Promoting passion in book collecting
“Les Diners de Gala is uniquely devoted to the pleasures of taste. Do not look for dietary formulas here.”
This year marks the fortieth anniversary of Salvador Dali’s Les Diners de Gala. Though the book is attributed to Dali and a “secret chef,” the recipes actually came from chefs at the top French restaurants of the day: Lasserre, La Tour d’Argent, Maxim’s, and Le Buffet de Gare de Lyon to name a few. Dali’s aim was to create a book worthy of a royal feast, and he certainly accomplished that. Although Les Diners de Gala isn’t necessarily difficult for collectors to find, it has a wide appeal and is therefore much sought after.
Food was always a favorite theme in Dali’s works; many of his famous paintings prominently feature foodstuffs, and Les Diners de Gala shows the artist’s deep passion for food and feasting. It contains 136 recipes in twelve categories–one of which is, naturally, aphrodisiacs. Each chapter begins with an illustration from El Bosco’s famous triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights, a work that Dali often scrutinized in person at El Prado. Dali paired these images with quotes from Rabelais.
Dali certainly cannot take credit for the food photography –especially because he appears in some of the shots. In 1973, photos still weren’t very common in cookbooks, so Les Diners de Gala is notable not only for its strangeness, but also for its lush photographs, which give you an idea of what each dish should look like and how the entire meal should be presented.
Les Diners de Gala also includes multiple images that were done by Dali. They were mostly taken from Les Chantes de Malderor (1934) and Gargantua and Pantagruel (1973). Though these works came at very different points in Dali’s career, they complement the cookbook perfectly. Dali also shares some of his own views on food and eating, which are as quirky as one would predict. He says, for instance, “In fact I only like to eat what has a clear and intelligible form. If I hate that detestable, degrading vegetable called spinach, it’s because it is shapeless, like Liberty.”
It may seem surprising that a surrealist artist would choose to publish a cookbook. But by 1973 Dali already had a long history with sumptuous meals. In 1941, he hosted a lavish affair, called the Dizzy Dali Dinner, to benefit European artists displaced by the war. The event’s theme was “Night in the Surrealist Forest,” and it took place at the Hotel de Monte in Monterey, California.
One favorite recipe in Les Diners de Gala is perfect for Friday afternoon: the Casanova Cocktail. According to Dali,“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.”
The juice of 1 orange
1 tablespoon of bitters
1 teaspoon of ginger
(Mr. Peacock is assuming that Mr. Dali is referring to powdered ginger)
4 tablespoons of brandy
2 tablespoons old brandy
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.