Les Diners de Galashows off the Surrealist's culinary passions—and food-themed art.
Salvador Dalí, the famous Surrealist artist, was a serious foodie. He and his wife and muse, Gala, threw extravagant dinner parties, and, in the 1970s, he released a cookbook. Les Diners de Gala was first published in French in 1973 and has just been re-released (translated into English by Dalí’s late aide, Captain J. Peter Moore) from TASCHEN.
The book contains not only Dalí’s Surrealist illustrations accompanying each recipe, but some amazing photographs of the mustachioed artist himself seated at overflowing dining tables. It can function as a working cookbook—a portion of the 136 illustrated recipes featured were submitted by famous Parisian restaurants—but it’s also a spellbinding art book.
If you’re squeamish, some of Dalí’s more intense artworks might put you off eating, like the one featuring a bird with a toothy human mouth and a toothbrush as a tail. But other portions of the book are almost surprisingly non-weird. Written in a conversational tone, the recipes only occasionally veer into unexpected instructions like mixing ingredients in a bowl while “disposing them artistically.” Dalí, however, also includes suitably odd chapter introductions like “The specter of death creates supreme delights, salivary expectations, and this is why the greats of gastronomical refinements consists in eating ‘cooked and living beings.’”
The book is divided into 12 chapters, one of which is “Aphrodisiacs,” which may give you some idea of the artist’s dedication to the pleasures of food. “We would like to state clearly that, beginning with the first recipes, Les Diners de Gala, with its precepts and its illustrations, is uniquely devoted to the pleasures of Taste,” he wrote. “Don’t look for dietetic formulas here.” Possibly what he was saying was that you might need to stock your kitchen with a few more snails than you’d otherwise have on hand. Check out some of the mind-bending art below.
"My enlightenment is born and propagated through my guts," Dalí argued.
Dalí really hated spinach, and wasn't afraid to say so: "I only like to eat what has a clear and intelligible form. If I hate that detestable degrading vegetable called spinach it is because it is shapeless, like Liberty."
"I love eating all shellfish," Dalí declared, because "only a battle to peel makes it vulnerable to the conquest of our palate."
The "Bush of crayfish" recipe illustrated here was submitted by the famous Parisian restaurant La Tour D'Argent, which is still open today.
Dalí said that woodcock flambéed in strong alcohol, and "served in its own excrements," as prepared in fine Parisian restaurants, "will always remain for me ... the most delicate symbol of true civilization."
This image introduces the "exotic dishes" chapter.
The table of contents page features one of Dalí's signature clocks.
Some of Dalí's seafood recipes include "eels with beer" and "sardines in boats."
In his introduction to the meats chapter, Dalí writes, "Take a walk among the fossil meats of the Diplodocus," referring to the long-necked dinosaur. "You will not be permitted to eat rocks, however, I will let you devour—on certain Sundays—some 'icebergs.'"
The book is $60 from TASCHEN.