29 A New Factory-Kitchen

In 1932 a book for children entitled A Cook for the Whole City was published in the Soviet Union, to explain the workings of the factory-kitchen. After the Russian Revolution, apartments were built without kitchens in order to free families from the burden of bourgeois household economy. “People forget what an incredible upheaval the 1917 revolution was,” former Moscow correspondent Masha Karp told NPR. “There was a huge movement to free the country from czarism [and] bring happiness to the poorer classes. People thought maybe it was a good idea to relieve a housewife from her daily chores so that she could develop as a personality. She would go and play the piano, write poetry, and she would not cook and wash up.”

Instead, neighbours were to eat in canteens known as factory-kitchens: a public feeding infrastructure in which mass production and communal dining were combined to balance nutrition – apportioned to the gram by dieticians – with the erratic surpluses and deficits of the planned economy. Flavors were evaluated at the politburo level. Stalin helped select which candies should be put into production. Although civil war ultimately halted the construction of apartment buildings, the mass harvesting, canning, and processing of agricultural yields in the city left its mark on Russian dining culture. So too did the Bolshevik’s food-as-liberation, food-as-fuel mentality, along with dietary transformations implemented at this time (“fish day,” entirely unrelated to Orthodox tradition, was introduced in 1932).

What might a new factory-kitchen include if it were built around a concept of planetary cuisine? Fast food is often criticised but slow food cannot scale to meet our requirements. Movements such as molecular gastronomy maximise hedonic pleasure at the expense of nourishment. At the same time, the design of food for space travel, another possibility for culinary innovation, reveals an archive of nourishment without desire. A contemporary factory-kitchen would utilise the full potential of platform food and incorporate technologies suited to intensive agriculture at the urban scale. It would also be accurately labelled and understood. When food is labelled according to its true cost, flavor becomes a cognitive engine that kickstarts the geoengineering process by aligning our appetites with molecular elements and flows.