Samantha Perry

Frog Legs and Fish-Filled Footwear: Salvador Dalí’s Cookbook

Samantha Perry

Picture a perfect dinner party. All the best guests have been invited. The table is set, equipped with elaborate silverware, thick crystal tumblers and plates topped with napkins folded into elegant shapes. Guests recline in velvet chairs as they admire the spread. A platter of red crayfish sits in the center, arranged in a dome and sprinkled with dill, and beside that sits a plate of slippers filled with fish. This may not be your dream dinner party, but it is Salvador Dalí’s.

Salvador Dalí, the prolific Spanish surrealist painter, and his wife, Gala, hosted many unique dinner parties. Later, in 1973, he created a cookbook featuring their recipes, photographs and original illustrations inspired by a series of their dinner events. Les Dîners de Gala is divided into 12 chapters with recipes ranging across the gustatory board, but Dalí’s favorite foods (anything with “armor,” i.e., shellfish) are prominently featured. Some recipes are Dalí’s originals, while others are from famous French restaurants. For one recipe, Dalí kept the chef’s exact ingredients a secret, omitting the measurements and instead including only the directions for “reading pleasure.” Readers are left to guess exactly how much of each ingredient to use.

Only about 400 of the original books published in 1973 are thought to have survived, but, luckily, Taschen, an art book publisher, has recently republished Dalí’s surrealist cookbook. Les Dîners de Gala is the perfect crossover for food and art lovers. Dalí’s cookbook poses a fun and exciting challenge to amateur and master chefs alike and promises to keep the “pleasure of Taste” a high priority.

It’s said that at the age of six, Dalí dreamed of being a chef. For many, this love for preparing and consuming food never really goes away. So for the versatile artist who (to name a few) painted, sculpted, created jewelry, designed furniture, wrote fiction, decorated stage sets, and helped produce film scenes, a cookbook must have been the icing on the cake!

Did You Know?
In 1992, the 303 Gallery in New York City hosted an exhibition by Rirkrit Tiravanija who converted one of the gallery spaces into a cafeteria. This interactive piece featured Tiravanija serving the viewers free food—Thai curry and rice to be specific. In 2012, the Museum of Modern Art in New York recreated the exhibit with the help of the artist and museum staff.

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