Since moving to Romania I’ve had some experience with people begging.

I’ve been approached by beggars in Australia too. One guy asked me, “Can I have $3?”

He didn’t look unkempt or dirty. I asked him what he wanted it for. (I later found out why he was begging.)

Something to eat, he said.

I won’t give you any money, I said, but I’ll buy you something to eat. (Some people claim they want money for food, but when you offer to buy them something to eat, refuse and ask for the money. Even though a food outlet is close by.)

So we started walking to the nearest KFC, which is what he said he wanted. Immediately, he upped his request. “Can I have $5?”


I know every person and their pharmacist’s goldfish has written about cooking eggplant (a.k.a. aubergine). If we have to eat eggplant, it helps to make it as palatable as possible.

As any chef knows, fragrance, appearance and presentation all contribute to an appetising plate. Unfortunately, preparing eggplant doesn’t really help with sensory input. The traditional Romanian way of preparing an eggplant is to roast it over an open fire. This gives a smoky flavour that isn’t unpleasant but baking cooks it more evenly, gives it a milder flavour, a bronze hue to the skin, and makes it easer to remove the skin. Our oven doesn’t have temperatures listed – just numbers 1 to 5 – but we cook smaller eggplants for about 75 minutes hour, and larger ones for about 90 minutes on temperature level 4.

A cooked eggplant fresh out of the over should have a skin brittle and easily pierced with a sharp knife. Leave it a little while until they cool down a little. Using a sharp knife, slice the eggplant open lengthwise. Slice again along the line of the green it at the top. Open out the skin, until the innards are neatly displayed. You should see something that looks like cooked chicken – the white meat, none of the skin – with a few squid tentacles added. Use a spoon to scrape the meat away from the skin, top to base. Try to also get the brown inner peel as well. The meat should be soft and come away easily. Unless you can remove large sections of the meat in one scoop, you can’t avoid the idea you are dealing with pulped, slightly oxidised squid.

Anyone for day-old squidplant?

Anyone for day-old squidplant?

At this point, throw the skin away, and try to find a good recipe. Try mixing it with dill, garlic, tomato, a little bit of olive oil and, for want of a better word, enjoy.

but a whole way of life.


On a wall in Constanta, a city in Romania, on the coast of the Black Sea.

ma gandesc

For those who weren’t there (and the photo isn’t great and it had been raining), it reads:
Mă gândesc la tine în multe feluri foarte des.

For those who don’t speak Romanian, it means:
I think of you in many ways very often.

I should perhaps apologise for not blogging more frequently, but there’s a reason for the lack. 

The reason is I have been learning stuff. Then learning some other stuff. Basic stuff, intermediate stuff; stuff written by an advocate, then stuff written by a critic. Then original source material – sorry, original source stuff. Evaluating it all to try to get the most probable solution. And not having perfect recall, then having to review the stuff I originally learned to put it into long-term memory. All the while making notes about other stuff I want to learn. 

Life was simpler before I wanted to know everything. 

Romania, like everywhere else if you look hard enough, is a country of contrasts. The first impression you get, on leaving Otopeni International Airport, is of coils of black-coated wire cabling hung up on the posts, as if the installation company thought it was a good place for storage. The second impression you get is of buildings of every kind: some aged with discoloured concrete and rusting metal; others brand new with modern design and architecture. Many times they are right next to each other.

In some areas, quite a few of the buildings exist in a state of semi-repair, or demolition, or construction, or at least looking as though they need repairs, or tenants. For some buildings, only the concrete frame is in place. Very close to the centre of town there is a block (as in a city block of land) with four enormous buildings, stately, with fluted columns at the front. Apparently Ceaucescu intended them to be Romania’s radio city, but they are empty shells, still looking majestic but friable along the edges.

On the whole, the impression you get of Bucharest by a glance at its infrastructure is of trying to start an old car on a cold day: it won’t at first; it tries and fails, but with care slowly comes closer to starting up. The idea that it will start eventually is because of the modern high-rise buildings and businesses that are operating in Romania. Not just McDonald’s either – thankfully, there seem to be few of these – but there are many clothing retail chains of all kinds and styles, from high-end to be-sloganed teeshirts. Then again, I’m comparing Bucharest with Perth, the cultural Rip van Winkle of cities. (more…)

The book that made your world: how the Bible created the soul of Western civilization by Vishal Mangalwadi.

Whatever you think of the Bible and Christianity, you can’t deny they’ve changed the world. I knew this, but I never realised in what ways and to what extent, until I read The book that made your world.

The Bible gives a particular view of the world – it is not divine, nor a living entity; it is able to be understood and investigated – and of humans: by nature equal, but because of pride and selfishness, socially unequal; born to rule the world but not to abuse it; the crowning glory of creation but rebels against the God who made us.

Manglwadi notes how this unique view of the world and humanity shaped the Western view of life; of humanity, education, technology, science, finance, work, heroism, ethics, equal rights, charity, justice, and compassion.

Considering just one topic, technology, he notes that Korea had movable metal fonts two centuries before Gutenberg developed wooden ones, and that China had developed the printing press before 1000 AD, and Buddhist monasteries contained 130,000 pages of writings; so many that they also developed rotating bookcases. In six out of ten monasteries you could hear the bookshelves revolving day and night – not because the monks were reading the books, but because they were meditating on the sound of the turning bookcases. This was because of their worldview, which sought to stop thought, not encourage it. A culture of sharing information only develops if there is a reason to share information.  (more…)

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