Chained Food

May 23, 2011

Angel León

Came across this amazing Chef in the lastest issue of TIME.

I’m not a big fan of Michelin-stars or molecular gastronomy. The Michelin Bible to restaurants has turned the restaurant industry into show business, creating fans that is willing to stand and wait for 3 or 4 hours just to get a glimpse of a star. Molecular cooking, which serves you a fish with elephant’s meat in it, has turned kitchen into laboratory and their patrons into guinea pigs. These two things share one similarity – they take the soul out of the food. Food used to be a human necessity, an enjoyment, a celebration of local cultures, a gift from nature and a part of a bigger cycles in nature.

Chef Angel León re-engineers his food in his kitchen and runs a Michelin-star restaurant. But he is making good use of the technology and his star charisma. Having brought up in a coastal town and fished with his father since he was a little boy, he is now a renowned chef trying to get tasty seafood onto the dining table, and at the same time, preach his philosophy – “tell a story about what happens in the sea”.

The menu of his restaurant, Aponiente in Santa Maria, Spain, has a page giving detailed description of the seafood. The interesting fact about this page is that it is laid out in a high-school science-textbook style – with elaborate diagrams showing you the ecosystem of the ocean (see image below). To fulfil his mission to let customers understand the story of the sea, he has created a “food chain” menu. It starts with a salad made by seaweed and gradually you’ll be eating food along the ocean food chain: shrimp, fish, etc. The final dish of the menu is a fish fillet covered in a sauce made of planktons. It signifies the death of the fish on the ocean floor, where the fish becomes the source of food for the micro-organism plankton. To eat and knowing the story about what you’re eating at the same time, as León has demonstrated in his menu, is definitely a more gastronomical and inspiring experience than tasting eggs cooked in nitrous oxide.

The pursuit of technology is good. But you know what’s better? The technological development with a soul. By soul here I mean an understanding of the human condition. Steve Jobs has always said that, at the end of every major presentation of Apple’s latest gadgets, “technology alone is not enough, it’s technology married with the humanities that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.” It’s the consciousness that we are human, that earns Apple and Chef León their statuses.

Technology is the means, not the end.

Aponiete's Menu

Steve at the iPad 2 Launch

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團劇團找個人和我上火星》,震撼我對同理心的理解。

何偉龍飾演的Jimmy曾經是一個水手,環遊世界各地,人生閱歷豐富。晚年流浪街頭,患上癌症,要孤獨地面對病魔。他有一個夢想,就是「找個人和我上火星」。我想火星就像徵在他幻想中的一個小小鳥托邦吧。他四處奔波,豎起他小小的一支望遠鏡,探索火星位置。追尋火星的路把他帶到旺角的一個公園,這個公園每晚都有很多人來放狗。Jimmy漸漸與他們建立起一種關係。

Jimmy性格自我,不善社交,跟放狗的人又話不投機。唯有Dorothy(區嘉雯飾)每晚都會跟他聊天。Dorothy是一個單身老人,她希望說服Jimmy參加她所領導的老人小組。每次Jimmy都會回應﹕「我不需要你可憐我。」有一次,Dorothy終於觸動了他的神經,Jimmy一怒之下說﹕「就算你在輪椅上滾下去亞皆老街,被貨車撞倒再彈回我面前,我都不會可憐你!」這段話,對著一個一番善意的慈祥姥姥說,好像太麻木不仁了吧!為什麼Jimmy可以那樣理直氣壯地去羞辱一個關心自己的人﹖

Jimmy漂泊一生,歷盡滄桑,以為苦盡甘來,癌魔卻要奪去他的生命; Dorothy雖然半身不遂,但家景富有,偏愛音樂劇《綠野仙縱》(The Wizard of Oz),最愛唱 Over the Rainbow。Dorothy見到Jimmy露宿街頭,觸動她的同理心,或,用孟子的語言,令她的惻隱之心作祟。感受到Jimmy比自己不幸,Dorothy希望可以幫助他。然而,從Jimmy的角度來看﹕一個中產老婦,帶著一隻受主人呵護備至的狗來散步,終日沉醉在《綠野仙縱》的世界而不吃人間煙火的這麼一個人,跟本連理解我生活、身世的能力都沒有的人,又有什麼資格可憐我﹖我想這就是Jimmy「理直氣壯」的一點解釋。

有時候,看見我們都市裡的人,假期到中國山區、東南亞去「扶貧」,我又會思考類似的問題。究竟我們「 扶貧」的對象在想什麼呢﹖我並不否定那「 扶貧」是出於善意,而且這善意值得鼓勵。但我們有沒有想過我們的善意可能是對其他人尊嚴一種粗暴的踐踏呢﹖蔣勳說過﹕我們最大的敵人不是惡,是善。因為你是不能拒絕善的。

(二之一)