In 1932 Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the founder of the Futurist movement, published his manifesto of cookery La cucina futurista ('Futurist cookery'). In common with the rest of his proposals for the reform of the arts, it is sometimes difficult to decide if his ideas were ever meant to be taken seriously, or if his intention was simply to provoke a reaction. Whatever the truth is, he certainly succeeded in causing controversy among the general public with his outlandish ingredients and bizarre combinations.
The 1909 Futurist manifesto, which had concerned itself mainly with literature and the fine arts, was developed by Marinetti and his fellow Futurists into a complete design for living, embracing many facets of contemporary life, such as fashion, interior design, typography, and entertainment. The Futurists whole-heartedly welcomed the modern: key concepts were speed, change, noise, machinery, and above all vitality and dynamism. Marinetti's views on Italian cookery were clearly an extension of these ideas. He saw the Italian table (and the diners at the table) as being weighed down by heavy food, especially pasta, whose function was to fill up stomachs, but which was, according to Marinetti, deceptive in its nutritional content, and likely to produce slow and placid characteristics and scepticism in those who consumed it habitually. In his words, it induced 'fiacchezza, pessimismo, inattività nostalgica e neutralismo' ('lethargy, pessimism, nostalgic inactivity, and neutralism'). This absurd gastronomic religion, he said, must be abolished immediately.
Predictably, these ideas provoked uproar in the Italian press and among the general public. In every restaurant and in every home there were arguments about the benefits or otherwise of a diet of pasta. The Mayor of Naples declared that vermicelli al pomodoro was the food of the angels; Marinetti's reaction was that, if that were the case, it simply served to confirm the boredom of life in paradise.
If his rejection of pasta was controversial, then his proposals for what to replace it with provoked bafflement. Ingredients were designed to create the most sensual experience possible: they included flowers, exotic fruit, coffee, raw eggs, and cloves. To complement this sensory experience, warmed perfumes were to be sprayed in the dining room, and the diners were given materials of different textures such as velvet and sandpaper to stroke with their left hand. Sweet was combined with savoury to produce startling effects, and bitter and sour tastes were given their place: sardines with pineapple, mortadella with nougat, cooked salami with coffee and cologne. An aphrodisiac cocktail was devised, consisting of pineapple juice, eggs, cocoa, caviar, red peppers, nutmeg, and cloves, no doubt with the intention of stimulating 'dynamism'.
Futurist cookery also had a more sinister side: the Fascists, mindful of the need to reduce expensive imports of wheat needed to produce pasta, took up the idea that pasta was not a suitable food for fighters and heroes, and instead promoted locally-grown rice as a preferred substitute. In the end, of course, neither Marinetti nor the Fascists succeeded in breaking the bonds between Italians and pasta, and Futurist cookery is remembered as a curious but inconsequential dead-end.
Manifesto of Futurist Cooking
First published in Gazzetta del Popolo (Turin), 28 December 1930
'Italian Futurism, father of numerous Futurisms and avant-gardeisms abroad, will not remain a prisoner of those worldwide victories secured 'in twenty years of great artistic and political battles frequently consecrated in blood,' as Benito Mussolini put it. Italian Futurism will face unpopularity again with a programme for the total renewal of food and cooking.
Of all artistic and literary movements Futurism is the only one whose essence is reckless audacity. Twentieth-century painting and twentieth-century literature are in reality two very moderate and practical Futurisms of the right. Attached to tradition, dependent on each other, they prudently only essay the new.
Futurism has been defined by the philosophers as 'mysticism in action, by Benedetto Croce as 'anti-historicism', by Graça Aranha as 'liberation from aesthetic terror'. We call it 'the renewal of Italian pride', a formula for 'original art-life', 'the religion of speed', 'mankind straining with all his might towards synthesis', 'spiritual hygiene', 'a method of infallible creation', 'the geometric ,splendour of speed', 'the aesthetics of the machine'.
Against practicality we Futurists therefore disdain the example and admonition of tradition in order to invent at any cost something new which everyone considers crazy.
While recognizing that badly or crudely nourished men have achieved great things in the past, we affirm this truth: men think dream and act according to what they eat and drink.
Let us consult on this matter our lips, tongue, palate, taste buds, glandular secretions and probe with genius into gastric chemistry.
We Futurists feel that for the male the voluptuousness of love is an abysmal excavator hollowing him out from top to bottom, whereas for the female it works horizontally and fan-wise. The voluptuousness of the palate, however, is for both men and women always an upward movement through the human body. We also feel that we must stop the Italian male from becoming a solid leaden block of blind and opaque density. Instead he should harmonize more and more with the Italian female, a swift spiralling transparency of passion, tenderness, light, will, vitality, heroic constancy. Let us make our Italian bodies agile, ready for the featherweight aluminium trains which will replace the present heavy ones of wood iron steel.
Convinced that in the probable future conflagration those who are most agile, most ready for action, will win, we Futurists have injected agility into world literature with words-in-liberty and simultaneity. We have generated surprises with illogical syntheses and dramas of inanimate objects that have purged the theatre of boredom. Having enlarged sculptural possibility with anti-realism. having created geometric architectonic splendour without decorativism and made cinematography and photography abstract, we will now establish the way of eating best suited to an ever more high speed, airborne life.
Above all we believe necessary:
a) The abolition of pastasciutta, an absurd Italian gastronomic religion.
It may be that a diet of cod, roast beef and steamed pudding is beneficial to the English, cold cuts and cheese to the Dutch and sauerkraut, smoked [salt] pork and sausage to the Germans, but pasta is not beneficial to the Italians. For example it is completely hostile to the vivacious spirit and passionate, generous, intuitive soul of the Neapolitans. If these people have been heroic fighters, inspired artists, awe-inspiring orators, shrewd lawyers, tenacious farmers it was in spite of their voluminous daily plate of pasta. When they eat it they develop that typical ironic and sentimental scepticism which can often cut short their enthusiasm.
A highly intelligent Neapolitan Professor, Signorelli, writes: 'In contrast to bread and rice, pasta is a food which is swallowed, not masticated. Such starchy food should mainly be digested in the mouth by the saliva but in this case the task of transformation is carried out by the pancreas and the liver. This leads to an interrupted equilibrium in these organs. From such disturbances derive lassitude, pessimism, nostalgic inactivity and neutralism.'
An invitation to Chemistry
Pastasciutta, 40% less nutritious than meat, fish or pulses, ties today's Italians with its tangled threads to Penelope's slow looms and to somnolent old sailing ships in search of wind. Why let its massive heaviness interfere with the immense network of short long waves which Italian genius has thrown across oceans and continents? Why let it block the path of those landscapes of colour form sound which circumnavigate the world thanks to radio and television? The defenders of pasta are shackled by its ball and chain like convicted lifers or carry its ruins in their stomachs like archaeologists. And remember too that the abolition of pasta will free Italy from expensive foreign grain and promote the Italian rice industry.
b) The abolition of volume and weight in the conception and evaluation of food.
c) The abolition of traditional mixtures in favour of experimentation with new, apparently absurd mixtures, following the advice of Jarro Maincave and other Futurist cooks.
d) The abolition of everyday mediocrity from the pleasures of the palate.
We invite chemistry immediately to take on the task of providing the body with its necessary calories through equivalent nutrients provided free by the State, in powder or pills, albumoid compounds, synthetic fats and vitamins. This way we will achieve a real lowering of the cost of living and of salaries, with a relative reduction in working hours. Today only one workman is needed for two thousand kilowatts. Soon machines will constitute an obedient proletariat of iron steel aluminium at the service of men who are almost totally relieved of manual work. With work reduced to two or three hours, the other hours can be perfected and ennobled though study, the arts, and the anticipation of perfect meals.
In all social classes meals will be less frequent but perfect in their daily provision of equivalent nutrients.
The perfect meal requires:
1. Originality and harmony in the table setting (crystal, china, décor) extending to the flavours and colours of the foods.
2. Absolute originality in the food.
Example: to prepare Alaskan Salmon in the rays of the sun with Mars sauce, take a good Alaskan salmon, slice it and put the slices under the grill with pepper, salt and high quality oil until golden. Then add halved-tomatoes previously cooked under the grill with parsley and garlic.
Just before serving place on top of the slices some anchovy fillets interlaced in a chequerboard pattern. On every slice a wheel of lemon with capers. The sauce will be composed of anchovies, hard-boiled egg yolks, basil, olive oil and a little glass of Italian Aurum liqueur, all passed through a sieve. (Formula by Bulgheroni, head chef at the Penna d'Oca).
Example: To prepare the Woodcock Mount Rosa with Venus sauce, take a good woodcock, clean it, cover its stomach with slices of prosciutto and fat bacon, put it in a casserole with butter, salt, pepper and juniper berries and cook in a very hot oven for 15 minutes, basting it with cognac. Remove from the pan and place immediately on a large square slice of bread soaked in rum and cognac, and cover it with puff pastry. Then put it back into the oven until the pastry is well cooked. Serve it with this sauce: half a glass of marsala and white wine, four tablespoons of bilberries and some finely-chopped orange peel, boiled together for 10 minutes. Put the sauce in the sauce boat and serve it very hot. (Formula by Bulgheroni, head chef at the Penna d'Oca).
3)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.
Example: the Sculpted meat created by the Futurist painter Fillia, a symbolic interpretation of all the varied landscapes of Italy, is composed of a large cylindrical rissole of minced veal stuffed with eleven different kinds of cooked green vegetables and roasted. This cylinder, standing upright in the centre of the plate, is crowned by a layer of honey and supported at the base by a ring of sausages resting on three golden spheres of chicken.
Equator + North Pole
Example: The edible food sculpture Equator + North Pole created by the Futurist painter Enrico Prampolini is composed of an equatorial sea of poached egg yolks seasoned like oysters with pepper, salt and lemon. In the centre emerges a cone of firmly whipped egg white full of orange segments looking like juicy sections of the sun. The peak of the cone is strewn with pieces of black truffle cut in the form of black aeroplanes conquering the zenith.
These flavourful colourful perfumed and tactile food sculptures will form perfect simultaneous meals.
4) The abolition of the knife and fork for eating food sculptures, which can give prelabial tactile pleasure.
5) 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.
6) 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.
7) 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.
9) 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.
10) The creation of simultaneous and changing canapés which contain ten, twenty flavours to be tasted in a few seconds. In Futurist cooking these canapés 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.
11) 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-violet 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 pulverize flours, dried fruits, drugs, etc.; atmospheric and vacuum stills, centrifugal autoclaves, dialysers. The use of these appliances will have to be scientific, avoiding the typical error 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.