In the Afternoon: That Butler, Paradox

Disclaimer: Kuroshitsuji and all related characters is to Toboso Yana. The recipe for Banana Bread Pudding is a slightly revised version of Chef Frank Brigtsen's (from Brigtsen's Restaurant in New Orleans) as it appeared in Great Chefs: the Louisiana New Garde by Nancy Ross Ryan with Chan Patterson. Incidentally, during those days bananas get shipped from more temperate or tropical countries and are considered to be a treat because the good ones would be really expensive.

Preheat the oven to 300° F.

Perfection was not something attainable by humans. Nor was he, in any way, perfect.

But that doesn't mean he cannot aim for what God had kept selfishly to Himself.

Put six cups of bite sized pieces of day-old French bread in a baking pan and set aside.

Perhaps there was no need for perfection. The physical representation of an ideal is far enough removed from that ideal to be called a translation, as Plato had taught his followers. Years later and Longinus popularized the all-too-human contempt for the flesh. All humans are attracted to the spiritual, at one level or another. All sentient being long for what they do not have.

Blend three large eggs, three cups of milk, two-thirds cup of sugar, two ripe bananas, one tablespoon ground cinnamon, one fourth teaspoon ground nutmeg and one half teaspoon vanilla extract until it smoothens.

When Nero played the violin while Rome burned down, men condemned him for choosing aesthetics over morality.

Pour this mixture over the bread pieces, fold in half a cup each of seedless raisins and roasted pecans and let it set for twenty minutes.

In the mind of the artist, all aesthetic decisions are moral because there is no difference between beauty and rightness. The stone suggests an image to the sculptor, who seeks to attain perfection in discovering art from the materials nature had already provided. Art may be called the third translation, even farther removed from the ideal than the flesh itself.

Yet the artist can attain immortality through his art, something normal humans can only hope of gaining, and that very art is proof of a sublime mind.

Top with three tablespoons unsalted butter cut in small pieces.

A cut above the rest, artists seek freedom from the shackles of the very society they want to impress. The irony is that to be entirely successful in their endeavours, artists must gain accolade from the very same people he hopes to escape from in the pursuit of his art. In this same way, morality and aesthetics are at odds with each other because the latter concept is too complex to be fully comprehended by what is fully dictated by humanity's eternal attempt to do good.

Cover the pudding and place the pan in a larger pan. Add warm water to a depth of about an inch in the larger pan. Bake for an hour, then remove the cover and bake again for fifteen minutes or until it sets.

Morality rests in the heart while aesthetics springs from the mind.

Or is it the other way around?

Whisk three-fourths cup of heavy whipped cream until it thickens. Add one tablespoon sugar and one teaspoon vanilla. Then continue whisking until small peaks form. Cover and let chill.

Without a hand to move it, a chess piece cannot check the king. Servitude is altogether literal minded and relies too much on the spoken word. In this game board, he was the count's to command. But what piece did that make him?

For the sauce, heat a pan at low heat a pan at low heat and add two-thirds cup of unsalted butter, half a cup of packed brown sugar, six ripe bananas that had been quartered, one teaspoon ground cinnamon and one-fourth teaspoon ground nutmeg.

In the tradition of English noble houses, there is no one lower in standing than a servant, and no one as free. A butler accompanying his lord and master is only doing what is right and proper and should arouse no comment. A servant may also enter and leave rooms freely to attend to their chores and can move around the house of their lord and master without attracting attention. They breathe and speak, but a good servant is one whose presence is easily overlooked or altogether forgotten.

They are automatons. And their thoughts and feelings belong to their lord and master.

Move the skillet back and forth over the fire until the butter and sugar become creamy and the bananas begin to soften, which will take about a minute.

Accomplishing the commands of the count and existing for the sole reason of attending to the count. That is the art form through which he seeks to attain perfection. His aesthetics come in with the balance, the assurance that compensation would only be just and fair. To take too much or too little speaks ill of his own nature.

Remove the skillet from the heat and add three tablespoons of dark rum and two tablespoons of banana liqueur. Return pan to heat, tilt and avert the face of the pan. Light the liquid with a long match and shake the skillet until the fire subsides.

Even evil has its concept of beauty. Perhaps even a more rigid one because beauty of the soul is meaningless to him. Beauty and quality is not the same, and he has no use for the untainted heart. A soul that had been shattered and put together, crystallized by fire is worth more than a million pure hearts enclosed in a nunnery.

Add half a teaspoon vanilla, remove the pan from heat and keep the sauce warm.

Like a man at his wedding night, he waits patiently. Like a true artist, he hones the material, the medium, so that when the time for compensation comes he can finally have a taste of the perfection that is so elusive to mankind. Like a true servant, he obeys.

Place a large scoop of bread pudding in the middle of the plate.

Where does the concept of aesthetics end and the mind begins?

Place two slices of banana next to the pudding and top with about three tablespoons of sauce.

Perfection may be reserved only for God, but how tiring can such an existence be? For all their flaws and foibles, humans remain boringly predictable. What more for a perfect God?

All in all, he would rather spend his time with felines, who are haughty and detached, graceful enigmas standing behind cold eyes.

And then of course, there was the count.

Spoon whipped cream over the pudding and serve immediately while it is still warm.

He wheeled the gueridon down the hallway until he reached the door of the count's study. Knocking gently, he waited several discreet seconds before opening the door with a murmured "I beg your pardon, young master."

The count looked at him impatiently, replacing the stack of papers he was examining on top of his desk and building a steeple with his hands.

"This afternoon tea is Earl Grey, accompanied by Banana Bread Pudding with Banana Rum Sauce and Whipped Cream." He poured the tea as he spoke, keeping the stem of the pot at the correct distance from the cup so that the tea would pour evenly. Placing the cup and saucer on the count's desk, he paused to ask if there was a problem.

"I am being summoned by the queen, it seems," the count said. He did not pick up the cup, but instead tapped one finger on an open letter on the desk. "There will be a private gathering tonight."

"Then I shall have your blue coat ready. Will that suit, young master?"

"I'll leave that to you."

"Very good, young master." He bowed, the proceeded to serve the pudding. "Would that be all?"

"Yes. Leave me."

"Yes, my lord."

At the threshold he turned back to see the count still looking at the letter from the Queen. Sitting on the great chair and barely reaching the floor with the tip of his toes, the count looked as ever a child playing grown-up. A disguise, his business associates would say, but to his butler the appearance was most appropriate. The count looked vulnerable then, dwarfed by the room that could easily seat twenty men twice as big as he was. But he looked unfazed. Physically, he cannot stand up to the architecture of the manor. In all other respects he was the lord and master of the Phantomhive household. Head of a dying family, maybe, but a powerful one nonetheless.

It was Ciel Phantomhive that made it continue so.

And by his orders, Sebastian.

The butler smiled before going back to the kitchens.