Dinner invitation with philosopher

Dinner invitation with philosopher

Franco Banchi’s latest book on knowledge and taste

In the past weeks, the latest book by Franco Banchi, Invito a cena con filosofo. 15 grandi del pensiero a tavol (Edizioni Del Faro, Trento, 2023) was published. The author, a history and philosophy scholar, a journalist and a writer, mainly an expert in food history, is also the director of this online magazine.

We have interviewed him to introduce this long-awaited book to our readers.

Shall we start with the bond between dichecibo6magazine.it and your work, which we know is exceptionally strong?

Sure, so strong that we have presented some of the book protagonists in advance in our magazine. Leonardo da Vinci, Marsilio Ficino, Campanella, and Sartre, to name a few.

But the connection is not only related to the names of these protagonists. The peculiarity is the slant of the content: to present the universe of food in its cultural factors and not just for a simple gastronomic curiosity.

Can you introduce your book about this double dimension that accompanies it, that are food and philosophy? 

The glue is the convivial dimension. Immanuel Kant declared that there is no other moment in the world that builds relations as dining at the table. And with great convenience, he specified that the gastronomic factor is not truly decisive alone but mostly the convivial atmosphere that it more or less creates. That way, the German thinker founded, among other things, a “critique of cooking reason”, too.

But Kant describes at length the rules in force in the kitchen, which exist not by chance, but thanks to rational implementation.

Starting with this statement, I have imagined 15 illustrious philosophers around an ideal banquet where they cross their love of food and passion for philosophy, a pooling and synthesis between knowledge and tastes.

What are the main discoveries in such an ample and detailed study, and are they mainly cooking or philosophical surprises? 

The main one is discovering that passions and weaknesses concerning food for these fifteen greats are a meaningful key to deepening their philosophical thoughts, such that we can affirm that if you tell me what you eat, I will describe what philosopher you are.

Some examples can be emblematic: Hegel resorting to his beloved champagne to explain the synthesis of his dialectic; Hildegard di Bingen using the biscuits of joy to connect body and soul; the insisting advice Marsilio Ficino supported, according to whom eating in health becomes a bridge to heaven.

Reading your book, we find even lighter passages: it is curious that these philosophers, at times austere, indulge in a weakness…

Certainly! Inside the book, the approach of these masters to cooking shows lightness and many human weaknesses, too. We see the other side of the moon of them all. For example, I could refer to Nietzsche’s love for sausages, whom his mother sent directly to him. Or the appreciation of Freud for a duck with sauerkrauts, and finish with the apology of truffles made by the stern Heidegger. We can affirm that there are several emotional and sensitive motivations. After all, our travel combines, without contradiction, the pinnacle of thoughts and the pleasantness of taste.

In the book, we pick numerous references to both classicism and contemporaneity. 

In the pages of this book, we find eminent myths of the past, such as Artlantis and the City of the Sun, in their aspects connected to food and cuisine. I describe them through uncommon perspectives and characters who have made history, such as the Sun King and Fidel Castro, the latter represented in his private dimension as a cook.

Can you present a particular mention of Florence to which you have dedicated your first book, Il pranzo di S. Giovanni?

The history of the City of the Lily entwines several and not secondary protagonists of the book. Among the many, I depict Leonardo, Marsilio Ficino, and Freud as dealing with the delicacies of Florentine cuisine in all their manifold aspects.

Your book does not disappoint even those looking for recipes!

Exactly as you say: each philosopher has the task to arrive at the banquet with their favourite dishes. I have composed three parallel menus: earth and sky, marine inspiration, and beyond fish and meat. All of the recipes, more than fifty, are explained with care and yet lightness. I have conveniently updated and modernised them, giving life to a significant and original cooking competition.

What is the final message you want to deliver to our readers?

What moves around food and the banquet defines the same metaphor of life. To understand it means grasping what we are. For these philosophers, this is true to the utmost extent.

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