Filippo Tommaso Marinetti would hate this article. As the impassioned author of the infamous, founding¬†Futurist Manifesto (1909), he demands to know why we should look back, “when what we want is to break down the mysterious doors of the Impossible?”. The Futurists were enraptured by the advanced technology of the day, by speed and motion, machines, aeroplanes and racing cars. Propelled by an urgency for the future, the movement was intent on overhauling culture (art, poetry, music and sculpture), and to create what had never been experienced before.¬†The fact that some years later, Marinetti would turn his attention to food was a natural conclusion.
First published in 1932, and translated from Italian into English in 1989, The Futurist Cookbook (La Cucina Futurista) contained Marinetti’s ideals disguised as ridiculous recipes. In this gustatory manifesto, he shared his disdain for tradition and nostalgia at the Italian table and the first thing that was denounced was pasta. He writes, “Futurist cooking will be free of the old obsessions with volume and weight and will have as one of its principles the abolition of pastasciutta. Pastasciutta, however agreeable to the palate, is a pass√©ist food because it makes people heavy, brutish, deludes them into thinking it is nutritious, makes them skeptical, slow, pessimistic.”¬†Banting, basically.¬†This Mussolini-endorsed declaration also conveniently complemented Marinetti’s dodgy politics. You see, eliminating pasta would cut the importing costs of wheat, would promote Italy’s rice production as an alternative staple and would keep fascists fighting-fit.
There’s no doubt Marinetti would have found kindred spirits in the gluten-free zealots of today, energised by a new-found lack of lethargy.¬†But in his obsessive pursuit of absolute originality, his haphazard flavour combinations and madcap methods also reveal other glimmers of the prophetic. Vitamin supplements for one,¬†allowing us to enjoy our food for reasons other than health benefits. His preferred reasons were sensory. One of the dishes in The Futurist Cookbook is ‘Aerofood’:
The diner is served from the right with a plate containing some black olives, fennel hearts and kumquats. From the left he is served with a rectangle made of sandpaper, silk and velvet. The foods must be carried directly to the mouth with the right hand while the left hand lightly and repeatedly strokes the tactile rectangle. In the meantime the waiters spray the napes of the diners‚Äô necks with a perfume of carnations while from the kitchen comes contemporaneously a violent conrumore of an aeroplane motor and some music by Bach.
Today’s scientists, chefs and restauranteurs are spending big time and money researching the crossmodal influence on taste by our other senses. Both preoccupied with creating something new, the difference between their experiments and Marinetti’s is that, considering just one example of many baffling dishes, his “The Excited Pig: Salami cooked in strong espresso coffee, flavoured with eau-de-cologne”, their’s are much more likely to taste good. It’s a relief when Marinetti writes some dishes are made for the diners to eat, while others are only to look at:¬†to increase their curiosity, surprise and imagination.
Today’s molecular gastronomy or ‘modernist cuisine’ also has an uncanny resemblance to Marinetti’s call for science in the kitchen:¬†ozonizers¬†(to give liquids and foods the perfume of ozone), ultra-violet ray lamps,¬†electrolyzers,¬†colloidal mills,¬†centrifugal autoclaves, dialyzers.
Considering this unintentional relevance to today’s culinary arts, we were inspired to create a food photo story based on some of The Futurist Cookbook recipes and ideas. Who better to collaborate with than weekday painter and weekend baker Alice Toich, equally and eternally inspired by food, art and where the two may meet.
“Let us leave good sense behind like a hideous husk and let us hurl ourselves, like fruit spiced with pride, into the immense mouth and breast of the world! Let us feed the unknown, not from despair, but simply to enrich the unfathomable reservoirs of the Absurd!”¬†- F.T. Marinetti