This post was created in partnership with Zevia. All opinions are my own.
It’s finally cozy weather here in LA! In point of fact, I am wearing both a sweater AND a jacket at this very moment, and am choosing to completely ignore that it will once again be 80ºF by Thursday. I might even throw a blanket around myself for good measure. Before I cozy up to tell you all about this Zevia- and bourbon-infused sparkling pear sorbet, I want to talk a bit about collective imagination. Our imagination as a country. Our imagination post-childhood playtime. Our imaginative ability to problem solve.
Last Friday, I had the chance to attend Bitten: A Food Conversation, where speakers and audience convened to discuss issues of food, technology, and culture. There were so many exceptional presenters (some of you might remember clips from my Insta Stories), but one talk cut me a bit more deeply than the others.
Maude Standish, a trend forecaster at Fullscreen, spoke to us about futuristic trends in food. She couched the issues in terms of science fiction, but clarified just exactly what that term meant to her.
The Italian dictator didn’t like pasta. How could an Italian not like pasta? Mussolini’s goal for the future was to make Italy completely independent from the rest of the world in terms of resources, whether that meant conquering new territories or doing without. During the 1930’s Italy important an incredible amount of grain in order to feed Italy’s pasta obsession. Thus, in the 1930’s Mussolini began a campaign to rid Italy of pasta. Of course even though Mussolini was a powerful dictator, he couldn’t just ban pasta, such an act would lead to nationwide outrage. However, he did try to discourage pasta consumption by levying taxes on the food, and by personally encouraging people to stop eating eat. As a substitute, Mussolini advocated the consumption of rice, which he thought was easy to grow and more economical.
To spearhead his war on pasta, Mussolini turned to the Futurist Movement, an art and cultural movement whose aims were to modernize Italy. Often the Futurists and Italian fascists worked hand in hand to bring about political and cultural reform in Italy. The Futurists began a massive propaganda campaign which demonized pasta, making claims that it lessened virility, causes pessimism, and decreases ambition. The Futurist food movement could best be described by The Manifesto of Futurist Cooking, written personally by the Futurist Movement leader Filippo Marinetti. In it he not only offered alternatives to traditional Italian cuisine, but outlined the principles of what Futurist cooking was all about. Among its principles were the banning of pasta, the “use of perfumes and fragrances to enhance flavor”, the banning of the knife and fork, sculpted foods, especially meats, food that was to be looked at without being eaten, and the serving of food in small mouth sized portions. The Furturists even went into the realm of the bizarre, cooking foods in autoclaves, and using ozonizers to give foods the smell of ozone.
The Italian people were outraged by the movement, especially since most Futurist dishes were weird and tasted like shit. Whole towns and cities signed petitions, and people outright refused to give up pasta or give into to Futurist cuisine. The outrage of the Italian people reached fever pitch when Filippo Marinetti himself was once sighted eating a bowl of pasta. Mussolini’s war on pasta continued through the 1930’s up to World War II, but saw no significant success.
This isn’t a new trend, especially if you watch Food Network, which is a black, heartless pit of pretentious pomposity and Bobby Flay. For some reason shows like Chopped insist on featuring savory ingredients in desserts and vice-versa all the time. It’s weird and confusing and makes you wonder if there’s more to food than you realize until you try a lavender chocolate one day and realize it tastes like someone poisoned you with air freshener. No, exotic flavor mixes are not necessary in the grand scheme of eating. Would you like a quince and jicama smoothie infused with turkey bacon and flax? None of those words makes sense, not to a mind that relishes sanity.
The futurists of food agree, however, that this could be big in 2016. And it shouldn’t be, because it includes things like savory, vegetable-flavored yogurts and ice creams. These things have been slow to catch on over the last few years, but that doesn’t mean large-scale manufacturers aren’t willing to waste millions putting this shit out to market so we have to suffer through its existence for a few months until the brand goes belly-up and people realize savory unsavories are dumb as fuck.
Right now at places like OddFellows Ice Cream Co. in Brooklyn and the Bay Area’s Humphry Slocombe, you can get flavors like tobacco, smoked chili and huckleberry (that’s all one flavor), edamame, prosciutto melon, scallion, and delicious foie gras. In fairness, I have never sampled the ice cream at OddFellows, and maybe all of that shit is delicious. Maybe. Maybe somehow the food engineers at OddFellows are so advanced they made a foie gras ice cream that, upon sampling, would prompt me to say, “Ooh, what a delight!” instead of spitting it like snake venom across the room and cursing, “Fuck this vile organ-meat-flavored shartsicle!” It could happen. It’s possible that someone made ground-organ-meat-flavored ice cream I’d enjoy. The world is full of wonders and shit. Let’s all take a moment to jizz on a rainbow.