Front view and back view
In 1973, French publisher Felicie put out a remarkable “cookbook” (quotation marks are important here) by the great Surrealist master Salvador Dalí. It delivers everything you would expect from such a volume: visual flair, a winking sense of humor, a disregard for accepted norms, and a heightened feeling for the absurd. The book was called Les Diners de Gala—I think the idea here is a conflation of a “gala dinner” and his wife, whose name, of course, was Gala.
According to one source, only 400 copies of the cookbook were ever printed, although it’s difficult to say whether that was actually the case or not—a copy is always on eBay—it’s possible that Dalí was merely trying to foster an air of mysterious exclusivity. The hefty volume has become quite the collector’s item; prices on Amazon range from $300 to $490. Let’s take a look at the table of contents, which I’ll leave untranslated:
1. Les caprices pincés princiers (Exotic Dishes)
2. Les cannibalismes de l’automne (Eggs - Seafood)
3. Les suprêmes de malaises lilliputiens (Entrées)
4. Les entre-plats sodomisés (Meats)
5. Les spoutniks astiqués d’asticots statistiques (Snails - Frogs)
6. Les panaches panachés (Fish - Shellfish)
7. Les chairs monarchiques (Game - Poultry)
8. Les montres molles 1/2 sommeil (Pork)
9. L’atavisme désoxyribonucléique (Vegetables)
10. Les “je mange GALA” (Aphrodisiacs)
11. Les pios nonoches (Sweets - Desserts)
12. Les délices petits martyrs (Hors-d’oeuvres)
I don’t know what most of that means, but I do know that the title of chapter 10, dedicated to “Aphrodisiacs,” translates to “I eat GALA,” so right there in the table of contents you already have a bald reference to oral sex. Well done!
In the book Dalí discusses his loathing for a certain leafy green vegetable: “I only like to eat what has a clear intelligible form. If I hate that detestable degrading vegetable called spinach, it is because it is shapeless, like Liberty.”
In 2011, two noted Minnesota dance troupes, Ballet of the Dolls and Zorongo Flamenco, put on a staged piece in Minneapolis called “Dali’s Cookbook: A Gastronomical Inquisition” that was inspired by the cookbook.
Here’s a cocktail recipe from the book, one of the (very) few that it’s possible to make unless you have the same connections as the head chef at a five star restaurant. Quail’s eggs are one of the easier ingredients to secure. Where do you buy frog legs?
“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.” —Salvador Dali
The juice of 1 orange
1 tablespoon of bitters (Campari)
1 teaspoon of ginger [presumably powdered ginger]
4 tablespoons of brandy
2 tablespoons old brandy (Vieille Cure)
1 pinch of Cayenne pepper
At the bottom of a glass, combine pepper and ginger. Pour the bitters on top, then brandy and “Vieille Cure.” Refrigerate or even put in the freezer.
Thirty minutes later, remove from the freezer and stir the juice of the orange into the glass. Drink … and wait for the effect. It is rather speedy.
A lesser-known follow-up to Les Diners de Gala, titled The Wines of Gala, was published by Abrams in the US in 1977, but contained no recipes for surrealist inspired vino.