To talk about the Manifesto of Futurist Cuisine a premise must be made about the movement that originated it. The Futurism was a cultural movement that went on to explore all forms of expression - including gastronomy - born in Italy in 1909 with the poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and its Futurist Manifesto. In this they extolled technology, declared unlimited faith in progress and extolled dynamism, industry, speed, nationalism, militarism and war. The latter, in particular, was defined 'the only hygiene in the world'. 

The Manifesto of Futurist Cuisine: ideas and ideals

While the first phase of Futurism was mainly built on a warmongering, anarchic and fanatical ideology with no shortage of violent episodes, the second phase embraced the fascist regime without receiving much consideration from its hierarchs. Unlike in Italy, in Russia Futurism was characterised by a utopian idea of peace and freedom, both individual and collective, so much so that a large proportion of Russian Futurists adhered to the Bolshevismwhich the Italian left-wing futurists also did.

A movement so articulate and imbued with a desire for self-assertion could not but touch every aspect of life, and so it also entered the kitchen, considered an art to be equated with the noblest.  On 20 January 1931, Marinetti published the Manifesto of Futurist Cuisine in the magazine Comoedia. Here is an excerpt:

"(...) I announce the forthcoming launch of Futurist cuisine for the total renewal of the Italian food system, to be made as soon as possible suitable for the needs of the new heroic and dynamic efforts imposed by the race. Futurist cuisine will be freed from the old obsession with volume and weight and will have, as one of its principles, the abolition of pasta. The pastasciutta, however pleasing to the palate, is a passatist food because it weighs down, it brutalises, it deludes on its nutritional capacity, it makes one sceptical, slow, pessimistic. On the other hand, it is patriotic to favour rice as a substitute".

Curiously, Marinetti was photographed at the Biffi Restaurant in Milan intent on eating a plate of spaghetti with his fork only a short time after the Manifesto came out in which the use of cutlery was also condemned.

Manifesto of Futurist Cuisine

The Battle of Grain between Futurism and Fascism

The Battle of Wheat, a campaign to promote wheat cultivation, was launched by the Fascist regime in 1925 with the aim of achieving food sovereignty. As successful as the campaign was, wheat consumption was still unsustainable with only wheat produced in Italy and so the consumption of rice (which was produced in abundance) was encouraged.

Manifesto of Futurist Cuisine The Battle of the Grain

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Manifesto of Futurist Cuisine: the subscribers

The first chef to join Futurism was the Frenchman Jules Maincave in 1914, who later also opened his own Futurist restaurant with Marinetti (Taverna del Santopalato in Turin). Maincave described Futurist cuisine as an original harmony of the table, understood as all the objects that compose and decorate it, with the flavours and colours of the food. He therefore created new combinations of separate tastes for no obvious reason, with the aim of surprising and providing new stimuli. His dishes include mutton fillet with shrimp sauce and banana with gruyere.

Futurist Cuisine called for chemistry to find new ways of nourishing the body through the use of powders and pills that would save money, perhaps a prelude to the impending, at times coeval, autarky. It also invited the use of music between meals and a preference for poetry over conversation, especially about politics. The signature dish of Futurism was the carneplastic, a vertical cylinder of veal stuffed with eleven types of vegetables, topped with honey and supported by three balls of chicken meat on which rested a ring of sausage.

Manifesto of Futurist Cuisine

In this dish, each element seemed to have been added in its own right as if it had been composed by playing the exquisite corpse. In the juxtaposition of flavours and forms, futurist cuisine sought the superfluous by creating deliberately inedible dishes where the originality was provided by a sensory and realistic chaos.

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From Futurist Cuisine to Nouvelle Cousine to Molecular Cuisine

The legacy of futurist cuisine, however, with its quest for refinement and harmony of composition, with the integration of chemistry into recipes (additives, preservatives) and the use of technological tools for chopping or emulsifying, would be picked up first by Nouvelle Cousine, then by Molecular Cuisine and finally transposed into the cuisine of the third millennium, both industrial and gourmet. Even if in an absolutely extravagant way, futurist cuisine acted as a forerunner to all those chefs who sacrificed taste for form, in the wake of elevating the figure of the chef to the status of artist after the artists themselves proposed themselves as chefs, as did for example Fillìa (pseudonym of Luigi Colombo born in Revello in 1904 and died in Turin at the age of just 32, a Futurist poet and painter who signed with Marinetti the Manifesto of Futurist Cuisine and the book Futurist Cuisine) with carneplastic.


Photo credits:

All images are taken from Wikipedia, with the exception of the last picture of the carneplastic, which is taken from the website Taccuini Gastrofisici.