink, amethyst, purple, rosé, red, ruby, maroon, and fuchsia, shades I then had difficulties to specify, defining needs variety per se, but a variety that makes you run out of words is quite unsettling, what do you call a fuchsia with a touch of orange? Or worse, a lavender that is somewhere inbetween lilac and violet? Obviously, the human speech cannot not express in entirety the richness of nuances in these blossoms, our vocabulary does not reflect nature’s absurd wealth of shades. So, I came up with some new colours: opyr, trevine, joaquinth, horsate, satch, dorrak, and poppyl. Poppyl is popylo in French. The others, I’ll still have to translate into all known languages. I’ll keep you posted.

Kaiser Wilhelm and his bad taste in castles.

Earlier this year, I made an important discovery: Kaiser Wilhelm I had really bad taste, I mean, really bad taste. Schloss Babelsberg, his grotesque summer residence just outside Berlin, is a perfect example of why you won’t find a Wilhelm I chair or ottoman or whatever in any fine antiques store, there’s Louis XV and XVI, there’s even Louis XIII if you don’t care for clichés, there’s Queen Anne, Empire, which is basically Napoleon, everything Victorian, there’s been a lot done in Victorian style, she reigned so very long, then there’s Louis Philippe, George III, the Swedes have their Gustaf, the Austrians have Joseph II and the Americans got their colonial style, I think the colonies belonged mostly to these Georges on the British throne, so it’s safe to say it’s Georgian style, but Wilhelm I? Forgotten with an effort. As if he had never lived. One must know, however, that this particular catastrophy’s architect was none other than Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Biedermeier’s Norman Foster, one of the best Germany has ever had, at least at the beginning, in the early 1830s, when they started construction. Later, after Prince Wilhelm was declared Crown Prince and to inherit Prussia’s throne, his brother’s marriage had remained childless, the budget was increased, allowing them to put more effort in it, demanded especially by Wilhelm’s wife Augusta, she needed even more Gothic bling, for some strange reason everything Gothic was fashionable at the time, an effort that Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s health did not agree with, he died during the planning of the extensions in 1841. Just take a look at it, you’ll understand.

A hymn to breakfast.

I can easily skip lunch, lunch is the most overrated meal in the history of mankind, it’s only purpose is to give the working class a break, just a short one, though, I blame the trade unions, breakfast, however, I love, it was invented by people with lots of time on their hands, the time it takes to season your egg with seven different spices, salt not included, or to sip your tea in a gentlemanly manner, the second brew of the day, you’ve had your first one in bed, your early morning tea, to read your paper, turning those pages in slow motion, one cannot read a paper swiftly, only when looking if your last wrong doing made it to the front pages, that’s how it’s shown in films anyway, it takes even more time to choose what marmalade it is to make it on your toast or croissant, orange, quince or grapefruit, on these croissants you had to pick up at your baker first, you did enjoy that little stroll down the street, always running into a neighbour, exchanging thoughts on the forecast weather and last Sunday’s sermon at church, lemon curd it is, you’ve just realized you only had orange marmalade yesterday and were somewhat disappointed with the texture, your dog awaits a walk, he’s so transparent, be cruel, have another cup of tea, nobody not even your dog should ever rush you, sounds familiar, all of that? Of course not, we devour our croissants while on commute, wash’em down with some office coffee and can’t wait for lunch, the only time in the day where we can let go, for a minute or two, while nodding along our colleague’s reflections on the shortcomings of conference room B, waiting for another of his desperate little sighs, soundtracking his checking the time again, poor fellow, but damn, how long can it take to serve some pasta, we all endure it so very bravely – all by looking forward to our Sunday breakfast, the one day we are allowed to have one.