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Futurist Cookbook

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Salvador Dali 
The futurists' shopping list: salami, rose petals, and steel balls.




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Radical Light -  National Gallery -2009

For a maverick Italian with fascist leanings, cooking was a revolutionary act

What is an "intuitive antipasto"? Filippo Marinetti, author of The Futurist Cookbook (first published 1932), instructs us to hollow out an orange and place in it different kinds of salami, some butter, some pickled mushrooms, anchovies and green peppers. Inside the peppers you hide little cards printed with futurist sayings, such as "Futurism is an anti-historical movement" or "With Futurist cooking, doctors, pharmacists and gravediggers will be out of work".

Marinetti did not only propose that we should eat his words; he suggested eating each other, too. His recipe for "Strawberry Breasts" features a pink plate with two breasts formed from ricotta that has been dyed pink with Campari, and nipples of candied strawberry. He adds: "More fresh strawberries under the covering of ricotta make it possible to bite into an ideal multiplication of imaginary breasts." In his recipe "Carrot + Trousers = Professor", he tells us to build a sculpture of a raw carrot standing upright, the thin part at the bottom, to which two boiled aubergines are attached with a toothpick so as to look like violet trousers in the act of marching: "Leave the green leaves on the top of the carrot to represent the hope of a pension. Eat the whole thing without ceremony!"

What would Marinetti have made of the Slow Food movement? His Futurist Cookbook celebrates not so much fast food as radically new approaches to art inspired by what seems now an almost romantic belief in the possibilities opened up by technology. The cookbook embodies a revolutionary manifesto, strongly flavoured with violence, racism, misogyny and anti-feminism, that calls on Italians to liberate their lives, culture and language from tradition and convention.

Marinetti's dalliance with fascism prompted successive generations of Italians to try to ignore him. The English edition of his work, translated by Suzanne Brill and edited by Lesley Chamberlain, came out in 1989. So we can judge for ourselves how successful Marinetti was in creating a harsh, passionate, would-be-shocking voice with which to extol fantastic inventions such as the aeroplane, the motor car, the cinema and the telephone, to call for radical transformations in every area of life. Cooking was a metaphor, a cookbook an elaborate joke. Out went pastoralism and sentimentality; in came dynamism, speed, conflict.

Marinetti remains more compelling as an artist than as a tub-thumping iconoclast. Male preachers, whether priests or vanguardists, tend to be a tiresome lot. But a poet/performer who can imagine roses in the soup, or candied atmospheric electricities, or raw meat torn by trumpet blasts, can whet our appetites

If the Marx brothers had ever taken to food writing, they might have produced something very like F.T. Marinetti’s marvellously slapstick work, The Futurist Cookbook. The provocative (and regrettably Mussolini-approved) Italian artist Marinetti was infatuated by all things sleek, sharp, electronic, and shiny, but he was also an avowed enemy of pasta, which he denounced as a pathetic Italian addiction to nostalgia and tradition. Instead, he preferred his Futurist meals to combine the radical use of colour, shape, music, lighting, and ideas, leaving taste and nutrition off the list entirely. In fact, the modern vitamin supplement industry should make Marinetti a patron saint: He argued that all sustenance should come from pills, freeing up food to be the raw material of art, preferably to be consumed while listening to the soothing hum of an airplane engine.

His oddball cuisine debuted in the first (and only) Futurist restaurant, in 1929 Turin — an angular, alumina-plated interior called La Taverna del Santopalato, or Tavern of the Holy Palate. It was an event Marinetti considered on a par with the discovery of America and the fall of the Bastille (“the first human way of eating is born!”) His cuisine was then replicated at various Futurist events across Europe, to the horror of many pasta-lovers, and his 1932 cookbook has both delighted and mystified gastronomists ever since.

Some recipes can be visualized fairly easily, such as his sculpted meat skyscrapers with geraniums on skewers. But other recipes are more conceptual:

Aerofood: A signature Futurist dish, with a strong tactile element. Pieces of olive, fennel, and kumquat are eaten with the right hand while the left hand caresses various swatches of sandpaper, velvet, and silk. At the same time, the diner is blasted with a giant fan (preferable an airplane propeller) and nimble waiters spray him with the scent of carnation, all to the strains of a Wagner opera. (“Astonishing results,” Marinetti says. “Test them and see.”)

Taste Buds Take Off: A soup of concentrated meat stock, champagne, and grappa, garnished with rose petals — “a masterpiece of brothy lyricism.”

Italian Breasts in the Sunshine: Two half spheres of almond paste, with a fresh strawberry at the centre or each, sprinkled with black pepper.

Chicken Fiat: A chicken is roasted with a handful of ball bearings inside. “When the flesh has fully absorbed the flavour of the mild steel balls, the chicken is served with a garnish of whipped cream.”

Beautiful Nude Food Portrait: A crystal bowl filled with fresh milk and the flesh of two boiled capons, all scattered with violet petals.

Equator + North Pole: “An equatorial sea of golden poached egg yokes” surrounds a cone made of whipped egg whites. This is “dotted with orange segments like succulent pieces of the sun” and black truffle carved to look like airplanes.

The Excited Pig: A “whole salami, skinned” is cooked in strong espresso coffee and flavoured with eau-de-cologne.

Candied Atmospheric Electricities: Brilliantly-coloured bars of marbled soup, filled with sweet cream.

Diabolical Roses: Red roses, battered and deep-fried.

Simultaneous Ice-Cream: Vanilla dairy cream and little squares of raw onion frozen together.

Marinetti was not entirely indifferent to the romance of fine dining, and does include a “Nocturnal Love Feast” in his cookbook. The meal, which should be eaten at midnight on the island of Capri, climaxes with a cocktail called the War-in-Bed — a relatively appetizing blend of pineapple juice, egg, cocoa, caviar, red pepper, almond paste, nutmeg, and a whole clove, all mixed in the yellow Strega liqueur. He declares that modern women (preferably sheathed in dresses made of gold graphic patterns) will inevitably be won over by the intellectual rigor of Futurist cooking, describing one beautiful donna’s wide-eyed response: “I’m dazzled! Your genius frightens me!”

Although Marinetti’s reputation suffered thanks to his embrace of Italian fascism and his taste for macho posturing, the goofy humour of his cookbook would influence a generation of younger artists, most notably the Spaniard Salvador Dalí. Dalí wrote obsessively about the connection between food and art, providing recipes for a Venus de Milo made from hard-boiled eggs (imagine the pleasure, he explained, of biting into her yolky breast) and championing the Art Nouveau style of Antonio Gaudí as a form of edible architecture, “whose softness seems to beg ‘Eat me!’” He penned and illustrated his own cookbook (Les Diners de Gala, dedicated to his wife) and included loopy food imagery in many of his surrealist paintings, such as “Average French Bread With Two Fried Eggs Without the Plate Trying to Sodomize a Crumb of Portuguese Bread” (1932) and the famous “Soft Construction with Baked Beans: Spain, Premonition of Civil War” (1936). In the modern world, Dalí declared, “beauty will be edible or not at all.” • 13 February 2008,

SOURCE/FUTURE READING, Irwin, Robert, “The Disgusting Dinners of Salvador Dali,” Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, 1998, pp. 103-111; Marinetti, F.T., (ed. Chamberlain, Lesley), The Futurist Cookbook, (San Francisco, 1989).


Tony Perrottet's new book, Napoleon's Privates: 2,500 Years of History Unzipped , is a literary version of a Cabinet of Curiosities (HarperCollins, July, 2008.) He is also the author of Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists  and The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Olympic Games

***

Futurism in Art was founded by Filippo Tomaso Marinetti on Feb. 20, 1909.

(All authorities, including the Encyclopaedia Britannica, agree upon this date.)

Signor Marinetti's original, epochal "Futurist Manifesto" was published by Le Figaro of Paris. Last week his new manifesto appeared in Gazzetta del Popolo of Turin.

Major premise of the new Futurism: -

ABOLITION OF ALL PASTE FOODS (PASTA ASCIUTTA), SUCH AS SPAGHETTI, RAVIOLI, LAZAGNA RIPIENA, RIGATONI, LINGUE DE PASSERA AND PASTINA.

Minor premise: "Rapid presentation, under the noses and eyes of guests, of a great variety of foods, some of which will be eaten later, while some will not, thus tion." exciting curiosity, surprise and imagination."

"Our ultimate goal," proclaimed Futurist Marinetti, "is the creation of a wholly new cuisine based upon synthetic foods.

As rapidly as they can be dispensed with, we shall do away with all so-called 'natural food.' " To make himself clear Futurist Marinetti pointed out that the "natural transportation" provided by the horse has been almost entirely superseded by "synthetic transportation."

In marking out spaghetti as the first objective of his onslaught Futurist Marinetti, shrewd, sought to ally himself with the "dynamic urge" of the Fascist movement. "We must provide for the Italian people," he declared, "dishes which will make them dynamic! Spaghetti and all such foods induce torpor, pessimism and skepticism."

In Naples, spaghettiest of Italian cities, wrathful editors roasted Filippo Tomaso

Marinetti — a dangerous thing to do, for the Founder of Futurism was a member of Benito Mussolini's first Fascist council, is still a close friend of the Dictator.

For years Il Duce has urged Italians to eat less spaghetti because it is made largely from imported wheat, has recommended as a substitute rice of which Italy produces a surplus.

Conscientiously the English correspond ent of the London Morning Post filed an objective report of Futurist Marinetti's doings, added his personal conviction : "No man or movement can unwind spaghetti from the heart of Italy."