Someday I hope to see Luis Buñuel’s 1930 short film Menjant garotes (Eating Sea Urchins). Discovered in a biscuit tin that belonged to Salvador Dalí‘s sister, Ana Maria, after her death, it’s a home movie of Dalí‘s family gobbling echinoderms in Cadaqués, shot around the same time as L’Âge d’or.
Sea urchins were a favorite dish of Dalí‘s, and they figure in the initiatory path he lays out in his guide to becoming a painter, Fifty Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship. It’s not an easy path to follow; even if you manage to pull off the instructions he gives you, what about the ones for your valet and your maid? Secret Number Four, “the secret of the sea-urchin slumber,” is relatively practicable:
To begin with, you will eat three dozen sea urchins, gathered on one of the last two days that precede the full moon, choosing only those whose star is coral red and discarding the yellow ones. The collaboration of the moon in such cases is necessary, for otherwise not only do you risk that the sea urchins will be more empty but above all that they do not possess to the same degree the sedative and narcotic virtues so special and so propitious to your approaching slumber. For the same reason these sea urchins should be eaten preferably in the spring—May is a good month. But in choosing the time you must make the gathering of the sea urchins coincide with the precise moment when the first tender new beans are picked, and this varies according to the years. These tender beans, prepared in the manner called à la Catalane, are to be the second course of your meal, and I guarantee you that this is a dish worthy of the ancient gods and quite Homeric, for I am convinced that the Greeks of antiquity were acquainted with it and therefore that they were also familiar with chocolate—for, strange as this may seem, the tender beans à la Catalane are in fact prepared with chocolate as a base.
After washing this down “with a light, very young wine,” you are to take a four-and-a-half hour nap preliminary to staring at your blank canvas “for a long, long time.”
Below, Orson Welles narrates Jean-Christophe Averty’s bonkers classic Dali doc Soft Self-Portrait of Salvador Dalí.