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Cuizine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures / Cuizine : revue des cultures culinaires au Canada

Volume 1, numéro 2, 2009

Direction : Nathalie Cooke (editor in chief)

Rédaction : Lara Rabinovitch (managing editor)

Éditeur : McGill University Library

ISSN : 1918-5480 (numérique)

DOI : 10.7202/037852ar

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Article

Canadian Cosmopoiesis: Meditations on Cuisine and Architecture

Marco Frascari

Abstract

Architecture and cuisine manifest themselves in the making; both evolve and last in the form of memories, tastes, and time, which generate cosmopoietic feats able to fashion signifying universes out of the sensual material of the world, and both are based on thinking with things rather than thinking about things. They are expressions of the human sapience for transforming terrestrial materials and products into edifying substances. They are both world-making expressions of a “maternal region” and, consequently, Canadian architecture can be understood through Canadian cuisine and Canadian cuisine through Canadian architecture.

Résumé

L’architecture et la cuisine se révèlent par la matière. Elles évoluent et persistent en souvenirs, en goûts et dans le temps créant ainsi des fastes cosmospoïétiques capables de concevoir, grâce à la matière sensuelle de ce monde, des univers éloquents. Et l’essence même de l’architecture et de la cuisine force à réfléchir avec la matière plutôt qu’à la matière. Elles symbolisent la sapience grâce à laquelle l’homme transforme la matière et les produits matériels en substances exemplaires. Elles représentent, en elles-mêmes, les univers de leur région natale et conséquemment, on arrive à saisir l’architecture canadienne par le truchement de la cuisine canadienne, et inversement.


“Cooking, like architecture, manifests itself in building. The cook, like the architect, draws on an infinite array of creative resources, which make it possible to create wonders from basic construction materials. But even using the finest marble or the best caviar, success is not guaranteed. Architecture, like cooking, evolves and lasts in the form of memories, tastes, and temperatures.”

Ferran Adrià, head chef, El Bulli Restaurant, Roses, Spain[1]

“[la] gastrosophie est une science de la plus haute sagesse qui doit réunir aux lumières de la médecine et de l'agronomie celles de plusieurs autres sciences inconnues des civilisés….

Charles Fourier, Le Nouveau Monde Amoureux, 7:130

1

Many cultural and anthropological studies have focused on food design, but only as a material record of a culture and tastes, not as a source of epistemological understanding. The prevailing habit of classifying taste, touch, and smell as inferior senses to both sight and hearing belongs to a pattern of dichotomies that includes the ruling of mind over body, of reason over sense, of man over beast, and of culture over nature. This penchant has prevented the making of a firm epistemological emulsion from a slow mixing of knowledge and sapience within the bowl of human culture, or as my Italian grandmother—a great cook—will say, la maionese della cultura umana è definitivamente impazzita.[2] Knowledge, the convinced and rational understanding of a subject with the ability to use it for specific purposes, is the oil of this cultural mayonnaise and sapience, the ability to think about apperception, sensations, feelings, and inspirations, is the yolk.

2

Sapience is an erotically bittersweet word rooted in the Latin verb sapere, meaning both to taste and to know. Sapere is the present, active infinitive of sapiō (taste) and in Italian the result, sounding like a pun, is that there is only one vowel change between taste and knowledge—Sapore and Sapere. Using this pseudo-pun, Italo Calvino wrote a sensually conceived cultural short story regarding the epistemological nature of the sense of taste.[3]

3

Architecture and cuisine are based on thinking with things rather than thinking about things. The common denominator between these two arts is that both can be “thought within” or “thought about.” For instance, the distinction between thinking about architecture and thinking within architecture is the same that exists between thinking about materials and thinking with materials. If gourmet cooking is an expression of the human talent for transforming terrestrial materials into edible substances, and conceiving of cooking liturgies is thinking with materials, food science is merely thinking about materials. A cook thinks using the foodstuff on his or her table, whereas, in nutritional science, a dietician thinks using abstract denomination such as nutritional value or calories.

4

As the art of the transformation of earthly substances, cuisine rules the liturgies for transforming foodstuff into edible substances. Our alimentary imagination has an estimative character, a hedonic response that occurs immediately on stimulus contact, before we reflect on whether it warrants any gustatory evaluation. Rather than valuing what we ingest after the fact, we taste and in so doing we hedonically respond as the evaluative component of our tasting experience. The activity of architectural imagination partakes of the same pursuit of sensuous estimative instincts, since it is the transmuting of terrestrial materials into edifices. Architectural imagination is one of those critical faculties of the human mind that defies adequate explanation. To describe it as creative, conscious thought is inadequate and unclear, because architecture rules the liturgy for transfiguring inanimate building stuff into meaningfully sustainable expressions of human dwelling.

5

A sensitive, sensible, and sensual conception of architectural and culinary products is an assimilation of an elegant emulsion of knowledge and sapience. Individuals assimilate buildings and dishes. These assimilations are acts of proper cognitive musing, procedures of incorporation by which we ingest synesthetically the outside world into ourselves and transform it through the act of cosmopoiesis: in other words, an undertaking of world-making which always starts from worlds already on hand since the making of a novel dish or a new building is a remaking of a remaking of other dishes and buildings.

6

Architecture and cuisine are cosmopoietic feats able to fashion signifying universes out of the sensual material of the world. The world of senses begins in the periphery of our bodies and moves to inner and higher levels of perception. From there, in analogical manner, the senses rule the way we willfully and cleverly act in our world and form the basis for a sated human sapience. People working in the field of Artificial Intelligence and “natural stupidity” are aware of the weird and wonderful contradiction of a cloven Cartesian world. They know that it is easy to develop computer-processing systems that can substitute for the work of engineers, lawyers, and physicians; but it is an impossible task, plainly, a pure Sisyphean effort, to develop systems that can replace cooks and architects. Engineers, lawyers, and physicians establish their professions on sequences of logical steps or protocols worked out by deduction and induction, whereas cooks and architects practise imagination. They establish their profession on analogies, homologies, and demonstrative tropes generated by conjectural thinking that transcends imposed professional boundaries.

7

The way to comprehend culinary and architectural mysteries is to probe how the creative emulsion of knowledge and sapience ruling the work of cooks and architects is achieved. The cohesion is created by a tri-colloidal structure of emulsifiers. One is a theoretical intelligence that knows materials and procedures only in an abstract and intangible manner. The second is an experiential intelligence that knows material and procedures in an ostensive and tangible manner. Finally, the third emulsifier is a sensual intelligence that knows materials and procedures in a corporeal approach, which is to say an imaginative and bodily manner for assimilating sustenance and sustainability.

8

The architectural corporeal approach is a double entity that, on the one hand, is a caring practice, a natura naturans, and, on the other hand, is a genetic product, an offspring, a natura naturata.[4] This contrast between “creating nature” and “created nature” is translated in events taking place on the drawing table or on the stove. “Creating” becomes the drawing of buildings, and what is created becomes the building of drawings. The re-presenting of creative nature (natura naturans) and the presenting of created nature (natura naturata) haul architects into acts of perception that make architecture successfully interactive within a cultural framework, and allow the users to actively participate rather than passively view. In a parallel manner, the gastronomical approach to this dual nature is the conceiving of dishes resulting from the contrast between what takes place on the dining tables—the dishes, the created nature—and what happens in the kitchen—the cooking, the creative nature.

9

A few architects have begun to consider gastronomy as a theoretical analogue in their examination of the union of architecture's intellectual means with its sensual means. Two recent collections of essays tackle the multifaceted issues of the analogy: Eating Architecture, and The Architect, the Cook and Good Taste.[5] In the world of cuisine this reuse of the theoretical analogue goes back to the time of Marie Antoine (Antonin) Carême (1784-1833) who has been widely characterized as the Architect of Modern French Cuisine.[6] Such a categorization metaphorically points to Carême’s dominant role in the formation and rise of Modern French Gastronomy, but it also indicates his consideration for architecture and his search for the common ground existing between the disciplines of cooking and building. Carême carefully studied the architectural monuments of the past and designed elaborate table decorations called pièces montées (mounted pieces) as an outlet for his architectural passion. Those pieces comprised rotundas, temples, columns, and arches, constructed with sugar, icing, and pastry dough, all carefully designed with an architect’s eye, for Carême considered the art of confectionery to be “architecture’s main branch.”[7] From his position as master architect of French cuisine, he could afford to refuse the offer of a permanent job as chef to Czar Alexander I of Russia, for whom he had catered a succession of gastronomic feasts during his stay in Paris. Not to completely displease the Czar, however, Carême produced and dedicated to him a book of drawings of major Russian architectural landmarks. Carême found it necessary to improve the architectural and cultural environment of St. Petersburg.

10

However, this cultural acknowledgement of the relationship between eating and building dates back to medieval times, when Isidor of Seville, in one of his resourceful etymological plays, locates the origin of the house in the making of the dining room:

The ancients used the word aedes for any edifice. Some think that this word was derived from “eating” (edendo), citing as example Plautus: “If I had invited you home (in aedum) for lunch.” Accordingly, “edifice” (aedificium) because originally a building was made for eating (ad edendum factum).[8]

11

Isidore’s etymological analysis is fanciful. He links the analyzed name to unrelated words that merely have a similar sound or form in order to achieve the meaning he seeks. But this construction of meaning also reveals an indemonstrable intuition.

12

Peter Collins is one of the most learned architectural theoreticians you will ever encounter. He was professor of architecture at McGill University from 1956 to 1981. In 1965, he published a book entitled Changing Ideals in Modern Architecture, still commonly read as a major text on modernism that first appeared serially in the magazine Canadian Architect.[9] In the book, Collins lists four analogies for understanding architecture: mechanical, biological, linguistic, and gastronomic. The mechanical, biological, and linguistic were well-known, although through other terminologies, but the gastronomical introduced a novel approach. In his discussion of the many different launches of modern architecture, Collins locates the modern beginnings of the gastronomical analogy in a lecture given by a 19th-century Scottish architectural writer, James Fergusson. Talking to a group of Military Engineers, Fergusson makes a remarkable point regarding the true principle of architecture:

The process by which a hut to shelter an image is refined into a temple, or a meeting house into a cathedral, is the same as that which refines a boiled neck of mutton into côtelettes à l’impériale or a grilled fowl into poulet à la marengo. So essentially is this the case that if you wish to acquire a knowledge of the true principle of design in architecture, you will do better to study the works of Soyer or Mrs. Glasse than any or all of the writers on architecture, from Vitruvius to Pugin.[10]

13

Many architectural theoreticians have appreciated the quotation, but when it is re-quoted it is always used as a way for revealing a great intuition and rarely analyzed for its critical contents. Fergusson does not compare the alpha and omega of architectural theory of his time, Marcus Vitruvius Pollio–author of the only surviving Roman treatise on architecture–and Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin–an English architect, who contrasts medieval and neoclassical architecture to achieve modernity–with possible corresponding characters in the history of food preparation, such as Marcus Gavius Aspicius, author of a Roman treatise on cuisine art, and Marie-Antoine Carême, a sustainer of a modern approach in cuisine. Fergusson prefers to contrast the two selected architects with Alexis Benoît Soyer (1810-1858), a flamboyant French chef who became a renowned cook in Victorian London, and Hannah Glasse (1708-1770), the mother of the modern dinner party and the most successful cookery writer of the 18th century.

14

Biographies describe Soyer as one of the first great showman chefs. However, Soyer, who was the chef de cuisine at the Reform Club in London during the Crimean War, took a leave and joined the troops at his own expense to advise the army on healthy cooking. Together with Florence Nightingale, Soyer reorganized the provisioning of the army hospitals, designed his own field stove, the Soyer Stove, and trained and installed a Regimental Cook in every regiment so that soldiers would receive an adequate meal and not suffer from malnutrition or die of food poisoning. A few years before, during the Great Irish Potato Famine, he devised a soup kitchen and was asked by the government to travel to Ireland and implement his idea. While in Ireland, he published Charitable Cookery, a book that sold for sixpence a copy to raise money for charities helping the poor.[11]

15

Good ingredients, simple techniques, and quality dining available for all constituted the culinary gastrosophy held by Hannah Glasse. She is best known for her cookbook, The Art of Cookery, first published in 1747, a book reprinted within its first year of publication with twenty further editions during the 18th century. It continued to be published until the middle of the 19th century. Although Glasse rejected extravagance and wastefulness in cooking, she held that the careful presentation of dishes on the table was vital. Colours and shapes were meant to complement each other, and different dishes were always arranged symmetrically on the table. These gastrosophical manifestations were of the utmost importance, especially for the upwardly mobile middle class audience for whom Hannah Glasse wrote.[12]

16

These two chefs represent two different approaches, but both are concerned with a “weak gastrosophy.” The dominant western way of life aspires to supremacy and ascendancy. This pursuit characterizes modern western cooking as well, where gastronomy seeks a powerful image and impact. Introducing a philosophical approach that does not totalize the multitude of human discourses into a single scheme, the ironic Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo elaborated the concepts of “weak ontology” and “weak thought.”[13] Translating Vattimo’s concepts within a cooking cosmopoiesis, we can speak of a weak gastrosophy, or perhaps, more precisely, of a weak gastronomical image, as opposed to a strong gastronomical image. Whereas the latter desires to impress through an outstanding singular image and consistent articulation of dishes, the gastronomy of the weak image is contextual and responsive and, as in the Slow Food Movement, recognizes a strong material association between the conceiving and making of plates and the act of cosmopoiesis.[14] A weak cosmopoietic gastronomy is concerned with real sensorial exchanges instead of idealized and conceptual manifestations as in the art of cuisine initially elaborated by Carême, carried on by haute cuisine, and brought to its extreme by the formal appearances of the lightness of the nouvelle cuisine. A weak gastronomy grows and opens up from details of food elaboration, rather than the reverse process of closing down from concepts to the details. In the cosmopoiesis of weak gastrosophy the images arising from the foodstuff project are deeper and more profound experiences than images of food-form. Foodstuff evokes unconscious images and emotions, but modern gastronomy at large has been primarily concerned with visual biases. But, as theorized by the Catalan architect Ignazi Sola-Morales, who translated Vattimo’s thought in architectural theory, weak architecture is without visual bias and allows the inhabitants to understand architecture through crossmodal sensorial experiences that are achieved when inhabitants cease to be mere spectators and begin to be participants.[15] The main aim is for the inhabitant to understand architecture through slow, prolonged periods where a balance of the senses is achieved. The problem with the denigration of the corporeal in architecture is not simply that the fundamental relationship bonding food production and eating with architectural production and inhabitation fails to get the attention that it deserves, but rather that architects, as most chefs, are off-track. The belly-affirming architects and chefs—not the trenchermen, but the corporeal ones—do not waste time with universals. They begin within the inherited cultural sapience that their belly-quickening drawings or dishes seek to further. The body and its desire for food and architecture immerse us in the world, engage us in all sorts of interactions, and blur rigid boundaries between our surroundings and ourselves.

17

To further the understanding of corporeal thinking in architecture and in gastronomy, a crucial condition needs to be added to humans’ ability to assimilate into their minds and bodies both victuals and, at least figuratively, also buildings. The condition is that, in going to see architecture outside of their own region, architects cannot visit the buildings without properly tasting local dishes and wines. If Kenneth Frampton, a theoretician and historian of architecture, Ware Professor of Architecture at Columbia University, New York, is correct in advocating “critical regionalism” in architecture, a supreme circumstance for architects to develop such intelligence is to understand fully the relationship between regional foods and regional buildings.[16] To counter the lack of placeless meanings in architecture, critical regionalism proposes a way of conceiving architecture whereby contextual forces can give a sense of place and meaning to its edifices. A gastronomic analogy further elucidates this point. In France, regional products are called “produits du terroir.” It is a reference to a product presently made or sold in that particular locale, with geographic specificity given to culture and cultivations. Terroir defines a “maternal region” that is a stable entity founded on an authentic horizon and defined by an enduring trade with tradition in opposition to the imaginary transformations and cycles of market economy modes. Terroir, based on edenic humus, is an ethos, the genius loci. It is a unifying view encapsulating a certain approach to food that encompasses the almost metaphysical circle of soil, nature, appellation, and humanity. In this edenic place, human intermodal life is situated within a universe that fosters a synesthetic harmony among individual and actual places, genuine products and authentic practices. The genius loci transacts real-use values and not market-driven values dictated by logical and economical distinctions.[17] In most cases genius loci refers to a location’s distinctive atmosphere and the spirit of place, generally represented as a snake inhabiting the edenic humus of a region. This ethos captures all the forms of a terroir's imageability, a mix of memory and desire interpreted within an illo tempore mirroring of genetic presences.

18

In a metonymical mirroring, the locution “Bel Paese,” means Italy or a beautiful village, but is also the brand name of a cheese, a typical product of a Northern Italian terroir. The concept of paese is a renaissance invention for dealing with a landscape enclosed within a clearly defined environmental horizon of material and maternal culture. The array of definitions of the genetic dominion of a paese ranges from stones to cheeses, from time-honored liturgies of social events to habits of private rituals. This cultural and physical amalgam is based on a phenomenology of place, where the horizon is defined not geometrically but by overlapping areas of built culture and cultivated areas.[18]

19

The tradition of tagging pensioni–small lodges located in Italian summer or winter vacation resorts–with urban and regional culinary labels recalls the paese of the owner or the possible patrons’ interest in the materiality of a tradition. These resorts are more often than not places with surprising visual, recreational, and therapeutic qualities, but hardly any cultural presence or culinary history. In a complex manifestation of a Janus-like combination of cultural memory and affirmation of a territorial desire to set the quality of the quotidian against the sublime of the place, the small lodges are labelled as Pensione con Cucina Mantovana, Pensione con Cucina Bolognese, or Pensione e Cucina Toscana.

20

A parallel condition of the vacationlands of the Bel Paese is found in Canada, where the overwhelming number of restaurants serving ethnic food indicates how the immaterialities of traditions can become sources of new traditions. This parallelism is not merely physiognomic (kanata=paese=village) but is a way to discuss critically the manifold Canadian genius loci.

21

The same complex territorial concepts of memory and desire, cultivation and culture, are displayed in the typical self-tagging done by many Italian architects. Giambattista Piranesi, although living in Rome, always signed his works as “Architetto Veneziano.” Sebastiano Serlio, living and working all over Italy and France, always called himself “Architetto Bolognese.” Luigi Vanvitelli, son of the Dutch painter Gaspar Van Wittel, proudly declared himself always “Architetto Romano,” even after his relocation to Naples, because of his militancy in the Roman Academia of San Luca where he received his apprenticeship.

22

This complex construction means that regional qualities can be moved only by exporters, not by importers. Only native exporters can fruitfully transfer and transform those qualities to another region because only a long, native acquaintance translates synesthetically the tastes of the soil, the air, the water, and the vegetation of a region. These synesthetic perceptions are mixed and transformed in another region by acts of cooking or fermenting foodstuff or buildingstuff, producing subtle, yet recognizable, synesthetic flavours. These are the “creative manners” for setting changes and events within and without a given cultural region.

23

Venice, in its particular urban and cultural region, is a reminder of how often the controlled reverberates with a myriad of other genii loci. “Without any doubt, [Venice] can be called the theatre of the world,” claims the Venetian guide to the visitor in Francesco Sansovino’s dialogue, Delle cose notabili che sono in Venetia, published in Venice in 1561.[19] In Venice, however, the concept resonated with widespread perceptions of the city as a stage teeming with foreigners. At the end of the 15th century, Venice was the capital of a vast empire, a mercantile centre and a departure point for travellers to the East. As Giulio Ballino explained to readers of his book of city maps, Venice was “inhabited by an infinite multitude of people who come together for commerce from various nations, in fact from all the world. They use all languages and are dressed in different ways.”[20]

24

Venice also represents the ideal terroir, which mirrors the architectural and culinary aspects of il Bel Canada. This system of trading exports creates a tradition because an undertaking of cosmopoiesis always starts from worlds of terroir; the making of a novel Canadian dish or a new Canadian building is, and will be, a re-fabrication of another re-fabrication. Ottawa Chef John Taylor of Domus Café recognizes:

Finding the right suppliers and building the right relationships has taken many years and is an on-going pursuit. I invite you to join me in the experience of defining and growing the concept of Canadian Regional Seasonal Cuisine as each new discovery leads to its own unique rewards.[21]

25

One of the main dishes on the seasonal menu at the Domus Café is a “Daily Market Frittata…with roasted potato, house chutney & organic greens.”[22] On a similar creative mission, Canadian architects are developing their own versions of frittata with chutney–in other words, combining Western and Asian architectural qualities. Toronto architecture firm Shim-Sutcliffe Architects, for example, attempts to integrate local materials with architecture and landscape, and is achieving such feats in their constructions.

26

In response to the question “what is creativity?” Ferran Adrià, an internationally renowned Catalan Chef, bluntly answered, “creativity is not copying.”[23] Creativity is based on the harmonious trading among three intellectual measures: “adaptation, association and inspiration” through an elaboration of the manners of tradition.[24] By playing between mutable memory and unchanging change, these three measures generate a regional manner, a maniera.[25] Adrià demonstrates this manner of creation in a dish he elaborated, creating a new regional dish. The process begins with a classical dish of the Mediterranean shed in an Iberian mood: raw melon slices with shavings of Iberian salt-cured ham. This traditional dish is transformed as a melon soup made with ham stock and topped before serving with shavings of Iberian ham. Carlo Scarpa uses the same creative culinary manner with an alchemic twist in transforming a traditional plaster technique. Scarpa, an architects’ architect, a modern Italian architect with a profound understanding of Venetian materials, construction techniques, and cultural history, took the tradition of faux marble finishing (in Venetian: stucco lustro)—a water-based emulsion of lime putty containing marble flour and aged slaked lime, which offers the most dramatic colours and effects when applied in multiple coats and finished with a small stainless steel spatula—and made it a modern finishing. Scarpa changed the nature of the stucco lustro from being merely a despised, poor, material imitation into a finishing material of amazing qualities.

27

A recipe best explains the process by which this change took place. The stucco lustro is fundamentally lime putty coloured with natural or synthetic pigments. When any traditional lime plaster is troweled onto a wall, it quickly sets by means of a chemical reaction between the water and the lime. Further hardening of the surface takes place over the next few days as the plaster absorbs carbon dioxide from the air. A plaster surface is literally a layer of stone on a wall, more durable than drywall or any synthetic textured finish. Two characteristics distinguish Venetian plaster from other lime plasters. The first is the fineness of the particles. The limestone and marble dust in Venetian plaster are ground as fine as talcum powder. Because the particles are so small, the plaster can be worked with a trowel in a few layers almost as thin as a paint film. These thin layers are translucent, so if one colour is applied over another, the bottom layer shows through. The second distinctive characteristic of Venetian stucco lustro is the marble dust it contains. Burnishing Venetian plaster with a metal trowel aligns and compacts the hard marble particles, creating a shiny surface. A Venetian plasterer spends time perfecting this burnishing technique to create the classic Venetian plaster finish: about half matte and half shiny, with areas of complementary or contrasting colour showing through and thereby imitating marble surfaces. Scarpa’s architectural sapience saw that the essential nature of this artisan technique was comparable with the colour research developed by many modern painters. In a constant search to refine the visible and invisible nature of his tectonic tool, Scarpa found an analogous condition between the translucencies obtained by the use of the stucco lustro colours and the translucencies searched for by Mark Rothko during his mature period when he used rectangular fields of colour. For the stucco lustro used on the interior walls of the Banca Popolare in Verona, Scarpa used a heavily illustrated book of Rothko's paintings to challenge his dear friend Francesco De Luigi, a Venetian plasterer who produced almost all of Scarpa’s interior finishing.

28

Food and buildings stimulate our senses and emotions when we are in a state of distraction and our senses are tangled up in a systemic perception. Accepting the synesthesia incorporated in a regional understanding of architecture—eating a hot dog in front of Carlo Scarpa’s Olivetti Shop in Piazza San Marco in Venice—precludes the maturing of this quintessential intelligence. Only by crossing different modalities of perceptions is it possible to cognitively assimilate the nature of a paese. Eating a hot dog or a plate of pasta in the wrong terroir constitutes an act of cultural blindness, a refusal to enter sensuously into a regional harmony and a resistance to the authentic space of the terroir. Architectural tourists who are eating Scarpa’s work with their eyes while ingesting a hot dog are experiencing the wrong synesthesia. In front of such an architecturally-rich edifice, architects or future architects who would like to increase their appreciation of the power of res extensa in architecture should have a dish of risi e bisi, truly a doge’s treat.[26] Having had such a delectable dish, they can fully appreciate Scarpa’s masterpiece. In this manner, they finally have their “eyes in the belly,” the proper point of view for understanding the synesthetic makeup of res extensa.[27]

29

Many have noticed that apt proportions in sounds are harmonies for the ears and that in buildings proportional measurements are harmonies for the eyes. Such proportioned compositions are usually very pleasurable, without anyone knowing why, except for learners interested in the causality of things.[28] The same may be said of food proportions: in a dish, harmonies are created for the mouth, the nose, the eye, and even the ear to enjoy—food can be crunchy, tantalizing, luscious, fragrant, and tasty.

30

In building well and living well, proportions rule ethical dimensions and scales just as in cooking and eating, since proportions functionally relate the amount of ingredients, their size and weight, cooking sizes, and portions. The controlling powers are diet and properness. The first prominent dietician to discover the power of proportions was the Greek philosopher Pythagoras, who lived towards the end of the sixth century bce. Pythagorean ethics appeared between 490-430 bce.[29] The Epicureans, in their lifestyle punctuated by fine food and wines, also followed the Pythagorean proportional diet. A strict devotee of the Pythagorean diet was a food lover, the Franciscan Friar Carlo Lodoli (1690-1761). Lodoli was also a peculiar architectural theoretician whose motto stated: Funzione sia La Representatione (Function ought to be the Representation).[30] Lodoli’s delight in eating had been ironically exposed by Pietro Longhi in the foreground of his oil painting, “La Frateria di Venezia,” where Lodoli is portrayed munching something that Venetians would identify as a goloseso (a mouth-watering nibble of comfort food).[31]

31

Lodoli's radical architectural views represent the most important attempt to establish a practice of architecture based on Galileo's theories and research on the strength of materials and on the transformation of tectonic design from unsound principles of imitation to sound principles of materials substitution. The fundamental tenet of Lodoli’s “theory of substitution” is that the qualities of the materials and their constructive nature, rather than pleasant visual aesthetics, determine the proportions of building elements. In other words, Lodoli liked his golosesi made of really good stuff, rather than the deceptively good-looking cakes constructed with inedible sugar, icing, and pastry dough that were imposed through the contemporary practice of decorative confectionery. Lodoli’s architectural motto, funzione sia la rappresentazione, might be applied to victuals: nothing goes in the food if it does not have an edible function.

32

Architects and cooks use construction and cookery to make something out of unrelated ingredients. In other words, they are capable of converting what already exists into something that it was not before. This constitutes a powerful act of cosmopoiesis. Cosmopoiesis, a non-instrumental world-making, represents the very foundation on which our own humanity is built. We live in a constructed world that is an amalgamation of gods, people, stars, places, markets, foodstuff, and buildingstuff. It is the duty of cooks and architects to turn it into a poetically ordered whole, a cosmopoiesis. Cosmopoiesis is a heterodox approach to architectural and culinary theories by way of poetic formations and fabrications situated within a promising terroir full of “humours.” These humours, if properly distilled into the glassy alembic of the quotidian, can return the spirit of architecture and cuisine to their fundamental role of making humans happy.


Biographical notice

Marco Frascari is the Director of the School of Architecture at Carleton University.

 

Notes

[1]

(Author’s emphasis) Ferran Adrià, editorial review on Amazon.com site of J. Horwitz, P. Singley, eds. Eating Architecture, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/product-description/0262083221/ref=dp_proddesc_0?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books.

[2]

“The mayonnaise of human culture is definitely crazy.” In Italian impazzire means to be crazy or indicates that the emulsifiers did not work during the making of mayonnaise.

[3]

Published originally as “Sapore sapere” in the June 1982 issue of the Italian magazine FMR, it has been re-titled “Sotto il sole giaguaro,” and published in English in Italo Calvino, Under the Jaguar Sun, trans. W. Weaver (London: Vintage, 1992), 51.

[4]

For an individual of the Quattrocento “nature” had two aspects to be imitated. The first was a duality that had originated in Greek thought, the passive reality of our daily experience (natura naturata or created nature), and the second was the active power that directs and governs life as well as the growth of a work of art (natura naturans or creating nature). Naturans is simply the Latin word "natura" with an added participle ending. Natura Naturans in (awkward) English is “Nature Naturing,” and “Natura Naturata” is “Nature Natured.”

[5]

Jamie Horwitz and Paulette Singley, eds., Eating Architecture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004); Petra Hagen Hodgson and Rolf Toyka, eds., The Architect, the Cook and Good Taste (Basel: Birkhäuser, 2007).

[6]

Ian Kelly, Cooking for Kings: The Life of the First Celebrity Chef Antonin Carême (London: Short Books, 2004).

[7]

Carême was also concerned with details of kitchen equipment. He redesigned several kitchen utensils, created new molds, and even changed the shape of the saucepans used to pour sugar. “La base de l'architecture est la Patisserie,” Marie Antoine Carême, Le pâtissier royal parisien ou traité élémentaire et pratique de la pâtisserie ancienne et moderne: suivi d’observations utiles aux progrès de cet art et d’une revue critique des grands bals de 1810 et 1811, Paris, J. (Renouard et cie: 1841), 23.

[8]

Omne aedificium antiqui aedem appellaverunt. Alii aedem ab edendo quiddam sumpsisse nomen existimant, dantes exemplum de Plauto (Poen. 529): Si vocassem vos in aedem ad prandium. Hinc et aedificium, eo quod fuerit prius ad edendum factum.”

ISIDORI HISPALENSIS EPISCOPI ETYMOLOGIARUM SIVE ORIGINUM LIBER XV, III. DE HABITACVLIS,http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/isidore/15.shtml.

[9]

The book was also published in Italian and Spanish. I read it in Italian as soon as it was published in the prestigious book series of Il Saggiatore.

[10]

Peter Collins, Changing ideals in modern architecture, 1750-1950, 2nd ed. (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1998).

[11]

Ruth Cowen, Relish: The Extraordinary Life of Alexis Soyer, Victorian Celebrity Chef (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005).

[12]

Alan Davidson, Wilder Shores Of Gastronomy: Twenty Years Of The Best Food Writing (Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2002).

[13]

G. Vattimo, The End of Modernity. Nihilism and Hermeneutics in Postmodern Culture (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991).

[14]

Carlo Petrini, Slow Food: Collected Thoughts on Taste, Tradition, and the Honest Pleasures (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2001).

[15]

Ignasi de Solà-Morales, “Weak Architecture,” Differences: Topographies of Contemporary Architecture, Sarah Whiting, ed., trans. Graham Thompson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996).

[16]

Kenneth Frampton picked up the term “critical regionalism,” coined by the architectural theorists Alexander Tzonis and Liane Lefaivre. Frampton defends the “critical local culture of architecture” that resists “being totally absorbed by the global imperatives of production and consumption.” See Kenneth Frampton, “Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance,” The Anti-Aesthetic, Hal Foster and Port Townsend, eds., (Port Townsend, WA: Bay Press, 1983), and Kenneth Frampton, “Prospects for a Critical Regionalism,” Perspecta 20 (1983): 162.

[17]

For terroir see Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984); and The Practice of Everyday Life, Volume 2: Living and Cooking, trans. Timothy J. Tomasik (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998).

[18]

Piero Camporesi, “Dal paese al paesaggio,” Il paesaggio. Dalla percezione alla descrizione, R. Zorzi, ed., (Venezia: Marsilio, 1999), 21-44.

[19]

Francesco Sansovino, Delle cose notabili che sono in Venetia libri due (Venice: Domenico Imberti, 1561).

[20]

Giulio Ballino, De’ Disegni delle piu illustri citt`a, & fortezze del mondo (Venice: Bolognino Zaltieri, 1569).

[21]

Domus Café, Ottawa, Owner Profile Details, Jeff Tylor, Chef, http://www.domuscafe.ca/Contact/OwnerProfiles/tabid/2451/vid/95705cdd-e7d7-48bf-9ad6-430a9c50f142/Default.aspx (accessed August 9, 2009).

[22]

Domus Café, Ottawa, “Lunch Menu Summer 2009,” http://www.domuscafe.ca/Menus/ SundayMenu/tabid/2401/Default.aspx (accessed July 25, 2009).

[23]

John Carlin, “If the world's greatest chef cooked for a living, he'd starve,” Guardian Unlimited, December 11, 2006, http://observer.guardian.co.uk/foodmonthly/futureoffood/story/0,,1969713,00.html (accessed July 27, 2009).

[24]

Ibid.

[25]

I am referring to maniera independently from its traditional connection to use of the term Mannerism. Craig Hugh Smyth, Mannerism and maniera (Locust Valley, NY: J. J. Augusti, 1963).

[26]

Risi e bisi (rice and peas) is a classic Venetian dish. In the past it was prepared only on the feast days decreed by the Venetian Doge. Nowadays, one can now prepare risi e bisi any day, but the dish really shines with a glassy look only when freshly harvested baby peas are available.

[27]

An Old Italian adage states: first, you devour the food with the eyes (magiarselo con gli occhi) and then with the mouth, and mothers admonish their children before a festive meal not to have eyes bigger than their tummy (gli occhi più grandi della pancia).

[28]

R. Wittkower, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism (London: The Warburg Institute, University of London, 1949), 100.

[29]

The Pythagorean diet came to mean an avoidance of the meat of slaughtered animals because of the philosopher’s desire to create a universal and absolute law, including injunctions not to kill living creatures and in particular animal sacrifice.

[30]

A Franciscan friar (a Zoccolante) who taught about political and social structures through the study of architecture, Carlo Lodoli elaborated an original theory of architecture. In his peripatetic schools of “system” and “conversation,” Lodoli did not train architects for practice. Instead, he and his “pupils” investigated architecture as an analog for culture construction. On Lodoli, see A. Memmo, Elementi di architettura lodoliana, reprint edition (Zara: 1834).

[31]

Pietro Longhi is an effortlessly ironic visual storyteller of the human comedy. In the “Frateria,” there are two elements of dark mass in the foreground: on the left, a black Benedictine wearing a wide stiff hat at work with the dividers on a terrestrial globe; on the right, seated to eat, a not-so-humble Franciscan, father Carlo Lodoli.

Auteur : Marco Frascari
Titre : Canadian Cosmopoiesis: Meditations on Cuisine and Architecture
Revue : Cuizine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures / Cuizine : revue des cultures culinaires au Canada, Volume 1, numéro 2, 2009
URI : http://id.erudit.org/iderudit/037852ar
DOI : 10.7202/037852ar

Copyright © Cuizine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures / Cuizine : revue des cultures culinaires au Canada, 2009

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