Chapter 2. Time Changes Everything: Futurist/Modernist Cooking
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45 Chapter 2 Time Changes Everything Futurist/Modernist Cooking Carol Helstosky Therefore we do not want Italian cooking to remain a museum. We affirm that Italian genius can invent another 3000 dishes,equally good,but more in keeping with the changed sensibility and changed needs of the contemporary generation. —Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, The Futurist Cookbook1 Cooking, like art, is a transformative and dynamic process, intended to surprise, delight, or sometimes provoke the consumer. And, like art, cooking has deployed and directed our creative energy; gastronomy was, and remains, both an art and a science. For much of its history, gastronomy negotiates between innovation and surprise on the one hand, and familiarity and tradition on the other. Some food and art historians have noted the imbalances in those negotiations, particularly when the creator has stressed innovation, surprise, and even shock in preparing and presenting food. Outrageous or avantgarde cooking movements failed to make an immediate impact on food consumption habits, leaving many historians at a loss in terms 46 Taste of Art of explaining the broader significance of such thinking and practice.2 Such was the case with Futurist cooking,which emerged in 1930s Italy, full of ideas about revolutionizing Italian food traditions.For decades, historians of fascism and later, historians of Italian food, have either dismissed or attempted to contextualize Futurist ideas about food and its preparation, yet the ideas and menus comprising The Futurist Cookbook (La Cucina Futurista) evade a thoroughgoing historical interpretation. Was Futurist cooking an elaborate joke, an extended commentary on fascist food policies,a wake-up call to hungry Italians, performance art, or something else entirely? This chapter proposes to compare Futurist cooking with the more recent practice of Modernist cuisine or cooking, also referred to as molecular gastronomy, in the hopes that such a comparison will lay down the foundations for a history of avant-garde or nontraditional food.Such a history takes seriously the continuity of ideas about food, preparation techniques, and the relationship between food and politics . A comparison between Futurist and Modernist cooking reveals striking similarities between the two; both utilized food to direct or control the diners’ minds and bodies, both relied on diverse forms of technology,both deconstructed and reconstructed well-known dishes and dining situations,both elicited simultaneous emotional and intellectual responses to their creations. Both, this chapter argues, sought to challenge the diner to rethink the meaning of food during the eating experience. Both transcended the typical achievements of gastronomy in moving beyond the invention of new unexpected dishes through an emphasis on the newness of a technique or an attitude with regard to eating. Lastly, both Futurist and Modernist cooking regard food and the consumption of food as artistic practices,suitable for extraordinary times as well as the everyday. The comparison takes seriously the idea that Futurist cooking was, indeed, an avant-garde philosophy of food consumption, more readily understood decades after its debut as a culinary call-to-arms against bourgeois mediocrity.3 Put another way, the Futurist appropriation of cooking for revolutionary purposes comes into sharper focus when compared to more recent trends in Modernist cooking, which also have revolutionary implications. Although the two culinary revolutions were decades apart and occurred under very differ- Time Changes Everything 47 ent circumstances, their similarities reveal much about the meaning of avant-garde cuisine, in particular, the transformation of food for the purpose of thinking with, and about, food. Futuristcookingwaspartof theso-calledsecondwaveof Futurism, which debuted as a radical artistic movement with Filippo Marinetti’s daring manifesto of Futurism in 1909. Futurism as an artistic movement had a complex affiliation with Italian fascism. Both Futurism and fascism advocated the completion of the revolution of possibilities begun in the trenches and battlefields of the FirstWorldWar: violence and struggle were life affirming, and men had a duty to destroy the last remnants of bourgeois civility and political habits. Although Futurists were some of the most ardent supporters of the early fascist regime, individual members were never wholly satisfied with Benito Mussolini’s more pragmatic revolution, thinking that the Duce didn’t go far enough in his policies or prerogatives. Decades old and almost a decade into the fascist revolution, the Futurist artistic movement had become middle aged. Futurists, themselves middle-aged with families,turned their attention to cooking and Italian food habits with the“Futurist Manifesto of Cooking,”launched in December of 1930 by Marinetti and Luigi Colombo (Fillìa) on the pages of La Gazzetta del Popolo in Turin. In...