The 50th Anniversary of Salvador Dalí’s Surrealist Cookbook, “Les Diners De Gala”
The “Cult Cookery Book” from the Controversial Artist
I tugged at a thread on the hem of Alice’s sleeve and at the end of it found Salvador Dalí. He had a cookbook with him.
He was also carrying a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, an edition he’d illustrated in 1969.
Dalí, let loose in Wonderland, against the backdrop of the late ‘60’s? He’s the perfect creator to enter that dreamscape.
His Alice illustrations led me from a tea party to table-hopping through another book, the fantastic feast that is Les Diners De Gala. The 1973 Surrealist cookbook celebrates the extravagant, eccentric performance art dinner parties hosted by the Dali’s.
But before taking a seat at Les Diners, I’d be remiss if I didn’t briefly share Salvador Dali’s vision of Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole.
In each of the twelve illustrations, Dalí presents Alice as a tiny figure, hair flying and a jump rope soaring above her head. Do you see her? I believe she’s standing on a mushroom, isn’t that just perfect.
There were 2,700 rare and coveted copies printed by Random House in 1969. In 2015, on the 150th Anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Princeton University Press and the National Museum of Mathematics in New York reissued it. For more about the book, which is beautiful, click: Here.
Les Diners De Gala
On the very first page of Les Diners, we are told:
We would like to state clearly that, beginning with the very first recipes, LE DINERS DE GALA, with its precepts and its illustrations, is uniquely devoted to the pleasures of Taste. Don’t look for dietetic formulas here.
So there’s no confusion, this is a real cookbook — you could make these recipes and eat these dishes. But they are complicated and fascinating in their over-the-topness and are a part of the larger universe of this book.
All the recipes in this cook book, never before published, have been elaborated with great precision by a “chef” wishing to remain in the most secret anonymity. Lassiter, Maxim’s, La Tour d’’Argent, Le Buffet de la gare de Lyon have graciously bestowed upon us some highly gastronomical recipes which make the renown of the French cuisine.
You are swept into the pages of Les Diner with stunning photographs of luxurious dishes using the finest ingredients, magnificent table settings and intricate food styling.
What makes this book mesmerizing, however, are the accompanying illustrations and paintings by Dalí.
He interprets the dishes with images that are simultaneously gorgeous, repellent, unnerving. trippy, erotic, haunting and unmistakably Dalí.
Love the images or hate them, it’s hard to look away. It’s rather the same thing with the man himself.
For more on Les Diners (including images):
I was relieved to find one very easy and appealing recipe from Les Diners, because I just wasn’t up to making a crayfish tower.
My favorite part of the instructions for this recipe (which is from Maxim’s) is that you should use a bottle of old champagne. The assumption that we’d all have one hanging around, how charming!
I went to the market and bought a $10 bottle of Veuve de Vernay, they also make a non-alcohol version which I will try.
There are exactly three ingredients: 1 cup sugar; 1 3/4 water;1 bottle champagne.
The instructions for this ‘Old Champagne Sorbet’ are to make a simple syrup with the sugar and water, let it cool and add the champagne. The final instruction is:
Twenty minutes before serving put this composition into an iced sherbet bowl as it is very fragile.
There was no mention of chilling it before. I don’t have an ice cream machine, so I decided I’d make something between a granita and a Slurpee. It took six hours to freeze in a metal loaf pan and I paddled the mixture in a chilled Kitchen Aid bowl mid-way and at the end.
It’s delicious. Really delicious.
The Legacy of Salvador Dalí
The Art Institute of Chicago is having an Exhibition of Dalí’s work from the 1930’s and it is more beautiful than I’d imagined. If you’re in Chicago before the exhibit closes June 12th, GO!
Dalí’s legacy is a controversial one personally, artistically and politically. He undermined his work and reputation with outrageous political statements that he later rejected, but the Surrealists still expelled him.
There’s an article from quite a while ago from the Smithsonian that I think is still relevant if you’d like to read more about this brilliant artist and his complicated, messy life and legacy.
The Surreal World of Salvador Dalí, Genius or Madman? Link here: Smithsonian
Have a great weekend, Everyone. Jolene
I love love love this post!!
I also adore Dali, but I wasn’t aware of a cookbook or that he illustrated Alice. How totally perfect! As usual, the art is breathtaking and often horrifying--as is so much of Dali’s work. I’d so love to see that show at the Art Institute!
Your champagne “slurpee” looks glorious--so glad there are no Dali ants swarming across it!