Salvador Dalí’s 1973 Cookbook Gets Reissued: Surrealist Art Meets Haute Cuisine


The skilled chef has always held a place of hon­or amongst gour­mands and the fine din­ing elite. But it took tele­vi­sion to bring us the celebri­ty chef: Julia Childs and Jacques Pepin; Dom DeLuise and Paul Prud­homme. Those were the good old days, before real­i­ty TV turned cook­ing into a com­pet­i­tive sport. Still, we’ve got many qual­i­ty cooks on the tube, enter­tain­ing and huge­ly infor­ma­tive: Alton Brown, Antho­ny Bour­dain, Gor­don Ram­say, Jamie Oliv­er…. Many of us who take cook­ing seri­ous­ly have at one time or anoth­er appren­ticed under one of these food gurus.

My per­son­al favorite? Well, I’m a fan of haute cui­sine as fash­ioned by Sal­vador Dalí. Sure, the sur­re­al­ist painter and all-around weirdo has been dead since 1989, and nev­er had any­thing approach­ing a cook­ing show in his life­time (though he did make a few TV ads and an appear­ance on What’s My Line?). Nor is Dalí known for his cook­ing. As you might guess, there’s good rea­son for that.

Dish­es like “Veal Cut­lets Stuffed with Snails,” “Thou­sand Year Old Eggs,” and “Tof­fee with Pine Cones” were nev­er going to catch on wide­ly. But when it comes to food as art—as an espe­cial­ly strange and imag­i­na­tive form of art—it’s hard to beat Dalí’s rare, leg­endary 1973 cook­book Les Din­ers de Gala, just reis­sued by Taschen.


The book, writes This is Colos­sal, rep­re­sent­ed “a dream ful­filled” for Dalí, “who claimed at the age of 6 that he want­ed to be a chef.” As is some­times the case when a life’s goal goes unmet—it is per­haps for the best that the Span­ish painter nev­er seri­ous­ly attempt­ed to inter­est the gen­er­al pub­lic in his some­times ined­i­ble con­coc­tions. He did, how­ev­er, enter­tain his coterie of admir­ers, friends, and celebri­ty acquain­tances with “opu­lent din­ner par­ties thrown with his wife Gala.” As the cook­book sug­gests, these events “were almost more the­atri­cal than gus­ta­to­ry.” In addi­tion to the bizarre dish­es he and Gala pre­pared, the guests “were required to wear com­plete­ly out­landish cos­tumes and an accom­pa­ni­ment of wild ani­mals often roamed free around the table”…..


If only Dalí had lived into the age of the Kar­dashi­ans. Like­ly he would have leapt at the chance to turn these art par­ties into great TV. Or maybe not. In any case, we can now recon­struct them our­selves with what design site It’s Nice That calls “a deli­cious com­bi­na­tion of elab­o­rate­ly detailed oil paint­ings and kitsch 1970s food pho­tog­ra­phy.” Along the way, Dalí drops apho­risms like “the jaw is our best tool to grasp philo­soph­i­cal knowl­edge” (recall­ing Nietzsche’s pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with diges­tion). And despite the absur­di­ty of many of these dishes—and paint­ings like that above which make the tur­duck­en look like casu­al fare—many of the actu­al recipes, This is Colos­sal notes, “orig­i­nat­ed in some of the top restau­rants in Paris at the time includ­ing Lasserre, La Tour d’Argent, Maxim’s, and Le Train Bleu.”


How­ev­er, even as far back as 1973, home cooks had begun to fret about the health­i­ness of their food. Dalí gives such peo­ple fair warn­ing; Les Din­ers de Gala, he writes, “is unique­ly devot­ed to the plea­sures of Taste. Don’t look for dietet­ic for­mu­las here.”

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.

As if you thought Dalí would bow to some­thing as quo­tid­i­an as nutri­tion. See many more sur­re­al­ly sen­su­al food illus­tra­tions and quotes from the book at Brain Pick­ings, where you’ll also find the full, extrav­a­gant recipe for “Con­ger of the Ris­ing Sun.” You can order Les Din­ers de Gala online.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Sal­vador Dalí’s Tarot Cards Get Re-Issued: The Occult Meets Sur­re­al­ism in a Clas­sic Tarot Card Deck

Sal­vador Dalí Takes His Anteater for a Stroll in Paris, 1969

Sal­vador Dalí Goes Com­mer­cial: Three Strange Tele­vi­sion Ads

Sal­vador Dalí’s Melt­ing Clocks Paint­ed on a Lat­te

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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