When Italian Futurists Declared War on Pasta (1930)

We must fight against pud­dles of sauce, dis­or­dered heaps of food, and above all, against flab­by, anti-vir­ile pas­ta­s­ciut­ta. —poet Fil­ip­po Tom­ma­so Marinet­ti

Odds are Fil­ip­po Tom­ma­so Marinet­ti, the father of Futur­ism and a ded­i­cat­ed provo­ca­teur, would be crest­fall­en to dis­cov­er how close­ly his most incen­di­ary gas­tro­nom­i­cal pro­nounce­ment aligns with the views of today’s low-carb cru­saders.

In denounc­ing pas­ta, “that absurd Ital­ian gas­tro­nom­ic reli­gion,” his inten­tion was to shock and crit­i­cize the bour­geoisie, not reduce bloat and inflam­ma­tion.

He did, how­ev­er, share the pop­u­lar 21st-cen­tu­ry view that heavy pas­ta meals leave din­ers feel­ing equal­ly heavy and lethar­gic.

As he declared in 1930 in The Futur­ist Cook­book:

Futur­ist cook­ing will be free of the old obses­sions with vol­ume and weight and will have as one of its prin­ci­ples the abo­li­tion of pas­ta­s­ciut­ta. Pas­ta­s­ciut­ta, how­ev­er agree­able to the palate, is a passéist food because it makes peo­ple heavy, brutish, deludes them into think­ing it is nutri­tious, makes them skep­ti­cal, slow, pes­simistic… Any pas­tas­cuit­tist who hon­est­ly exam­ines his con­science at the moment he ingur­gi­tates his biquo­tid­i­an pyra­mid of pas­ta will find with­in the gloomy sat­is­fac­tion of stop­ping up a black hole. This vora­cious hole is an incur­able sad­ness of his. He may delude him­self, but noth­ing can fill it. Only a Futur­ist meal can lift his spir­its. And pas­ta is anti-vir­ile because a heavy, bloat­ed stom­ach does not encour­age phys­i­cal enthu­si­asm for a woman, nor favour the pos­si­bil­i­ty of pos­sess­ing her at any time.

Bom­bast came nat­u­ral­ly to him. While he tru­ly believed in the tenets of Futur­ismspeed, indus­try, tech­nol­o­gy, and the cleans­ing effects of war, at the expense of tra­di­tion and the pasthe glo­ried in hyper­bole, absur­di­ty, and showy pranks.

The Futur­ist Cook­book reflects this, although it does con­tain actu­al recipes, with very spe­cif­ic instruc­tions as to how each dish should be served. A sam­ple:

RAW MEAT TORN BY TRUMPET BLASTS: cut a per­fect cube of beef. Pass an elec­tric cur­rent through it, then mar­i­nate it for twen­ty-four hours in a mix­ture of rum, cognac and white ver­mouth. Remove it from the mix­ture and serve on a bed of red pep­per, black pep­per and snow. Each mouth­ful is to be chewed care­ful­ly for one minute, and each mouth­ful is divid­ed from the next by vehe­ment blasts on the trum­pet blown by the eater him­self.

Intre­pid host Trevor Dun­sei­th doc­u­ments his attempt to stage a faith­ful Futur­ist din­ner par­ty in the above video.

Guests eat sal­ad with their hands for max­i­mum “pre-labi­al tac­tile plea­sure” before bal­anc­ing oranges stuffed with antipas­to on their heads to ran­dom­ize the selec­tion of each mouth­ful. While not all of the fla­vors were a hit, the par­ty agreed that the expe­ri­ence wasas intend­edtotal­ly nov­el (and 100% pas­ta free).

Marinetti’s anti-pas­ta cam­paign chimed with Prime Min­is­ter Ben­i­to Mussolini’s goal of elim­i­nat­ing Italy’s eco­nom­ic depen­dence on for­eign mar­ketsthe Bat­tle for Grain. North­ern farm­ers could pro­duce ample sup­plies of rice, but nowhere near the amount of wheat need­ed to sup­port the pop­u­lace’s pas­ta con­sump­tion. If Ital­ians couldn’t grow more wheat, Mus­soli­ni want­ed them to shift from pas­ta to rice.

F.T. Marinet­ti by W. Sel­dow, 1934

Marinet­ti agreed that rice would be the “patri­ot­ic” choice, but his desired ends were root­ed in his own avant-garde art move­ment:

… it is not just a ques­tion of replac­ing pas­ta with rice, or of pre­fer­ring one dish to anoth­er, but of invent­ing new foods. So many mechan­i­cal and sci­en­tif­ic changes have come into effect in the prac­ti­cal life of mankind that it is also pos­si­ble to achieve culi­nary per­fec­tion and to orga­nize var­i­ous tastes, smells and func­tions, some­thing which until yes­ter­day would have seemed absurd because the gen­er­al con­di­tions of exis­tence were also dif­fer­ent. We must, by con­tin­u­al­ly vary­ing types of food and their com­bi­na­tions, kill off the old, deeply root­ed habits of the palate, and pre­pare men for future chem­i­cal food­stuffs. We may even pre­pare mankind for the not-too-dis­tant pos­si­bil­i­ty of broad­cast­ing nour­ish­ing waves over the radio.

Futurism’s ties to fas­cism are not a thing to brush off light­ly, but it’s also impor­tant to remem­ber that Marinet­ti believed it was the artist’s duty to put for­ward a bold pub­lic per­son­ae. He lived to ruf­fle feath­ers.

Mis­sion accom­plished. His anti-pas­ta pro­nounce­ments result­ed in a tumult of pub­lic indig­na­tion, both local­ly and in the States.

The Duke of Bovi­no, may­or of Naples, react­ed to Marinetti’s state­ment that pas­ta is “com­plete­ly hos­tile to the viva­cious spir­it and pas­sion­ate, gen­er­ous, intu­itive soul of the Neapoli­tans” by say­ing, “The angels in Heav­en eat noth­ing but ver­mi­cel­li al pomodoro.” Proof, Marinet­ti sniped back, of “the unap­pe­tiz­ing monot­o­ny of Par­adise and of the life of the Angels.”

He agi­tat­ed for a futur­is­tic world in which kitchens would be stocked with ”atmos­pher­ic and vac­u­um stills, cen­trifu­gal auto­claves (and) dia­lyz­ers.”

His recipes, as Trevor Dun­sei­th dis­cov­ered, func­tion bet­ter as one-time per­for­mance art than go-to dish­es to add to one’s culi­nary reper­toire.

There is a rea­son why Julia Child’s Coq a Vin and Tarte Tatin endure while Marinet­ti’s  Excit­ed Pig and Black Shirt Snack have fall­en into dis­use.

Uh… progress?

As Daniel A. Gross writes in the Sci­ence His­to­ry Institute’s Dis­til­la­tions:

Marinet­ti sup­port­ed Fas­cism to the extent that it too advo­cat­ed progress, but his alle­giance even­tu­al­ly wavered. To Marinet­ti, Roman ruins and Renais­sance paint­ings were not only bor­ing but also anti­thet­i­cal to progress. To Mus­soli­ni, by con­trast, they were polit­i­cal­ly use­ful. The dic­ta­tor drew on Ital­ian his­to­ry in his quest to build a new, pow­er­ful nation—which also led to a nation­al cam­paign in food self-suf­fi­cien­cy, encour­ag­ing the grow­ing and con­sump­tion of such tra­di­tion­al foods as wheat, rice, and grapes. The gov­ern­ment even fund­ed research into the nutri­tion­al ben­e­fits of wheat, with one sci­en­tist claim­ing whole-wheat bread boost­ed fer­til­i­ty. In short, the pre­war dream of futur­ist food was tabled yet again.

Get your own copy of Fil­ip­po Tom­ma­so Marinetti’s The Futur­ist Cook­book here.

via Men­tal Floss

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Sal­vador Dalí’s 1973 Cook­book Gets Reis­sued: Sur­re­al­ist Art Meets Haute Cui­sine

MoMA’s Artists’ Cook­book (1978) Reveals the Meals of Sal­vador Dalí, Willem de Koon­ing, Andy Warhol, Louise Bour­geois & More

Recipes from the Kitchen of Geor­gia O’Keeffe

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. See her as a French Cana­di­an bear who trav­els to New York City in search of food and mean­ing in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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