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Focus March 2018

The Academy must be ready for the challenges of the third millennium

Born in the ‘Short Twentieth Century’, it must remain aware of today’s and tomorrow’s issues, using new tools and criteria.

The average age of today’s Academicians corresponds approximately with that of the Academy itself, born in the fifties of the ‘Short Twentieth Century’, as the British historian Eric Hobsbawm dubbed it. An eventful, wonderful century, flown by in a flash, with its contradictions and its extraordinary developments. It began with an ‘age of catastrophes’, featuring something like a Thirty Years’ War, with two successive world wars ending in 1945. Next came the ‘golden age’ between 1946 and 1973. This was our time - for most of us, most Academicians, that is. Exhilarating years filled with vast economic, technological and scientific advances, and especially with hope for the youth of the time. The Italian Academy of Cuisine, like most of today’s Academicians, was born in those magical, unrepeatable years. Our hearts and roots remain there. Today, however, after such earth-shaking events as the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, the Gulf Wars and other Middle-Eastern conflicts, with terrorism and a globalised economy, we find ourselves in the third millennium, dazed, with children and grandchildren deprived of their parents’ prospects. For the first time, a generation faces a lower standard of living than its predecessor. In this historical context, our cuisine, its heart and roots also in the last century, finds itself experiencing a marked contrast between a resurgent new cuisine, all technique and spectacle, and a modernised tradition. The current climate is represented by what happened at the MoMa in San Francisco, where the three-starred chef from Alba, Enrico Crippa of the Piazza Duomo restaurant, created recipes dedicated to contemporary painters and sculptors: visually stunning dishes, prepared with flair and competence. For many Americans, especially Californian millionaires, the image of Italian cuisine has changed radically - and for the better. Forgetting spaghetti with meat balls, they now fantasise about exorbitantly priced food and wine tours of the Langhe or Chianti regions. But the Academy is not hobbled by a past of granny’s cooking, badly prepared and badly served. Generational change is in the air, lively, alert, ready. Culture doesn’t only mean researching the past and studying dusty old themes, but must also mean attentiveness to current and future themes. Nobody can bring back the golden age, but the challenges of the third millennium, in which we’re now ensconced, must find us capable of advancing, with undiminished enthusiasm, our founders’ dreams with new tools and new criteria.

Paolo Petroni