The surrealist master Salvador Dalí was many things: a painter, a filmmaker, a photographer and even a star in several television commercials. But his imagination expanded far beyond these pursuits and even made its way into the kitchen. Now, after 40 years, Dalí’s surrealist cookbook is coming back into print.
Throughout his life, Dalí and his wife Gala were well-known for throwing lavish and bizarre banquets. Guests were required to come in costume, dishes were served in shoes instead of on plates and entertainment included wild, exotic animals roving about the house, Margaret Rhodes writes for Wired. So it follows that Les diners de Gala wasn’t just a standard cookbook, but a unique artwork in and of itself.
“You’ll see looking through it how much of a cultural artefact it is,” a spokeswoman for TASCHEN, the book’s publisher, tells Esther Addley and Alison Flood for The Guardian. “Recipes from top chefs at French restaurants that are still pumping and serving today, beautiful artworks that were made explicitly for the book, and recipes that people will enjoy simply by reading or [if they are game!] challenge them in the kitchen.”
Like everything else Dalí did, the 1973 cookbook is served with a heaping portion of weirdness and quirk. Instead of sectioning it off into categories based on ingredients like meat and vegetables, he gave the book’s chapters titles like “Prime Lilliputian malaises” and “Deoxyribonucleic Atavism,” according to Addley and Flood. There’s an entire chapter devoted to dishes purported to be aphrodisiacs (titled “I Eat GALA”) and plenty of cocktail recipes. Needless to say, everything is described in an aggressive, yet playful manner designed to challenge any prospective chef on what it means to create a dish.
“Les diners de Gala is uniquely devoted to the pleasures of taste," Dalí wrote in the cookbook’s introduction, Beckett Mufson writes for The Creators Project. "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."
Of course, the recipes aren’t the only part of the book where Dalí let his creativity run wild. Les diners de Gala is packed with original illustrations and photographs by the surrealist kingpin himself, all faithfully reprinted as they were in the original edition, Rhodes reports. While the often-erotically charged drawings of foodstuffs like shrimp towers and blocks of cheese may not be much help in putting together the final product, they are just as idealized an image of Dalí’s recipes as any sumptuous photo found in a more traditional cookbook.
As odd as the images may be, the recipes themselves are surprisingly straightforward—though they often include ingredients less likely to be found at your standard supermarket.