DINING WITH DALI
An Iconic Cookbook by an Iconic Artist
THE SURREALIST COOKBOOK COMPRISES 136 RECIPES OF OLD- SCHOOL FRENCH CUISINE
THE WORLD OFTEN WONDERED WHETHER SALVADOR DALÍ WAS MAD. Many still do. He himself was ambivalent on the subject, sometimes bragging that he was; at other times firmly denying it. Not that it mattered much, as nobody ever suspected an ordinary personality behind paintings as off-the-wall and radical as those he kept churning out.
Dalí’s raised eyebrows and signature pencil-thin moustache — the ‘Dalí style’ — added dramatic flair to his persona. During his prime in the 1930s, art, fashion and film surrounded the Spanish painter, who gained fame and notoriety through his work, The Persistence of Memory. Yet, among his circle, Dalí was known for more than depictions of melting clocks and altered portraits. Together with his wife, Gala, Dalí was an avid dinner party host. These gatherings became so fabled that he went on to create a cookbook, published in 1973, of which only around 400 copies survived.
Now, German book publisher Taschen has reprinted Les Dîners de Gala, the artist’s surrealist cookbook, comprising 136 recipes of old-school French cuisine. While most dinner parties in the early 20th century were lively affairs, the Dalís took things further, often giving the presentation and symbolism of food precedence over culinary norms. Attendees would wear costumes following themes the Dalís set. One of these more opulent thematic dinners in 1941 was the “surrealist forest dinner party”, where the hosts donned fairy tale-inspired costumes, with Salvador dressed as a three-headed man with exposed organs. One must have had a strong stomach and a hearty appetite to participate.
DALÍ’S PRESENTATION AND SYMBOLISM OF FOOD TOOK PRECEDENCE OVER CULINARY NORMS
Aside from recipes and Dalí’s musings, some of the artist’s original drawings are found on the pages of the cookbook. There is lavish imagery of towering, bloodied lobsters, or a collage of tea biscuits and mountainous landscape. In one illustration, blood gushes forth from a woman’s severed arms, while crustaceans form her skirt and corpses lie at her feet. The chapters are organised by meal courses, including Dalí’s take on aphrodisiacs. Recipes include ‘Frog Pasties’ and ‘Veal Cutlets Stuffed With Snails’, many of which were the creation of the notable French chefs who helmed Parisian food temples such as Lassere, La Tour d’Argent, Maxim’s, and Le Train Bleu.
Before you delve into Dalí’s fascination with food and surrealism, heed his warning: “Les Dîners de Gala is uniquely devoted to the pleasures of taste… If you are a disciple of one of those calorie-counters who turn the joys of eating into a form of punishment, close this book at once; it is too lively, too aggressive, and far too impertinent for you.”
The cookbook contains original illustrations by Salvador Dalí BELOW
The English edition cover of the 2016 reprint by publisher Taschen
The book comes with surrealist drawings that reflect the painter’s signature style
Dalí and his wife Gala often asked their dinner party guests to come in costume Each chapter of the book is devoted to a different meal course