We've eaten some pretty weird stuff at Weasel Villas, but this was the first time that our dining table was laden with food that exalted "the geometric splendour of speed" and "the aesthetics of the machine".
First to appear was my version of the Cubist Vegetable Patch (a demanding arrangement of fried carrots, fried celery, pickled silverskin onions and cold boiled peas). Then followed Mrs W's interpretation of the Bombardment of Adrianopolis (deep-fried rice balls, each containing half an anchovy, three capers, a slice of mozzarella and two olives). The dessert course was my pièce de résistance. "Oh," said Mrs W when she caught her first glimpse. "I was hoping you were not going to do that ridiculous sexist pud." It was a disappointing reaction. The two impressive mounds of Campari-tinged ricotta, each with a strawberry peeping through at the summit, were, in my opinion, a most persuasive rendition of the dish called Strawberry Breasts.
"We artists don't care a fig for bourgeois sensibilities," I retorted. Anyway, it could have been worse. It could have been the Excited Pig ("a whole skinned salami served upright on a dish containing some very hot coffee mixed with a good deal of eau de cologne"), Simultaneous Ice-Cream ("dairy cream and little squares of raw onion frozen together") or Sicilian Headland (a paste of tuna, apples, olives and nuts spread on cold jam omelette). These daunting dishes all come from Filippo Marinetti's famous but rarely utilised Futurist Cookbook (1932). I was prompted to try some of the less-challenging inclusions by an event associated with the British Library exhibition Breaking the Rules: The Printed Face of the European Avant Garde 1900-1937. On Tuesday evening, 120 people of adventurous spirit and cast-iron digestions will, for £75 apiece, tackle a Futurist meal prepared by Giorgio Locatelli. Normally, I would not be tempted to compete with the great Giorgio, but La Cucina Futurista is different. It is food as manifesto.
Marinetti, the leader and mouthpiece of the Futurists, was very fond of manifestoes. The first Futurist Manifesto of 1909 was inspired when he crashed his car. Much like Mr Toad's transformative collision in The Wind in the Willows ("Poop poop"), Marinetti was intoxicated by the experience: "When I came up – torn, filthy and stinking – from under the capsized car, I felt the white-hot iron of joy deliciously pass through my heart!" Repulsed by the tourist's Italy that we all still seek, the Futurists wished to "sing of the vibrant nightly fervour of arsenals and shipyards blazing with violent electric moons..." The finest artwork produced by a Futurist was Boccioni's Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913), a semi-abstract bronze of a figure in fluid motion, but this dynamic movement lost impetus after the First World War. Marinetti's urgent pronunciamentos about various aspects of Italian life – the Futurist Manifesto of the Italian Hat advocated headwear made of cork, glass, sponge and neon tubing – were increasingly ignored until he turned to the topic of food.
The Futurists wanted to abolish cutlery, but it was their repudiation of pasta – "it ties today's Italians with its tangled threads to Penelope's slow looms" – that prompted headlines around the world. Italian housewives marched against the proposed abolition. In San Francisco, the staff of two Italian restaurants fought a pitched battle over macaroni. Oddly, considering his insistence that pasta caused "weight, big bellies and obesity", Marinetti recommended risotto. Possibly this was not unconnected with the fact that he lived in Milan near the paddy fields of the Po Valley, but we should not look for logic in Futurist cuisine. Lesley Chamberlain's introduction to the first English translation of the Futurist Cookbook (1989) points out that this "serious joke... overturned with ribald laughter everything that 'food' and 'cookbooks' held sacred." Such irreverence towards the likes of Gordon, Marco and Jamie is needed now more than ever. The only trouble is that Marinetti was nuts. He was not only in love with modernity but violence (the cookbook includes a photograph of him fighting a duel in 1924). An anarchic egoist and relentless poseur, he flirted on and off (usually on) with Fascism. With typical bravado, he volunteered for the Russian front in 1942 at the age of 66.
While struggling to construct the Bombardment of Adrianopolis, Mrs W said that many Futurist dishes were the kind of thing a child might make if allowed free range in the kitchen: "They're like recipes from the Funny Face Cookbook." This certainly seems to be the case with Steel Chicken, which is cold roast chicken filled with "200gms of silver hundreds and thousands". The nearest I could find was a cake decoration called Pink'n'Pretty Sparkles, which was scarcely in keeping with the "courage, audacity and revolt" of Futurism.
And our Futurist meal? Marinetti's Inventina cocktail – stir together equal parts asti spumante, pineapple liqueur (I used a mixture of pineapple juice and gin) and orange juice – went down rather well with Mrs W. "Like Buck's Fizz, but quite a bit nicer." The Cubist Vegetable Patch, based on a geometric design in the cookbook, was appealing to both eye ("like Clarice Cliff pottery") and palate: "Quite interesting. Heinz Russian Salad without the mayonnaise." Akin to arancini rice balls, the Bombardment of Adrianopolis was a most acceptable antipasto. Mrs W even came round to Strawberry Breasts: "Er, quite nice, though I prefer my Campari in Campari & soda." The Futurist Cookbook proved surprisingly palatable. Next step: Simultaneous Ice-Cream. Buon appetito – and long live steel!Reuse content