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Franky in New York

The Beautiful Life
  

Who doesn't love Italy for its food, namely pasta? Well, 90 years ago an artistic avant-garde, Futurism, not only blazed the trail towards brand new forms of expression. It also tried to revolutionize the most typical Italian culinary traditions, producing the Manifesto della Cucina Futurista that had one threatening motto: "Aboliamo la pastasciutta!" (Give Up Pasta!). Artistically, Futurism was a genius idea. Gastronomically, Futurist Cooking was maybe too avant-garde. Nevertheless, its legacy has arrived to us, and we can see its fruits and our tables - from which pasta has not disappeared, for the general relief...

Welcome to a new issue of The Beautiful Life: let's explore together Futurist Cooking, and in what way it still has its say among contemporary cuisine. Bon appetit!
To fully understand why Italians are so much into food, we must take a giant leap backwards. To ancient Rome, to be exact. Romans used the verb "còquere" meaning "to cook": from it comes the word "coquina", that in Italian has become "cucina" (coo-chée-nah, "kitchen" in English). The "coquina" was the actual core of the house rather than a single room: the fireplace was there, with all its practical and symbolic meanings. No doubt the fireplace had to be in the centre for multiple reasons, from having an open space to disperse smoke to being close to the water tank. But the fireplace was also where the gods protector of the family were believed to dwell. Now do you get why Italian kitchens, and what spins around them, are sacred places?
Of Giving Up Pasta

and Other Stories

It was all about speed. And breaking the rules. And liberating the Italian lyrical genius. The Futurist art avant-garde broke into the cultural scene like a cyclone in the first decades of 1900. At the helm, the poet and art theorist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who envisioned a movement able to take the streets, attack the theaters, and "bring the fist into the midst of the artistic struggle." But Futurism was not only about art: along with Luigi Colombo (under the stage name of Fillìa), Marinetti founded the Futurist Cooking movement and wrote the Manifesto della Cucina FuturistaFuturist Cooking Manifesto, based on the belief that cooking and eating needed to serve the Futurist aesthetic. "People think, dream, and act according to what they eat and drink " stated Marinetti, who imagined any dining experience as a performance that deserved to be unique. In the crosshairs of Marinetti's Manifesto ended pasta, accused of causing "lassitude, pessimism, and lack of passion." There's a historic reason too: back then Italy was struggling with a massive economic crisis and Mussolini tried hard to reduce the country's dependency on foreign wheat supplies.

That said, Futurist Cooking was revolutionary in many ways, starting from setting the table in the pursuit of harmony. Each course was meant to be a work of art, sculptured or painted, so that imagination might stimulate appetite. All the five senses had to be enhanced: no forks nor knives were admitted to amplify touch, while an abundance of perfumes would titillate smell. Taste would be intense but portions reduced, in a genius anticipation of the finger food-to-be, and not all the courses displayed were to be eaten, as you're not expected to consume a work of art. The "perfect meal" banned any discussions - politics on top - and allowed music and poetry with moderation. 
The diners would eat in a mock aircraft, whose engines' vibrations would stimulate the appetite. The tilted seats and tables would "shake out" the diners' preconceived notions, while their taste buds would be overwhelmed by the dishes listed on aluminum cards.
Do you think it's a madhouse? In 1931 Futurists actually opened a restaurant in Turin, the "Santopalato" (a kind of Holy Taste). It didn't last long, as the whole movement was vastly shunned by the public opinion. But we can't deny they sowed the future, and we are still reaping their fruits.
Would you fancy some "Astonished Sausages

in the First Snow with Zigzagged Spinaches?" 
Or you'd rather have a Tommaso Deplero's

"Futurist Aperitif", aka a "Chills Cup?" 
The Manifesto Is Still Among Us
He loves Futurists so much as an avant-garde, that for a long time he has thought they were the last ones who could be called true artists. Then he has spent some time in New York, and not only has he discovered more art: he has found out a new way to cook, eventually embracing the Futurist lesson. Massimo Bottura, restaurateur, founder and chef patron of Osteria Francescana, cooks with deep roots in traditions, but always seeks for innovation and - why not? - provocation. This is where the "Memory of a Mortadella Sandwich" or the "Tortellini Walking on the Broth" come from. "I want to bring ideas to the table, not culinary technique. Italian cuisine lies in centuries of tradition: I just pick the best of it, and bring it to the future." A contemporary Futurist? Maybe, but for sure he doesn't give up pasta.

More on Massimo Bottura's restaurants at https://massimobottura.it/
What do Slow Food and Futurist Cooking, which is all about speed, have in common? Much more than one may think. Born more than half a century after Marinetti's movement, Slow Food was founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986 to counteract the surge of fast food. As the Futurists, Slow Food wants to educate the public to think - and consequently eat - in unconventional ways, seeking for the pleasure that good food can provide, and that goes well beyond filling our stomach. To know more about Slow Food philosophy, go to https://www.slowfood.com/
Eat Like a Futurist
Futurists may not loved pasta, but for sure they liked meat a lot - the more revisited the better. This is how they turned the super classic Sunday polpettone, aka meatloaf, into the carneplastico. Do you want to give it a try?
Follow this recipe from https://cateringgrasch.it/la-cucina-futurista/ and you too can eat like a Futurist.

Ingredients
  • Minced meat, enough for 1 meatloaf
  • 11 types of vegetables (use any kind of vegetable you like, but be sure it's exactly 11 different types)
  • 1 sausage
  • 3 chicken legs
  • Wildflower honey 

Clean the vegetables and stew them in a pan altogether, just paying attention to different cooking times depending on the chosen varieties. Let them cool, then use them as a filling for the meatloaf you will prepare and cook in the oven.
Meanwhile, cut the sausage in half and roast it on the grill until the two halves bend under the heat. Boil the chicken thighs and bone them so that you can shape three balls of meat.
Once the meatloaf is ready, move on to the futurist dish composition: put the three chicken balls on the bottom, form a ring with the two sausage halves on top and then on this base, place the meatloaf vertically. Serve it with the melted honey on top.

The journey is not stopping. I AM Books, the Boston bookstore that's also a cultural hub for the Italian heritage, adds a new destination to Our Voyage: Italian American Stories, a 10-event series in partnership with NIAF, focusing on Italian American authors and literary themes. Tomorrow, Thursday May 26, at 7 pm, Italian American Writers Association’s Maria Lisella, Julia Lisella, and Jennifer Martelli, will be in conversation to discuss the group’s work and the impact it has on the Italian-American writing communities of New York and Boston.
To participate, go to https://iambooksboston.com/events/ and register.

Did you know that Washington D.C. hosts an Italian American Museum honoring the legacy, preserving the history, and celebrating the cultural heritage of Italian Americans in the nation's capital? The museum develops on four floors, each one dedicated to different aspects of the Italian heritage: the Italian footprint in D.C., the emigrant experience, a community of faith, and a community of artists. If you are in the area and you feel like joining a guided tour, you'd better not miss this event on Saturday, June 4th, at 11 am, held by NOIAW, the National Organization of Italian American Women. Museum director Elizabeth DiGregorio will lead you, spotlighting among the others four NOIAW's Wise Women: Anita Bevacqua McBride, former Chief of Staff to First Lady Laura Bush, Ambassador Constance Morella, Angela Puglisi and Amy Guadagnoli. Registrations at https://www.noiaw.org/cultural-events/
Each Story Needs to Be Told

Your story needs to be told, and so does your loved ones’. Now you have the opportunity of making it count. Be part of our new project, the Italian American Who’s Who: the first collection ever of all the Italian American stories. A massive loving tribute to the community and a way to preserve your family’s memory for future generations. This is the first comprehensive recognition to a community that has left such an undeniable mark in this country, no matter the original background. And it’s not just about legacy: Who’s Who will also help in reconnecting family members and friends who have lost touch over the years and in expanding one’s own network.

FIND OUT MORE

One for the Road

His name is R1, and he may be your guide if you happen to visit Palazzo Madama in Turin. R1 is the "son" of the Italian Institute of Technology based in Genoa: he is a 4'1" guy, weighs 55 pounds, and his body is equally made of plastic and carbon fiber. Projected to work at home and in offices, R1 will guide visitors through the Piano Nobile and the china galleries, offering them additional multimedia content - and possibly posing for a selfie too...

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