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Nonfiction in Brief

THE FUTURIST COOKBOOK by F.T. Marinetti Translated by Suzanne Brill (Bedford Arts Books: $29.95 cloth; $19.95 paper; 176 pp.)

December 24, 1989|SONJA BOLLE

"We stand on the last promontory of the world!

"We will glorify war--the world's only hygiene!

"We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind . . .

"We will sing of great crowds excited by work, by pleasure, and by riot . . . "

These are not lyrics from the latest rock band, but an excerpt from the first Futurist Manifesto, published in 1909 by Italian Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. In the years that followed, the Futurist movement united artists determined to sweep away 19th-Century Romanticism and drag society forcefully into a new world where technology ruled and all sentimental attachment to convention would be swept away. The main aesthetic principles of the Futurists were excess and shock value.

The "Futurist Cookbook," a late device of the exuberant iconoclast Marinetti, was published in 1932. It promotes nothing less than a revolution in food, from table settings to eating habits. The recipe for the edible food sculpture "Equator + North Pole" describes "an equatorial sea of poached egg yolks . . . In the center emerges a cone of firmly whipped egg white full of orange segments looking like juicy sections of the sun. The peak of the cone is strewn with pieces of black truffle cut into the form of black aeroplanes conquering the zenith." To enhance the eating experience, La Cucina Futurista recommended music and perfumes selected for maximum impact.

It is difficult to ignore Marinetti's militaristic inclinations. The more poetic recipes read like short stories, but others have the ring of speeches (the author in fact toured Europe advocating Futurist Cooking and would have made no mean carny barker). Although Marinetti took issue with some aspects of Fascism, he was a passionate nationalist and a follower of Mussolini. The violence associated with with Futurism did not remain on the theoretical level only with Marinetti, either in his life or in his writing. One "recipe" describes the brutalizing of a diner who only wants to eat his meal in peace. The violence also turns up in more playful fashion in the recipe for "Fire in the Mouth," which calls for "cherries previously rolled in cayenne pepper." A document of an avant-garde art movement, "The Futurist Cookbook" makes food the raw material for art, and art the herald of ideology.

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