As our friends on the Thanksgiving-celebrating side of the pond sidle in at the sides of symbolically-loaded tables, let’s take a moment to reflect on the dictates of one forward-thinking man who decried traditional ways of wining and dining.
Filippo Tommaso Marinetti penned La Cucina Italiana in 1932. A half-joking cookbook for Futurists and the future itself, it made the perfectly wacko accompaniment to his more famous foundational manifesto of 1909. Safe to say, there’s not much al pomodoro, al fresco or even al dente
It’s well known that Marinetti loathed pasta, for it makes the common people who eat it ‘develop that typical ironic and sentimental skepticism which can often cut short their enthusiasm.’
The big bright Future required much enthusiasm; for speed, steam, sparks, steel and use of all the senses. Tortellini renders one sappy and slothful, only a Futurist meal can elevate the human spirit to the appropriate stratospheres. But that was no mean feat — just check out his eleven commandments for orchestrating and preparing such an affair.
One perfect meal requires:
- Originality and harmony in the table setting (crystal, china, decor) extending to the flavours and colours of the foods.
- Absolute originality in the food.
- The invention of appetizing food sculptures, whose original harmony of form and colour feeds the eyes and excites the imagination before it tempts the lips.
- The abolition of the knife and fork for eating food sculptures, which can give prelabial tactile pleasure.
- The use of the art of perfumes to enhance tasting. Every dish must be preceded by a perfume which will be driven from the table with the help of electric fans.
- The use of music limited to the intervals between courses so as not to distract the sensitivity of the tongue and palate but to help annul the last taste enjoyed by re-establishing gustatory virginity.
- The abolition of speech-making and politics at the table.
- The use in prescribed doses of poetry and music as surprise ingredients to accentuate the flavours of a given dish with their sensual intensity.
- The rapid presentation, between courses, under the eyes and nostrils of the guests, of some dishes they will eat and others they will not, to increase their curiosity, surprise and imagination.
- The creation of simultaneous and changing canapes which contain ten, twenty flavours to be tasted in a few seconds. In Futurist cooking these canapes have by analogy the same amplifying function that images have in literature. A given taste of something can sum up an entire area of life, the history of an amorous passion or an entire voyage to the Far East.
- A battery of scientific instruments in the kitchen: ozonizers to give liquids and foods the perfume of ozone, ultra-violet ray lamps (since many foods when irradiated with ultra-violate rays acquire active properties, become more assimilable, preventing rickets in young children, etc.), electrolyzers to decompose juices and extracts, etc. in such a way as to obtain from a known product a new product with new properties, colloidal mills to pulverise flours, dried fruits, drugs, etc.; atmospheric and vacuum stills, centrifugal autoclaves, dialyzers. The use of these appliances will have to be scientific, avoiding the typical errors of cooking foods under steam pressure, which provokes the destruction of active substances (vitamins, etc.) because of the high temperatures. Chemical indicators will take into account the acidity and alkalinity of the sauces and serve to correct possible errors: too little salt, too much vinegar, too much pepper or too much sugar.
For recipes illuminating goodies like the aforementioned Sculpted Meat, and others like Milk in a Green Light and Italian Breasts in the Sunshine, or for further reminders why fascist affinities don’t mix well with haute cuisine, or anything at all for that matter, I recommend picking up a copy of Marinetti’s La Cucina Italiana.
Though it’s hard to imagine stomaching a gooey ramekin full of pineapple, sardine and nougat compote, the text is sure to prompt a mini-examination of what forces prompt our own industrialised eating habits. It might also have you hankering for a plain old boiled potato, un-atomised and un-fumigated with orange flower water.
Source: Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, The Futurist Cookbook, edited by Leslie Chamberlain, translated by Susan Brill, London: Penguin Books, Limited, 2014