How to Actually Cook Salvador Dali’s Surrealist Recipes: Crayfish, Prawns, and Spitted Eggs

The sensual intelligence housed in the tabernacle of my palate beckons me to pay the greatest attention to food. – Salvador Dali

Looking for an easy, low-cost recipe for a quick weeknight supper?

Salvador Dali’s Bush of Crayfish in Viking Herb is not that recipe.

It’s presentation may be Surreal, but it’s not an entirely unrealistic thing to prepare as The Art Assignment’s Sarah Urist Green discovers, above.

The recipe, published in Les Diners de Gala, Dali’s over-the-top cult cookery book from 1973, has pedigree.

Dali got it off a chef at Paris’ fabled Tour d’Argent, who later had second thoughts about giving away trade secrets, and balked at sharing exact measurements for the dish:

Bush of Crawfish in Viking Herbs

In order to realize this dish, it is necessary to have crawfish of 2 ounces each. Prepare the following ingredients for a broth: ‘fumet’ (scented reduced bullion) of fish, of consommé, of white wine, Vermouth, Cognac, salt, pepper, sugar and dill (aromatic herb). Poach the crawfish in this broth for 20 minutes. Let it cool for 24 hours and arrange the crawfish in a dome. Strain the broth and serve in cups.

Green, the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s former curator of contemporary art, soldiers ahead with  a Styrofoam topiary cone and a boxful of Fed-Ex’ed Louisiana crayfish, masking their demise with insets of Dali works such as 1929’s Sometimes I Spit with Pleasure on the Portrait of my Mother (The Sacred Heart).

Green, well aware that some viewers may have trouble with the “brutal realities” of cooking live crustaceans, namechecks Consider the Lobster, the heavily footnoted essay wherein author David Foster Wallace ruminates over ethics at the Maine Lobster Festival.

Green may seek repentance for the sin of poaching lobsters’ freshwater cousins, but Dali, who blamed his sex-related guilt on his Catholic upbringing, was unconflicted about enjoying the “delicious little martyrs”:

If I hate that detestable degrading vegetable called spinach, it is because it is shapeless, like Liberty. I attribute capital esthetic and moral values to food in general, and to spinach in particular. The opposite of shapeless spinach, is armor. I love eating suits of arms, in fact I love all shell fish… food that only a battle to peel makes it vulnerable to the conquest of our palate.

If your scruples, schedule or savings keep you from attempting Dali’s Surreal shellfish tower, you might try enlivening a less aspirational dish with Green’s wholesome, homemade fish stock:

Devin Lytle and Jared Nunn, test driving Dali’s Cassanova cocktail and Eggs on a Spit for History Bites on Buzzfeed‘s Tasty channel, seem less surefooted than Green in both the kitchen and the realm of art history, but they’re totally down to speculate as to whether or not Dali and his wife, Gala, had a “healthy relationship.”

If you can stomach their snarky, self-referential asides, you might get a bang out of hearing them dish on Dali’s revulsion at being touched, Gala’s alleged penchant for bedding younger artists, and their highly unconventional marriage.

Despite some squeamishness about the eggs’ viscousness and some reservations about the surreal amount of butter required, Lytle and Nunn’s reaction upon tasting their Dali recreation suggest that it was worth the effort:

Cassanova cocktail

• The juice of 1 orange
• 1 tablespoon bitters (Campari)
• 1 teaspoon ginger
• 4 tablespoons brandy
• 2 tablespoons old brandy (Vielle Cure)
• 1 pinch Cayenne pepper

This is quite appropriate when circumstances such as exhaustion, overwork or simply excess of sobriety are calling for a pick-me-up.

Here is a well-tested recipe to fit the bill.

Let us stress another advantage of this particular pep-up concoction is that one doesn’t have to make the sour face that usually accompanies the absorption of a remedy.

At the bottom of a glass, combine pepper and ginger. Pour the bitters on top, then brandy and “Vielle Cure.” Refrigerate or even put in the freezer.

Thirty minutes later, remove from the freezer and stir the juice of the orange into the chilled glass.

Drink… and wait for the effect. 

It is rather speedy.

Your best bet for preparing Eggs on a Spit, which Lytle compares to “an herby, scrambled frittata that looks like a brain”, are contained in artist Rosanna Shalloe’s modern adaption.

What would you do if you discovered an original, autographed copy of Les Diners de Gala in the attic of your new home?

A young man named Brandon takes it to Rick Harrison’s Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, hoping it will fetch $2500.

Harrison, star of the History Channel’s Pawn Stars, gives Brandon a quick primer on the Persistence of Memory, Dali’s famous “melting clocks” painting (failing to mention that the artist insisted the clocks should be interpreted as “the Camembert of time.”)

Brandon walks with something less than the hoped for sum, and Harrison takes the book home to attempt some of the dishes. (Not, however, Bush of Crayfish in Viking Herb, which he declares, “a little creepy, even for Dali.”)

Alas, his younger relatives are wary of Oasis Leek Pie’s star ingredient and refuse to entertain a single mouthful of whole fish, baked with guts and eyes.

They’re not alone. The below newsreel suggests that comedian Bob Hope had some reservations about Dalinian Gastro Esthetics, too.

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. – Salvador Dali

You can purchase a copy of Taschen’s recent reissue of Les Diners de Gala online

Related Content 

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

What Makes Salvador Dalí’s Iconic Surrealist Painting “The Persistence of Memory” a Great Work of Art

Walk Inside a Surrealist Salvador Dalí Painting with This 360º Virtual Reality Video

The Most Complete Collection of Salvador Dalí’s Paintings Published in a Beautiful New Book by Taschen: Includes Never-Seen-Before Works

Salvador Dalí’s Tarot Cards, Cookbook & Wine Guide Re-Issued as Beautiful Art Books

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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