Behind The Blue Door

Statement Dining | November 13, 2015 |

Dare you try The Futurist dinner party – aesthetics and food?

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futurists

As welcomes go, it’’s an unusual one. Arriving at a dinner party, the host asks you to remove your clothes and put on a pair of pyjamas made from sandpaper.

You’’re led to a dark, empty room and invited to choose a dinner partner by touch alone – discovering that your fellow diners are clad in sponge, cork or felt.

Once in the dining room, having seen your companion for the first time, you’’re served a ‘polyrhythmic salad’ – a box of undressed lettuce leaves, dates and grapes. You have no cutlery but on the side of the box is a crank, which you are asked to turn with your left hand, while eating with your right. Cranking the box produces music and the waiters dance to this until the course is finished.

Next comes ‘magic food’, served in small bowls covered with tactile materials. It’’s a bit like a high-stakes packet of Revels; guests pick out caramel balls unpredictably filled with different ingredients, such as dried fruits, raw meat, garlic, mashed banana, chocolate or pepper.

The third course is a plate of cooked and raw green vegetables, which the guests must eat without hands, burying their faces in the produce, so that they feel it on their faces and lips. Each time they raise their head, cow-like, to chew, the waiters spray their face with perfume.

Culinary modernism

If you thought Heston Blumenthal and El Bulli’’s Ferran Adria were pioneers when it came to looking at food in a new way, think again.

These ideas were just a few of those outlined in The Futurist Cookbook, published by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1932. It’s translation into English in 1989 means adventurous arty types have been able to experiment with his offbeat – and tongue in cheek – suggestions at dinner parties ever since.

When it came to Futurist food, Frenchman Jules Maincave was the forerunner. His own manifesto predated Marinetti’’s by almost 20 years and he was equally determined to sweep away the old ways, proclaiming, “’We shall send forth the rays of our sunshine into the lairs of your kitchens and the gloom will vanish. We shall overturn your buffet tables! We shall pull down your ovens! We shall throw your plague-ridden pastries and pus-filled phials into the river!”’

Try a Futurist-inspired dinner

If you’’re not brave enough to host your own (see below), Jessica Palmieri has written an inspiring guide to where to find Futurist food in Rome, published by Italian Futurism (see image above).

Host your own

If you want to host your own Futurist dinner party, your guests will need to be extremely open-minded and not very hungry.

Marinetti’’s obsession with extreme aesthetics meant he prescribed very small portions. He banned pasta, claiming it caused laziness and pessimism, abolished the knife and fork and was very keen on sculpted foods, more appealing to the eye than the palate. In fact, some of the dishes were never intended to be eaten at all but were simply there to tease.

The setting

One of Marinetti’’s ‘formulas’ placed the diners in a mock aircraft, complete with vibrations and tilted seats and tables, to challenge preconceived ideas.
Replicating this at home would please the Futurists – perhaps seating your guests at different heights, or putting blocks under the table legs to tilt it.

Techniques

As befits the Futurists’’ passion for science and modernity, use as much technology as you can to impress your guests. Marinetti would have loved the microwave.

Recipes

Website FWx has gleaned a few recipe suggestions from the book, although Marinetti did advocate the use of “’nutritional equivalents . . . in the form of pills or powders”’.

Zoological Soup

‘“Pastry in animal shapes, made of rice flour and eggs, filled with jam and served in a hot pink broth spiked with a few drops of Italian eau de cologne.”’

Intuitive Antipasto

“’Hollow out an orange to form a little basket in which are placed different kinds of salami, some butter, some pickled mushrooms, anchovies and green peppers.’ The basket perfumes the various elements with orange. Inside the peppers are hidden little cards printed with a Futurist phrase or a surprising saying. (For example: ‘Futurism is an anti-historical movement’, ‘Live dangerously’, ‘With Futurist cooking, doctors, pharmacists and grave diggers will be out of work’.)”

Cubist Vegetable Patch

“’1. Little cubes of celery from Verona fried and sprinkled with paprika;
2. Little cubes of fried carrot sprinkled with grated horseradish;
3. Boiled peas;
4. Little pickled onions from Ivrea sprinkled with chopped parsley;
5. Little bars of Fontina cheese; nb The cubes must not be larger than 1 cubic centimetre.”’

Spring Paradox

‘A big cylinder of plain ice cream has peeled bananas standing on top of it to look like palm trees. Hide some hard-boiled eggs, with their yolks removed and filled with plum jam, among the bananas.”’

If you’’re willing to try an off-the-wall experiment, Marinetti’’s half-manifesto half-joke might provide a diverting evening. Otherwise, content yourself with enjoying the enduring legacy of art given to us by the Futurists.

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Shop the Story

You may not wish to venture as far as the Futurists, but you can bring a more subtle hint of artistic whimsy to your table with the Mythical Creatures range, designed for Wedgwood by Kit Kemp.

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