Legendary, eccentric artist Salvador Dalí declared at age 6 that he wished to become a chef. First published in 1973, Les Diners de Gala was a bizarre dream come true—a cookbook filled with surreal illustrations and recipes inspired by the lavish dinner parties that Dalí and his wife Gala organized. The parties were legendary for their wild opulence, with guests often required to dress in costume and wild animals left to roam free around the table.
Acclaimed publisher Taschen is reissuing the cookbook, available for pre-order, as only 400 of the original publications are known to exist. The book, which includes 136 recipes divided into 12 chapters, is arranged by courses—including aphrodisiacs. Aside from his illustrations, Dalí’s musings are scattered through the publication, giving insight into his philosophy on gustatory delights. If, as the artist proclaims, “the jaw is our best tool to grasp philosophical knowledge,” he does well to display the bizarre and decadent aspects of cuisine. “Thousand Year Old Eggs,” “Veal Cutlets Stuffed With Snails,” “Frog Pasties,” and “Toffee with Pine Cones” are all on the menu, with sometimes unsettling imagery to match. Overtones of cannibalism also creep into the work—for instance, an armless woman with a skirt formed from lobster stands atop of pile of dead bodies, many with severed heads.
Those interested in taking on the challenge of cooking Dalí-style will also need to throw their diets out the window. Dalí writes from the outset, “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. 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.”
Whether purchased for the cuisine or the art, Les Diners de Gala demonstrates how Dalí, as a multifaceted artist, never allowed himself to be bound by the limits of the canvas. His artistic mind knew no bounds, moving from the gallery to the kitchen with ease.