Performa ’09 Futurist Banquet: NYTimes Blog (review)


February 23, 2009, 11:09 am

The Future Arrives on Park Avenue

Intuitive antipasti.

Matt Weingarten, the chef at Inside Park at St. Bart’s, is no Ferran Adrià or Heston Blumenthal. He’s a passionate locovore, not an avant-garde chef.

But on Friday he came up with special effects which were not his normal repertory — like scented sprays to accompany a skewer of fennel and kumquats.

He had been handed the “Futurist Cookbook” by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, written in 1932.

The result was a dinner for 100 guests, mostly people in the arts, that was organized by Performa, a performance art organization founded by RoseLee Goldberg.

Matt WeingartenMatt Weingarten plates “dates in moonlight.”

It was kicking off its 2009 season with this celebration of the centennial, to the day, of Marinetti’s “Futurist Manifesto,” a political and cultural tract that was published in 1909.

The manifesto and the cookbook worshipped technology and speed. Futurism was not just machine-age modern, discarding stodgy bourgeois values, it was also anti-feminist, tainted with fascism, and determined to eradicate pasta, which it blamed for causing unhealthy “lassitude” and “nostalgic inactivity” in Italy.

At the dinner there were some exclamatory readings and lots of Jazz Age music. The recipes from the cookbook, “edible art” by so-called “aeropoets” and “aeropainters,” could easily inspire molecular gastronomes today, as they did the avant garde of the 1930’s.

Among the 18 dishes were pulled rabbit seasoned with cocoa on a bed of spinach puree (“hunting in heaven”), a honeyed panna cotta topped with radishes and black grapes and served as the room was bathed in green light (“milk in a green light”), boned pheasant stuffed with mostarda fruits (“futurist pheasant”), and arancini the size of tennis balls from a recipe called “the bombardment of Adrianopolis.”

To Mr. Weingarten’s credit, the food was all surprisingly tasty, a feature that might have appalled Marinetti, and which is often rare at didactic meals like this one. “I’m having a blast here,” Mr. Weingarten said in the kitchen, as he was setting out rows of dates stuffed with ricotta (“dates in moonlight”).

Bompas & Parr, a team from London, created individual “Marinettian bombes” of jellied Campari, orange and silver leaf for dessert.

The drinks were a highlight. One cocktail, “the great waters,” and quite a zinger at that, consisted of equal parts grappa, gin, kummel (a caraway liqueur) and anise liqueur in a martini glass with a garnish of puff pastry filled with anchovy. “I’m thinking of putting it on the menu,” Mr. Weingarten said. “It’s really good.”

But then, it’s hard to imagine embracing futurist food and being cold sober.

UPDATE:

A Futurist plateful of fascism via The Telegraph Blog by Ian Douglas

Futurist Banquet at the British Library in 2008

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