As a survey currently on view at the Guggenheim reminds us, Italian Futurism ranks among the more bizarre art movements in history. The Futurists were fascist and pro-war, they saw cars as the ultimate aesthetic achievement and, perhaps most scandalously, they were vehemently anti-pasta. Italy's traditional cuisine had weighed its people down, they believed, making them nostalgic and sluggish. To combat this culinary complacency, the movement’s founder, F.T. Marinetti, published a cookbook in 1932 to offer "brand-new food combinations in which experiment, intelligence and imagination will economically take the place of quantity, banality, repetition and expense."
But while the Futurist diet is certainly inventive, it’s not so easy to maintain. The recipes ban forks and knives, incorporate perfume and music, and often require chemistry and sculpture skills. Fortunately, Marinetti threw many Futurist banquets to demonstrate the principles of his cooking manifesto, which is part of the Guggenheim exhibition “Italian Futurism 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe” (up through September 1). Perhaps the show will even inspire a few adventurous visitors to host their own Futurist-themed dinner parties; here are a few original Futurist recipes to get started.
"Pastry in animal shapes, made of rice flour and eggs, filled with jam and served in a hot pink broth spiked with a few drops of Italian eau de Cologne."
"Hollow out an orange to form a little basket in which are placed different kinds of salami, some butter, some pickled mushrooms, anchovies and green peppers. The basket perfumes the various elements with orange. Inside the peppers are hidden little cards printed with a Futurist phrase or a surprising saying. (For example: 'Futurism is an anti-historical movement,' 'Live dangerously,' 'With Futurist cooking, doctors, pharmacists and grave diggers will be out of work,' etc.)"
Cubist Vegetable Patch
"1. Little cubes of celery from Verona fried and sprinkled with paprika;
2. Little cubes of fried carrot sprinkled with grated horseradish;
3. Boiled peas;
4. Little pickled onions from Ivrea sprinkled with chopped parsley;
5. Little bars of Fontina cheese; N.B. The cubes must not be larger than 1 cubic centimetre."
"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’ necks with a perfume of carnations while from the kitchen comes contemporaneously a violent sound of an aeroplane motor and some music by Bach."
White and Black
"A one-man-show on the internal walls of the stomach consisting of free-form arabesques of whipped cream sprinkled with lime-tree charcoal. Contra the blackest indigestion. Pro the whitest teeth."
"A big cylinder of plain ice cream has peeled bananas standing on top of it to look like palm trees. Hide some hard-boiled eggs, with their yolks removed and filled with plum jam, among the bananas."
(Recipes interpreted by the author from the 1989 Suzanne Brill translation of The Futurist Cookbook.)