Inside the Intentionally Scandalous 1932 “Futurist Cookbook”

In 1932, a charismatic and provocative Italian poet declared war on his country’s most sacred idol: pasta. It was “an absurd Italian gastronomic religion”, decried Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in The Futuristic Cookbook, and those known to enjoy the “old-fashioned” dish were “melancholic types” who “carry its ruins in their stomachs like archaeologists”. They suffered from “incurable sadness”, he railed against his compatriots. And they were weak, pessimistic and maybe even helpless.

In short, the pasta was emasculating. And emasculation had no place in Italian Futurism, the bizarre, nationalist art movement founded by Marinetti in 1909 on the belief that Italy could never win primacy if its weak men were so preoccupied with history. and tradition. For a strong, futuristic Italian to exist, Marinetti wanted everything that celebrated the country’s heritage to be literally destroyed – museums, libraries, even spaghetti.

When he published The futuristic cookbook 90 years ago and featured his controversial dishes and instructions on what and how to eat, he sought to spark a culinary upheaval in “the Italian way of eating and [produce] the new heroic and dynamic forces required of the race. In other words, he wanted Italian men to eat a certain way in order to fulfill his nationalist and sexist vision of Italy’s future. The futuristic cookbook wasn’t meant to be an instructive cookbook or a worn-out book in Milan’s kitchens. Widespread offense was the point. And not only has Marinetti been successful in its endeavors, but consider some of the sleek pre-made foods in our diet — energy drinks and nutritional supplements, to name a few. You’ll find that his recipes foreshadowed current food-as-fuel trends that aim to rip pissed off men out of their decidedly effeminate way of life and transform them into more balanced and imperial personas.

An early believer in the philosophy that “you think, you dream and you act, according to what you drink and eat”, Marinetti believed that the food should characterize “absolute originality” and propel the restaurant towards higher levels of consciousness (how woowoo). The recipes included in the incendiary cookbook would undoubtedly leave him – almost certainly a him – in a bewildered state.

In “Carrot + Pants + Professor”, a “formula” devised by another futurist poet known as Farfa, a raw carrot is served upright with two boiled eggplants secured to its bottom with a toothpick. It gets cheekier: the plump eggplants are meant to mimic “walking purple pants,” he explains, and the carrot tops, “the hope of a pension.” Together, they make a teacher, who is part of the “smelly gangrene” of history-obsessed professions from which Marinetti wants to “liberate this land”.

Virtually nothing, edible ingredient or otherwise, is off limits for a futuristic dish. (Except the pasta.) Marinetti generously includes blueprints drawn by futuristic artists to help visualize even the most incomprehensible dishes; one of them is the “Tennis Chop”, in which a veal cutlet, an anchovy and a banana are arranged in a downright gruesome way to look like a racket.

“Tennis Chop”, a formula featuring a veal cutlet cooked in butter and cut in the shape of a tennis racket. An anchovy with a slice of banana on top forms the handle. Cherries dipped in liqueur and rolled in ricotta, egg and cheese form a ball.
The Futuristic Cookbook (Penguin Modern Classics)

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