If you have had the chance to visit Genting Highlands, try to catch a view of KL from Starbucks at night. KL wrapped in glowing amber from the smog, sometimes even lighting up some low lying clouds. The city is like a foetus nurtured by the warm, nutrient rich amniotic fluid in his mother's womb. Would you be shocked to know that a city shrouded in this beautiful amber phosphorescence houses a lot of wickedness? Selfish unthinking people who would sell their mother's soul to the devil for material gain, power and to satisfy their lust?
A City infested by Pimps and Crooks right from the sordid back lanes of Chow Kit to the hallowed halls of the Parliament, where bigots walk tall and speak proudly. A City where a father sells his daughter to settle debts, where helpless migrant workers are fleeced so that their bosses can buy their million dollar SUVs. Where the average time spent traveling to work daily exceeds 2 hours, which is precious time which can be spent exercising or bonding with family due to greed and lust for material wealth? A city where I am still thankful to be alive, after 3 years of horror on the roads and crime in the streets.
My home is my cocoon here. A place to insulate myself from the prevailing evil outside. My sanctuary from participating in the endless drivel of mindless droning of madmen. I abhor crowds. I embrace solitude. After a day where I have to put on a front and interact with my fellow humans I find it comforting to be able to wear comfortable clothes, play Souvlaki and settle down with a book which will transport me to another realm. A kinder world, a more rational world. Sometimes this self imposed isolation gets too stiffling, I will head out to my favourite restaurant usually alone and sometimes with a small group of close friends, foraging the city of madness for a piece of calmness in this otherwise hostile and aggressive city.
My love affair with Sage started about a year ago, and Cilantro has just recently reopened. It is hard to describe these two places without affection. It is like my oyster, a place where nothing bad will ever happen to me. A place to shield me while the City self destructs in evil, immorality and greed. While Nero fiddled and danced to a burning Rome the Paranoid Android wined and dined to the destruction of humanity in KL.
An unhealthy obsession. A fool's delusion?
Sage: Tataki of Hon Maguro (Blue Fin Tuna) with Green Asparagus and Baby Cress. Each morsel a delight, bursting with flavour and the natural sweetness of the wonderfully fresh Tuna.
Despite how vehemently we try to deny it, all of us are attracted to beauty. It is a human thing. Name me an animal species which garnishes the food to make it aesthetically pleasing before consuming it?
Discussing Morality and Ethics here would be opening up a can of worms. A discussion on Plato's Eudaimonistic Virtue Ethics (and it's resurrection by Elizabeth Anscombe) is beyond the scope of this blog and probably put disinterested parties to sleep. Suffice to say, that a lot of thinkers since the Dawn of Greek Philosophy to the Present day has given Ethics and Morality a lot of thought. Terms that most people would have encountered would be Utilatarianism and Consequentialism and Moral Relativism. All have it's strength and virtues but there is no single, perfect Moral System. In the case of Ethics, sometimes the journey itself is more important.
Cilantro: Salad of Summer Seafod with Ohba Vinaigrette. A dish that is visually appealing, filled with choice fish, iidako, tsubagai and shizuoka tomatoes. Lightly drizzled with Ohba vinaigrette. Perfection in a plate.
Malaysia is a haven for Paleontologists. Or if ever morons get rounded up like stray dogs, our Moron pounds will be full. But of course, it will be dependent on who orders the rounding up. Rationality is important even in Ethics. We have been far dependent on the Metaphysical realm, where Morality is based on a Divine being and the reason for us observing the rules is for a self serving and selfish reward of being safe from eternal damnation. After we are dead.
What happens to now. How about telling the story of Ethics and Morality from a human point of view, how it is best to behave morally for the common interest and the well being of the individual and society?
Sage: Tagliolini Pasta with Pacific clams and Parmesan Cheese. Perfectly al dente, with huge clams that tasted suspiciously like oyster. A joy to savour with a beautifully flavoured broth.
"Thou shalt not kill".
Everybody agrees that Murder is bad. Reckless driving causes death, "Rempeting" causes death. Making substandard national cars with negligible safety features causes death. Driving after drinking Alcohol causes death. Bad roads causes death. Lead in colour pencils causes death. All of which is abhorent to any rational agent. Has it been emphasised enough?
What about Capital Punishment and War? How do we reconcile that commandment?
Cilantro: Poached Grain Fed Chicken with Foie Gras in Mushroom Jus. An unsusal pairing, with Japanese and Continental mushrooms. The Foie as usual, was perfect.
The issue of Baby Hatchets comes to mind, when I think about Rational Thinking Agents. Recently there has been a spate of news reports of babies being abandoned in Dustbins, empty fields and isolated places. Some were found alive, but alas some were discovered dead. Horrifying and unimaginable. Orphancare Malaysia, is a NGO that is working with the Ministry of Women, Family & Community Development in Malaysia to introduce Baby Hatches. Babies born to unwed Mums, who cannot afford to look after the babies due to social or financial constraints can be left in a safe incubator like hatch anonymously. Hopefully, mothers who are afraid of being persecuted will be encouraged to leave their babies in the hatch and unnecessary infant deaths are avoided. I may be an ultra leftist liberal, but happen to have very strong views against Abortion or Termination of Pregnancy unless it is for a Medical reason, think that this is indeed a brilliant move. A humane move.
Sage: Slow Cooked Free Range Chicken with Foie Gras, Blue Shell Crab Sauce. I have a natural dislike for chicken skin, and this was chicken roulade. The sauce was slightly weak, but the roasted foie was deliciously creamy.
To my dismay, I read Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye's reply to the critics of the baby hatch in the papers. Some people do not want baby hatches. Ta da! They say it encourages premarital sex! I don't know, but try to imagine this scenario:
Boy: Let's have sex tonight!
Girl: Yeah... We don't have to worry about anything. They have baby hatch now. I can get pregnant, endure nine months carrying an extra 12 kg around, get backache, get dizzy, puke like Linda Blair in The Exorcist, and hide in my room for nine months so that nobody knows I am pregnant! How cool is that?
Boy: Awesome! At the end of the nine months, after you have gone through an excruciating childbirth, we can both put the baby in a hatch! Sounds like fun! Yay!
Girl: I love it when you talk dirty. Let's make a baby for some childless couple.
Duh? Conceivable? (pun intended)
If even one baby's life is saved a year, it is still worth the effort, Your Holiness. Let the hatches mushroom. You can go preach to the unconverted until the statistics of children born to unwed mothers become zero, then take away the hatch. And good luck with the undertaking, because I can bet that zero babies born out of wedlock is never going to happen. But be reminded that if you prevent the hatch programme from taking off, even if one baby dies, the blood of the baby is in your hands. Effectively making you a MURDERER.
Cilantro: Steamed Seabass with King crabs and Spinach Broth. This came wrapped in Chinese Foo Chook or Soya Gluten which serves as a soaking agent for the spinach broth. The fish was wonderfully flaky and beautiful. It deserved a standing ovation.
I googled around and there are actually some blogs who promote this sort of mentality. I am not going to dignify them by posting a link here. One of the blog is written by a lady, a mother of three. She mentioned premarital sex and her next argument is that hatches will "Increasing the number of Non-Marital Children." Lifted Verbatim from her blog. I think she meant increasing number of Single Mothers who have children born out of wedlock. Love this feminist. Judgmental, judgmental. These are the people who makes mothers abandon their babies. They think they are better than you and I, or anybody else. I too, wish that all babies born in this world will have a perfect nuclear family. But that is not possible. Many women who are married to polygamous rascals, gamblers, drunkards and addicts wish they could be single and not tortured by a bad marriage and a bad role model for their children. Divorces happen. Death happens. The child is innocent. Promote marriage counseling and road safety. More children lose their fathers due to accidents and divorces compared to being born out of the wedlock.
Another point made was that Baby Hatches promote westernization! Point taken. Everything bad that is happening in this country is because of people aping their western counterparts. You hate the west. That's why you write in bad, broken English. Bah! Humbug!
Sage: Cherry Fruit with Almond Tartlet and Milk Ice Cream. If I had to run an extra 10kms to burn off the extra calories from this dish, it was still worth it. A perfect example of what can be done with the warm and cold, instead of that usual chocolate fondant or brownies with ice cream.
In case you think that this Android is Anti-Religion, he is not. I have accepted (a far better word than tolerance, which I learned is a basis for race relations in Malaysia during General Paper class in Form Six. Tolerance. Like I tolerate an Ah Beng Playing Modern Talking loudly and blasting it from his stationary car. I felt like strangulating him, but tolerated him) that some people seek solace and moral compass from it. All I ask for is a bit of rationality. After all, the heart of any religion is Peace and Love, and the majority of the followers can attest to that. Do not let the minority of Hatemongers make the loudest voice and get away with murder.
The philosophical rationalization of Morality can never be perfect. Let me try to illustrate this with an example.
What do you do when you 7 year old child utters the F word? How do you explain to him that it is wrong?
Kant's Categorical imperative is of no use here. To put this very, very, simply (but is actually more complicated than this), the Categorical Imperative is like asking the question what if everybody does it? Everybody does use the F word, rappers, comedians, Hollywwood Stars and Uncle Gregory is a big fan. And the world did not destruct in a ball of flame. Yet. So, that does not apply here.
Mill's Utilitarianism, might be helpful. And again in a nutshell, an action is moral because it produces the greatest amount of pleasure for the most number of people. In this case, Daddy will not get angry and the child don't get whacked. Everybody happy. But still, it still does not explain why uttering the F word is wrong.
Well, the easiest way is to say that God does not like children who use the F word. End of story. No brain racking, no thinking necessary. A slight problem here. Uncle Gregory is an atheist.
Don't look at me for answers because I have none. Until a child is born with remote controlled mufflers or silencers or I can explain to them why uttering the F word is wrong, I will just sleep with my Murakami, thank you very much.
Mascarpone Ice Cream with Espresso jelly and Tuille. Rather lacklustre when compared to Sage's Dessert this week, but not at all bad. Less adventurous and a "safe" offering on the menu.
Now, comes the hardest part. How can you compare the lunches at Sage and Cilantro. I have been asked this a few times since last Friday. The answer is you can't. Cilantro is more opulent, the emphasis is on the ingredients and it comes at a slightly higher price. Sage is more accessible, but the items in the lunch menu is still wonderful and is still a bargain.
Both places are still overseen by Chef Takashi, but the day to day operations at Sage is helmed by the wonderful and friendly Chef Daniel.
The Poster Girl for Cilantro, the ever graceful and elegant international food and travel blogger, Ciki.
This post was inspired by some twittering between me and Fatboybakes about The Haiti Quake Relief. If you wish to help, info can be obtained here.
This post was created with the hope of stimulating some thoughts about ethics and how it affects our day to day life, how everything we do affects other people as well, and how it may be possible to marry metaphysical elements in ethics with some form rationality. Nothing is ever so simple as a yes or no or a good or bad.
Spread the Message of love, empower yourself with reason and hope for a better world.
Ciki was the first to note the Kafka and Murakami picture above and link it to this post. The book, Kafka on the shore is a modern day Oedipal Greek Tragedy in which a 15 year old boy, Kafka Tamura finds comfort and shelter in a library and the story runs parallel with the life of Sotoru Nakata, a boy wakes up from a long coma with loss of his higher intellectual faculty which was replaced by an ability to speak to cats.
Of course Franz Kafka himself with his existentialist angst, the story of an individual's absurd struggle against an unknown,powerful yet oppressive force. His novels and Kant's philosophical writings were the inspiration for me to learn the German language. Kafka is a disturbing read and the claustrophobia and language play enthrall for hours and puts me in a sombre mood for days.
What a clever girl and a sharp eye!