Bush of crayfish in Viking herbs, thousand-year-old eggs and toffee with pine cones are a few examples of the unusual dishes on the menu in Salvador Dalí’s little-known cookbook Les Diners de Gala.
These items don’t sound like the average foodstuffs you would find at an evening dinner in downtown Lincoln. Rather, they’re items with which Dalí wants his audience to have an experience. They do, however, come with a warning from Dalí himself.
In the preface, Dalí writes, “We would like to state clearly that, beginning with the very first recipes, Les Diners de Gala, with its precepts and its illustrations, is uniquely devoted to the pleasures of Taste. Don’t look for dietetic formulas here.” Dalí continues, “We intend to ignore those charts and tables in which chemistry takes the place of gastronomy. 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.”
Sounds intense, wild and overly-eccentric? Well, this is Dalí we’re talking about. He’s more than a painter of melting clocks and long-legged elephants. He’s a master of self-branding. And yet, he chose a cookbook to be a part of his brand. Why? Dalí’s childhood plays a role.
Dalí once stated, “When I was six years old, I wanted to be a cook.” According to the Susquehanna Art Museum, Dalí would “eat and interact with various foods that he believed kept him in good health. He was famously rumored to have bathed in sardine oil and to have taken afternoon naps with live lobsters in his bed.”
This passion for food continued into his adult life where he and his wife, Gala Dalí, would throw extravagant surrealist dinner parties. Food and agricultural journalist Tove Danovich describes how the guests of these parties were “served dishes like a fish plated inside satin slippers or an engraved metal cloche lifted to reveal a tray of very jumpy frogs.” These dinners were the talk of the town and everyone wanted to experience what Dalí was dishing out.
So, in 1973, Dalí both made his childhood dream and the dream of the public come true. Les Diners de Gala was published in collaboration with a secret chef, Gala, and Dalí himself. Danovich describes the book as “featuring 136 recipes as well as food photographs and original illustrations by Dalí. They're organized by course with a special section devoted to ‘aphrodisiacs,’ which hints at the fact that this is a decidedly PG-13 kind of cookbook.”
So, whatever happened to this popular book of the famous surrealist master?
The unfortunate news is that original copies of the book are increasingly rare. However, the spectacular news is Les Diners de Gala is available for purchase for the first time in more than 43 years through the art book publisher Taschen. So crack open this newly republished book and experience Dalí’s bizarre culinary world. All you’ll need is a fork, spoon and knife.
"Salvador Dalí, Les Diners de Gala," Susquehanna Art Museum, , accessed August 29, 2017, http://www.susquehannaartmuseum.org/galleries/dali/
Tove Danovich, "Decades Later, Salvador Dalí's Decadent Dream Dishes Are Awakened," NPR, November 17, 2016, , accessed August 30, 2017, http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/11/17/502161689/decades-later-salvador-dal-s-decadent-dream-dishes-are-awakened
Cameron Cizek is a junior studying computing