Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Back to the Future.

Today, November 15 …

In 1930 the Italian Futurists launched their “Manifesto of Futurist Cooking” in Milan. Futurism was a 20th century artistic movement that had as fundamental notions a hatred of anything rooted in the past, and a love of change, speed, noise, and machines. In things gastronomical this meant bizarre combinations of ingredients (sardines with pineapple, mortadella with nougat), arranged as edible sculptures representing such things as “Earth + North Pole”, and “Alaskan Salmon in the sun with Mars sauce”, the total sensory experience of the meal being enhanced with dynamic olfactory, tactile, sound and light devises and surprises.

The dishes – as was intended – were controversial and shocking, but they were nothing compared with the outrage felt throughout Italy at the Futurists major victim – pasta itself, which they said was “heavy, brutalising, and gross” and inducing of “sloth and pessimism”. The Mayor of Naples’ response was simple: “the angels in Paradise eat nothing but vermicelli al pomodoro”, he said.

The combination of tomatoes and pasta is actually quite new, gastronomically speaking. Before the discovery of the New World, tomatoes were unknown in Europe, and the first actual written recipe for the combination of tomatoes and pasta is in 1839!

So – what did Italians eat with pasta, before tomatoes? Bartolomeo Sacchi, better known as Platina - a papal librarian, not a cook, wrote “On Right Pleasure and Good Health” in about 1475. He gave a recipe for pasta dough, made from white flour, egg white, rosewater and plain water, which could be used in various ways.

On Vermicelli.
Beat flour in the same way as above. When it is beaten separate into bits with your fingers. You will call these bits vermiculi [worms], then place in the sun. When they are well dried, they will last two or more years. When they have been cooked for an hour in rich broth and put in a dish, season with ground cheese and spices, but if there is a fast day, cook with almond juice and goat’s milk. Because milk does not require much cooking, first make it boil a little in water, then add the milk, When they have cooked, remember to sprinkle with sugar. The cooking of all pastas made from flour is the same. They may be somewhat coloured with saffron, unless they have been cooked in milk.

Tomorrow …Tea-time memories.

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