From Tradition to Table

Hello, Dali!

Every now and again, something so fantastical comes across my radar and I just want to share it with the world. Such is the case with the Salvadore Dalî cookbook. I desperately wracked my brain to find a local connection, but the best I could come up with is that a flurry of food-obsessesed people I know were planning dinner parties in the Surrealist painter’s honor before the book even hit the shelves.

Initially published in 1973, the Taschen re-release coincided with the holiday season, naturally. Personally, I gifted it to myself because, well, you can’t always count on your friends and family to pick up the things you actually want (hello baby blue sweater set!).

Diners is the gift that keeps on giving. Every time I cruise through its heavy pages, I see something new– whether a strange ingredient or a detail deep in one of the trippy illustrations.

Originally written in French and translated by Captain J. Peter Moore, the pages are an epic odyssey of gastronomy through the eyes of one of the 20th centuries most celebrated artists. It is surreal indeed.

While a child growing up in Spain, the young artist wanted to be a cook. His life took a different creative route, but Dali never gave up his respect and lust for dining, finally publishing a cookbook in his early ‘70s. The gorgeous collection features illustrated recipes from not only the au courant French restaurants– Maxim’s, La Tour d’Argent– of the time, but also from the notorious dinner parties thrown by himself and his wife and muse, Gala.

It begins with a warning:

“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 pleasure of Taste. Don’t look for dietetic formulas here… 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.”

Following this admonition, there are recipes featuring everything from eel to goose eggs to steamed larks (larks!) to multiple ways to dress-up snails. There is even a recipe for Avocado Toast– although this version includes lamb brains. While a ravishing book to just oogle, reading the recipes often leads to little tidbits of advice. For example, at the end of a recipe for Grilled Lamb’s Head, Dali advises: “Of course, you will have to use your fingers as much as your fork while eating this dish; I’ll let you discover for yourself the whole gamut of tastes it can offer a gourmet.”

Photographs of Dali and his triumphant mustache, adorned dinner jackets and sipping wine open the book, and then, between recipes, are photo collages, paintings, sketches, and photographs of decadent table settings.

Les Diners de Gala is unlike any cookbook I’ve ever seen and gives the reader a peek into another facet of Dali’s artistry … one we can recreate at home.

Initially published in 1973, the Taschen re-release coincided with the holiday season, naturally. Personally, I gifted it to myself because, well, you can’t always count on your friends and family to pick up the things you actually want (hello baby blue sweater set!).

Diners is the gift that keeps on giving. Every time I cruise through its heavy pages, I see something new–whether a strange ingredient or a detail deep in one of the trippy illustrations.

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