Food writer Juana Pepa on her favourite things
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My personal style signifier are my rings from Repossi. I wear them all the time. I don’t like a lot of accessories, so these are the only two pieces that I have. My style is classic and simple – you will usually see me in Mother jeans and shirts from Massimo Dutti during the day. I wear a lot of black, white, blue and beige – though sometimes I’ll add a pop of colour. repossi.com
The last thing I bought and loved was a table lamp from Sophie Conran. I bought it for my bedside table, but I hadn’t looked at the measurements and it turned out it’s enormous. So I put it in the living room and I think it completes it. Howard Table Lamp, £375, sophieconran.com
The place that means a lot to me is Madrid. I lived there for seven years before moving to London and I became a mum there, I got married there, I started to write my books there and my friends are still there. I particularly love the Chueca neighbourhood, which is full of interesting stores and restaurants. I know every corner. My favourite spot has to be Taberna La Carmencita. It’s a tiny restaurant that does the best huevos fritos with morcilla and an amazing veal Milanese. Toni 2 is also a classic – it’s a piano bar, which is open until six in the morning and where everyone gathers round to sing. They don’t let you use your phone to read the lyrics so you have to go prepared. tabernalacarmencita.es; toni2.es
I’ve recently discovered Columbia Road Flower Market in east London – I’m new to the city so am enjoying finding special places like this. I’ve bought some pottery there, and it’s impossible to leave without some flowers.
The best souvenir I’ve brought home is dulce de leche from Punta del Este in Uruguay. We go there for Christmas and New Year’s Eve and there’s a farm called Narbona that makes the best dulce de leche, which is done by boiling milk and sugar for hours. In Argentina, we put it on everything: toast, cakes, ice cream, desserts. This one is amazing because it’s creamy and sweet but not cloying. I always bring back a lot of pots as they’re really cool to bring as gifts to a dinner. narbona.com
The best book I’ve read in the past year is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. He explains in a simple way how humans have five ways of expressing and receiving love: words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, gifts, and acts of service – and how your way of receiving love may not always be the same as your partner’s.
My favourite location is Place des Lices in St Tropez. They have a market there on Tuesdays and Saturdays where you can buy everything: fish, the best vegetables in the world, mozzarella, ravioli, flowers, antiques and baskets. I always go in summer and I love picking up linens there for the beach.
My style icons are Jane Birkin, Jean Seberg, Catherine Deneuve and Capucine. There is just no beating that particular French-woman style – chic, elegant and apparently effortless.
The best gift I’ve given recently is a Where’s Wally book that I gave to my son. We were walking down King’s Road and I saw this book, which I always played with when I was a child in Argentina. Now he wants to look for Wally every afternoon.
The best gift I’ve received is a photograph that my husband gave me in March for our three-year wedding anniversary. It’s by a Spanish artist I admire called Andrea Torres Balaguer and it’s a photo of a woman with her face obscured.
An object I would never part with is a pashmina scarf that belonged to my grandmother. It’s just beige and it’s not in any kind of special fabric. But she used to wear it a lot before she died and it’s the only thing I have of hers. I’ve moved house 20 times so I’m not generally attached to material things, but I have taken this pashmina with me everywhere since I was 14. I never wear it but it’s always there, in my wardrobe.
In my fridge you’ll always find green apples, spinach and celery for my morning green juice; coconut yoghurt, Dijon mustard and champagne. I don’t drink champagne every day but I like to serve it at dinner at some point in the week.
My beauty guru is Chloe at Linda Meredith, who I go to see for a facial once a month. I also get laser facial treatment at D Thomas Clinic. For wellbeing, I have a personal trainer in Madrid called Crys Dyaz. When I met her I was 23 and didn’t like to exercise but thanks to her I now do a workout almost every day. I’ve also found an amazing class at KX in Chelsea called Hiit and Run, which I do twice a week. It’s very intense and the music is loud like a nightclub but it’s highly motivating and I run faster now. crysdyazandco.com; dthomas.com; lindameredith.com
The last music I downloaded was a song called “Oh Mammy” by Midi Culture. It’s a remix and what I love about it is that it’s techno but then, a minute and a half in, Julio Iglesias unexpectedly starts singing.
The thing I couldn’t do without is my pillow. Six years ago, I went to El Corte Inglés in Madrid, and I tried every pillow in the shop. I found one that is perfect because it’s not too high, it’s not too low, it’s not soft, and it’s not too hard – it’s just right. So now, if I am travelling or have a long trip in the car, I will take my pillow along for the trip.
I have a collection of books. I have a lot of cookbooks, but I also collect photography books and travel guides. My husband is obsessed with books too and we tend to buy a lot when we travel. The most important recipe books for me are Doña Lola, which is a classic Argentinian cookbook, and Phaidon’s The Silver Spoon – it’s the Italian cookery bible.
An indulgence I would never forgo is a weekly 90-minute massage. I started this habit when I was 16 and I’m 30 now. I’ve found a very good place here called Quan Spa and they do amazing Thai massages – it’s like my second home. quanspa.co.uk
On my wishlist is a trip to Asador Etxebarri in Axpe in northern Spain. It’s a Michelin-starred restaurant and some say it’s the best meat restaurant in the world, with a fantastic wine selection too. Another place I would love to go is to Casa Taberna, a little hotel in the Plaza Mayor of Pedraza, a beautiful Spanish town near Madrid. The hotel restaurant serves local produce and the decor is rustic but minimalist.
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a vintage orange Miu Miu jacket. It’s suede on one side and sheepskin on the other so you can wear it two ways. I found it in Lovers Lane Vintage while I was wandering around Notting Hill with my daughter. instagram.com/loverslanelondon
The beauty staple I’m never without is Bobbi Brown’s Intensive Serum Foundation. It’s wonderfully soft and it doesn’t look like I’m wearing foundation. £53, bobbibrown.co.uk
My favourite website is Tracy Anderson’s, for her The Method workout. I keep up with it online. tracyanderson.com
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a psychoanalyst. I have had a therapist for more than 15 years. It’s a time to connect with myself because sometimes we use words for feelings or situations that are not the best words, so it’s helpful for reflection.
When I need to feel inspired, I invite my friends over. I love to cook for them and to be around people. I often don’t try to think of a menu and just do something with what I have. Recently, I cooked Milanesa, French fries, homemade ravioli with tomato sauce, and green salad with vinaigrette and an amazing mozzarella from Prezzemolo & Vitale. prezzemoloevitale.co.uk
The best bit of advice I ever received was from my husband. I used to be indecisive and filled with doubt and when I started writing my books and had to choose my first cover, I went crazy trying to choose. My husband reminded me that perfection doesn’t exist and there comes a moment when you have to say, this is it, finish it.