Published only once in 1973, Les Diners de Gala was a dream fulfilled for surrealist artist Salvador Dali who claimed at the age of 6 that he wanted to be a chef. The bizarro cookbook pairs 136 recipes over 12 chapters (the 10th of which is dedicated to aphrodisiacs) with his exceptionally strange illustrations and collages created especially for the publication. The artworks depict towering mountains of crayfish with unsettling overtones of cannibalism, an unusual meeting of a swan and a toothbrush in a pastry case, and portraits of Dali himself mingling with chefs against decadent place settings. Recipes include such delicacies as “Thousand Year Old Eggs”, “Veal Cutlets Stuffed With Snails”, “Frog Pasties”, and “Toffee with Pine Cones”.
Dali is widely known for his opulent dinner parties thrown with his wife Gala, events that were almost more theatrical than gustatory. Guests, many of the celebrities, were required to wear completely outlandish costumes and an accompaniment of wild animals often roamed free around the dinner table. Despite the unusual ingredients and preparation methods, many of the old school recipes in Les Diners de Gala originated in some of the top restaurants in Paris at the time including Lasserre, La Tour d’Argent, Maxim’s, and Le Train Bleu. Lest you think anything in the book might be remotely healthy, it offers a cautionary disclaimer at 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.
Only around 400 copies of Les Diners de Gala are known to survive, most of which sell for hundreds of dollars. However Taschen has finally made this rare book available for the first time in 43 years as a new reprint currently available on Bookshop. If this whets your Dali appetite, don’t miss the 150th anniversary edition of his 1969 illustrations for Alice in Wonderland. (via Brain Pickings, It’s Nice That)
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