Wrap it up!

She had a worried frown on her forehead. ‘What are we doing to this planet!?’ she muttered.

“What are we doing to it?” I asked. “We are smothering it!” Her eyes grew big. “In plastics! Last year, we have dumped eight million tons of plastic in the sea!”

“Eight million tons is a lot indeed!” I nodded.

“And the worst part of the story is that most of it is not even visible. It sinks to the sea, then it degrades into microscopic particles and then it becomes part of circle of life. Fish gobble it up with the plankton they feed on and in the end, we eat the fish and our own plastics with it.

“You reap what you sow.” I sighed. Now I’m frowning too. “What can we do about it?” I ask her. “Can we do anything?”
She shrugged helplessly: “I guess not. We can start to use less plastics. But I thought we were already doing that, recycling and all. We could ask others to use less plastics too. But how to go about that? Most of these plastics are produced and used in Asia. We can’t even influence our neighbour’s behaviour, what influence can we have on Chinese consumers? We produce over 200 million ton of plastic every year!”

“Two hundred million thousand kilo’s of plastic, every year again…” I tried to imagine the number in my head, but my head was too small for such a big number. When things become bigger than our heads, we tend to either not believe them, or to ignore them because we can’t grasp them anyway.

I remember the days that we both went scubadiving in Indonesia and in Thailand. The saphire blue sea in Malaysia, pristine beaches with hardly a snippet of plastic in sight. My nephew told me a rather different story when he last visited Mindanao in North Sulawesi. I don’t believe I could stomach to see the massive pollution he reportedly observed there. “There is no way we can stop this,” I must concede, “but just think how incredible it would be if we could just create that little bit of awareness, if we could help just a little bit, a little push in the right direction…wouldn’t that be a great achievement already?”

“You’re dreaming,” she said. “But it is not as if I wouldn’t want to do something. I would love to do something. But what?” She wheeled her arms in front of her face. “How to make a difference?”

I could imagine hundreds of people read the same article on plastics, or a few thousands of people watch a documentary about it. And they would all feel just like we do right now. Outraged and helpless. And I realise that it wouldn’t change a thing. Even if you would reach a hundred thousand people, or a million, it wouldn’t make a difference. Because they would all be just as hopelessly dependent on these plastics for their everyday life as we are ourselves. We type these messages on plastic keyboards, that sit on a plastic table, connected to plastic cables into a plastic electric socket, while seated in plastic chairs on plastic floors in plastic houses. Of course we will be killed by plastics. Our planet is smothered in it. This is utterly hopeless!

I became very gloomy now. So this is how we will end? Plastinated corpses, like those in Von Hagen’s Körperwelten beautiful but imagesmacabre displays? So, now we better become vegetarians, and then we better stop drinking water, and finally we can’t eat anything anymore that is microfiltered and sterilized?  A gloom picture indeed.

But…is there nothing that can be done? We are able to destroy the world, but are we also able to save it from ourselves? We are capable of the most unimaginable atrocities, but we have also built cathedrals, we have landed people on the moon and little space crafts on speeding comets,  we have written music for angels and we have saved people from terrible diseases.

We have invented plastics and we can not dis-invent it. So the only way forward is in finding an innovative solution.

Can we now really not invent something to save us from plastics?  Whilst I have no idea about the answer, I simply refuse to think that there is no positive answer to this question.

And this is probably also how we should think about all these other gloomy things that have grown bigger than our heads. We have brains, let’s use them in a positive way.

“What if,” I started again, “we would not try to raise awareness about the problems surrounding us, but on the contrary, raise awareness about where possible solutions are to these problems?”

She smiled, leaned over and gave me a kiss. “And what if you and I would give that idea a deeper thought, with a nice cup of champagne, under our warm eiderdown blanket?” she whispered.

And we didn’t solve any questions that night and we didn’t save the planet.

But it made us think, and that is a start.



Coeur d’artichaut

Spring started early this year, but this was still a rather chilly Saturday in April and we had been walking for quite a while. Our Son, Yolan, had just played a rehearsal at a local jazz bar and we were looking for a place to eat. The noontime cheesecake we had savoured at the ‚Le Jardin Bohemien’ , a new discovery to add to our lists of ‘cool coffee-houses&more’ was long digested and we were longing for something hearty as to end this perfect day in beauty.

We were now close to the Vrijdagsmarkt (Friday market) and had already knocked at the door of one of our old favorites, the Marco Polo trattoria. We should have made a reservation, story of our live, indeed.

We then remembered a restaurant with a very inviting name, close to this other one, ‚Lepelblad’,  that we had visited just the week before.  ‘Coeur d’artichaut’ that was it.
A quick search on the Iphone, a quick call “yes, some people called off, so we have a table for you.” Great, give us half hour, we’re on our way.  (although intuition says: a really hot restaurant is overbooked and has a few people in a queue waiting for free tables.)

What a cozy place to enter! It is as if you are at your favorite library  and you’re offered by the librarian (in this case a friendly man with a screaming bow-tie) to put your book aside for a moment and enjoy dinner, there and then. The connection between writing and eating and writing about it, struck me again.

The wine menu offered an interesting selection, and we went for a Pinot Grigio from Friuli. We knew this very refreshing and fruity wine from our visit to Trieste. Friuli, a region with many fantastic Italian specialities, like Parma and San Daniele ham, Parmeggiano and Balsamico, the ambrosia  among the vinegars.

A little pang of warning flashed through Vera’s eyes with the arrival of the ‘amuse bouche’ offered by the house.  A scoop of French creamcheese rolled in moonseed and quartered by ‘homemade cookies’.  “Could just as well have been some Philadelphia”, Vera later muttered. “And as for ‘homemade?’” …she didn’t offer any adjectives, just the question mark. But we were still in a good mood and weren’t going to let it spoil easily.

Crab on Mango for Vera, a warm goat cheese salad for Yo and goose liver terrine for myself. I know,  I should never take goose liver, and I rarely do. As it turned out, it tasted pretty good and I just shrugged off the uninspired crumbles  of crushed peanuts strewn on the side.

The Goat cheese salad was uneventful with big wedges of onion, but the Crab was a different story altogether. Vera’s silence gave it away. “How’s the crab?” I ventured.  No reply. Aw!
And I agree, it hurts to spend 16 euros on something that tastes like canned fancy crab with mayo. The mango was hard to find and totally tasteless.

Hum. But, we still enjoyed the evening, and we were hungry, after all.
The real shock came with the main dish. Again, I was the lucky one. My codfish was, uninspired, again, but tasty. I couldn’t help but wonder if the few mussels that swam on the side had accidently fallen in or if they had been there on purpose. They were cold but tasted OK.

But my heart really sunk for the first time when I saw Vera’s asparagus plate. I didn’t count the heads, there were two or three, the rest of the trunks neatly cut in three pieces and piled into a little stack, smothered in an enormous blob of  estragon foam.

My heart sunk again when Yolan asked me to taste a bite from his lamb filet. I could hardly swallow it, I kid you not, it was completely over-salted and over-peppered, so much even that it was impossible to taste the meat.

What to do? I’m a Vet, and as a doctor I know that one needs to treat the disease, not the symptoms. Complaining and asking for another plate, that would be treating the symptoms, would lose us another half hour and probably we would receive something else that would be equally unsatisfying. So, we drank our coffee, we didn’t blink but swallowed bitterly when we coughed up the 164 euro bill and left the place, still hungry.

It had been a beautiful day in Ghent. Yolan had played wonderfully, we had strolled through this pearl of cities and we had enjoyed each other’s company. The Arti-shock experience would not take that feeling away from us. But, folks, don’t waste your money here. Move just a few doors further down the road and go to the ‘Lepelblad’ instead.


Coeur d’artichaut is lacking all of the essentials to a satisfying experience: lack of honesty, originality, authenticity, inspiration and quality. They are pure bluff.

And by the way; had we consulted Tripadvisor prior to calling we would have been warned. We went by intuition and intuition failed us.

Address, if you really want to know: Onderbergen 6, B-9000 Ghent