How to serve toffee.

My great-grandmother was a great influence on me, although I never met her. But I get it from stories my mother who adored her has told me. My favourite one, and the most impressive, gives a wonderful example of what it takes to be cultivated, and maybe more of what a certain upbringing does to you and your morale. She was very particular about the way a table was set. As a middle aged woman, long before the war, I’m talking World War II, she indulged in style, decorated her house beautifully, with no trouble apart from striving for perfection on a daily basis, she would give orders to the few servants she had, and was known for her splendid dinner parties. But it wasn’t just the times and circumstances that made her the lady that she was and to bring her daughter up to be one too in the future, meaning to instruct my grandmother, then a young girl, never to take too much sugar with tea, what unthinkable intemperance, regardless of my grandmother’s sweet tooth of course, to force her to sit at the dinner table as if she had swallowed a broomstick and to introduce her to the effects of alcohol, a young lady’s demeanour and virtue mustn’t be compromised by a glass of wine, let alone three, it was her composure, her absolute restraint in everything she did. This would actually not be a story if she hadn’t had to adapt to war times. First of all, that dinner table got lost in ruins, bombs smashed it to pieces, and after the war was over, there was not much food to serve. But no war could ever impinge on her dinner celebrations, anything had to meet her demands, it was like an obsession with her. My family was happy to have anything at all, potatoes were a luxury, there weren’t any oysters to sprinkle with lemon juice, meat on the table would be conceived as a mirage, a fata morgana, but she would never eat up, even in these days, she would leave something behind on her plate, always, whatever it was, however humble a meal had been prepared, she would leave something to be thrown away, for one could get the impression she’d been hungry, and hunger, oh dear, what a vulgar sensation, how weak a character one would be to adapt to a life in ruins, she might have thought, and so she did not. Never. How absurd, and yet, quelle contenance. I think of her, each time I want to eat something right off the box, like these toffees. And then, I take a beautiful plate or dish, and one of the antique glasses for the sherry instead of the dishwasher safe ones, and enjoy life her style. God bless her.

Dessert!

There are days when nothing goes right. Even though your favourite actress at the moment has won the Oscar for her part in The Favourite, a film that made you smile and laugh and sit in awe at the cinema, but still, that damn coffee machine keeps annoying you in the morning by spilling first water then coffee—never buy a Krups!— and the bus is late again and there’s another grey hair mocking your vanity and, well, you know what I’m getting at, don’t you? One of these days where really nothing bad happens and still you feel like life itself was a bit overrated—until you have dessert, that is. The moment you have some yummy and ever so spongy cake to be washed down with a Sauternes, bottled at a time when grey hairs were not yet an issue, then your day starts to be real’ fine. I mean, really!

In fine style.

Today, another fashion icon has left this earth for good: Marella Agnelli has passed away, so shortly after Lee Radziwill, all these beautiful swans, dressed in nothing but the hautest of haute couture and the finest of fine jewellery, living their lives of leisure and luxury, so much adored, beloved, cherished and dissected by Truman Capote, are no longer among us, all these women whose impeccable style made it into so many coffee table books, just like the one lying on my coffee table in Zurich, are all history now. Fine history, so to say. But as long as there are still macarons, life is still worth living.

I ordered sushi.

When you work in advertising, you’re used to working long hours, and when you’re used to working long hours, you’re used to somebody ordering sushi at 10:15 pm, or at 9:53 pm, sometimes, when you’re lucky, already at 8:07 pm, and you have to decide what you gonna have. I, for once, can never make my mind up, the varieties are so manifold and, truth be told, I never know what the names mean. Unagi, that I know, it’s freshwater eal, I’ve watched Rachel and Phoebe from Friends make fun of Ross’ Unagi misperception often enough, but the rest? Age Shumai? Hamachi Nigiri? Ebi Tempura? Ebi Nigiri Gunkan? Who can tell? Also, I can never remember what I ordered the last time and so I never get what I want, it’s never even close to what I had in mind. But tonight, I won the lottery, everything what I ordered blind was exactly what I wanted. And it even looks so very good! Somehow, although I’m home, I feel like I got promoted…

Berlin’s high toned places.

On a very cold winter morning, an icy cold one, one might say, as minus six degrees Celsius is rather frosty, almost Siberian a temperature, I decided to go to town. As Brandenburg Gate is near to Friedrichstrasse and Dussmann’s, my CD supplier de choix, I later went for a touristic stroll, I hadn’t been there in months, and when some very stylish people with a lot of Louis Vuitton luggage left the Hotel Adlon right in front of it and took a taxi, presumably to the one airport that works in this town of non-working airports, I saw some people take photos of them. They must have been famous, although I have no idea who they were. Not a clue. As I was nicely dressed in my Dsquared jacket with that giant black fur collar that gives me a somewhat Russian nobility expression, a modern version of Prince Bolkonsky, at least that’s what I like to tell myself, I decided to linger around in front of the famous hotel, as if I would wait for my personal assistant with my luggage, imaginary huge black Goyard trunks, and to give people the oppurtunity to take pictures of me. But nobody did. I would rather have been arrested for loitering with intent…

Maigret’s Paris.

Paris in 1958 was very different from today, from the Paris I know. First of all, it was so very dirty. It was none other than André Malraux, de Gaulle’s guy for everything cultural, who had all the blackened historic façades cleansed, he wanted Paris to be the City of Lights again, the most important operation in urban architecture since Baron Haussmann changed the face of Paris altogether in the 1850s and ’60s, and there was quite some dirt that had laid up since then, believe you me (and by me, I mean my mother, she should know, she did live in Paris in the early 1960s). Second of all, one of my favourite areas, the Marais, was considered a troubled district, it was quite run down in those days, don’t imagine you’d have found any of today’s fashionable cafés and restaurants there, no art galleries, no stylish designer stores, no perfumed air emerging from the Guerlain and Diptyque boutiques, certainly no gays, not even closeted ones, instead you would find a butcher right on Place des Vosges, just like in Jean Delannoy’s 1958 movie “Maigret Sets A Trap”, and a butcher who let you witness his bloody business through his shop windows at that. It was a different time, one might say, I say it was a better time – or more precisely, it was a more authentic time, a time where there was not yet a Louis Vuitton store between the Flore and the Deux Magots to please people suffering from logomania in every possible spot, or otherwise Simone de Beauvoir would have had to look for another place to work and have her p’tit noir. By the way, neither she or Jean-Paul Sartre were very fond of Malraux, trop réac politically, and I think, she might have sensed the side-effects that Malraux’s polishing of Paris would bring. Who knows? Luckily, she died long before the Louis Vuitton people opened their store on Boulevard Saint-Germain.

In love with omelettes.

My omelettes are all a disaster. They never look like an omelette should look like. They rather look like some sort of flattened scrambled eggs, strangely stacked on a plate. My omelettes aux champignons are the worst, I always overdose with mushrooms because I sliced far too many in the first place. I just can’t help it. Then why do I continue making them, one might wonder… I’ll tell you why. Because an omelette is the next best thing to a marriage proposal. And I keep saying yes, yes, yes, a million times yes, to them…