Wednesday, October 12, 2011


On Monday I went to lunch with Vincent, the other Irish guy in my class. We went to a very nice traditional Italian restaurant just around the corner from school. It was a very pleasant meal, introduced by a selection of delicious antipasti. As my next linguistic destination after I have mastered French is likely to be Italy (while I was in Ireland, the Dublin cousins lobbied enthusiastically on behalf of Bologna, on the grounds that Russia was still overrun by gangsters, and that other Italian cities would be overrun by tourists), I have since given some thought to the quality of Italian cuisine. During my desultory internet research, I came across the following article, about the Italian futurist, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, possibly best-remembered as "the man who tried to ban pasta".


I strongly suggest you read the article, which is short, and hilarious throughout, for yourself. Here is one of my favorite parts, a description of some of the menu items in the "Tavern of the Holy Palate", the restaurant that Marinetti founded and ran in Turin, with some of his other futurist buddies:

Eating was made a sensual experience. The food was sculptured in shape and colourful, and perfumes enriched its taste and smell. The diner was stimulated by eating a startling combination of sweet and savoury flavours while stroking a piece of velvet, silk or sandpaper during his meal. However, as speed was of the essence, a serving might be merely one mouthful or less. Knives and forks were abolished and traditional kitchen equipment was replaced by scientific implements like ozonizers to make food smell like ozone or ultraviolet ray lamps to activate vitamins.

Marinetti's main objective was, however, to abolish pasta. He believed pasta ‘mentally paralysed' the Italians and made them lethargic, pessimistic and sentimental. He thought that those who defended pasta were ‘shackled by its ball and chain like convicted lifers, or carry its ruins in their stomachs like archaeologists.' For him, being anti-pasta was part of being anti-past.

Marinetti's no-pasta menus included dishes like Taste Buds Take Off, a soup of stock, champagne, and grappa decorated with rose petals; the Excited Pig, a whole salami cooked in strong espresso coffee, flavored with eau-de-cologne; Chicken Fiat, a chicken roasted with ball bearings inside and garnished with whipped cream; and Italian Breasts in the Sun, two half-spheres of almond paste each with a fresh strawberry in the centre, sprinkled with black pepper.

There is a hilarious discussion of the futurist menu in this extract from the incomparable QI:

QI Season I Episode 2

The food discussion begins at around the 11:45 mark, but I highly recommend watching the whole segment, and any other episodes of QI you can find. It has to be among my all-time favorite TV programs. Unavailable in the U.S., most past episodes are available on YouTube.

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