Salvador Dalí’s Cookbook
If you’re of a certain age or if you love surrealist art, then you probably remember Salvador Dalí. He was widely known for his celebrity persona, his pointy mustache and his paintings filled with melting clocks and exotic deserts. But did you know that Dali also enjoyed exotic desserts? Turns out that the artist published a cookbook in the early 1970s. It was called “Les Diners De Gala” or “The Dinners of Gala,” named for his wife. In the following interview, journalist Hank Ghazi talks to publisher Alexi
Horowitz, who is preparing a facsimile of the original.
Now listen to the interview
HANK GHAZI: Welcome to our program, Ms Horowitz, and thank you very much for accepting our invitation.
ALEXI HOROWITZ: Thank you very much for inviting me. It is a pleasure being here.
HANK GHAZI: Most of us know Salvador Dalí as one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, but I’m sure most people would be surprised to find out that he also published a cookbook.
ALEXI HOROWITZ: Well, in a way we could say that this book is also a work of art. It isn’t your typical cookbook. The original edition was a gold-leafed collection of exotic French recipes. The book was published just once so it immediately became a rare collector’s item.
HANK GHAZI: Is that why you decided to republish it?
ALEXI HOROWITZ: Yes, I discovered it in an old bookstore in Germany over 30 years ago and I found it fascinating. Ever since then I have fantasized about republishing it.
HANK GHAZI: So this must be a pretty unique cookbook in many ways.
ALEXI HOROWITZ: It is completely unique and unexpected. Starting with the fact that it begins with a warning.
HANK GHAZI: A warning?
ALEXI HOROWITZ: “Les Diners de Gala” is devoted to the pleasures of taste. If you’re one of those calorie counters who turn the joys of eating into a form of punishment, close this book at once. It’s too lively, too aggressive and far too impertinent for you.
HANK GHAZI: I didn’t know that Dalí had a particular interest in food?
ALEXI HOROWITZ: Food was actually a common element in his paintings, and he and his wife were known for their dinner parties. In one of those parties the painter dressed his wife in a unicorn’s head while she presided over the table from a red velvet bed. On the menu that night, fish was served in slippers and live frogs were jumping from the plates.
HANK GHAZI: You mention in the introduction to the book that when he was six years old, Dalí wanted to be a cook.
ALEXI HOROWITZ: Yes, that is true. But then at age 8 he wanted to be Napoleon!
Eventually, it was another of his childhood passions, painting, that he would become most famous for.
HANK GHAZI: So tell us a little bit about the kinds of recipes that we can find in the book.
ALEXI HOROWITZ: The recipes came from some of the most exclusive restaurants in Paris, and the book itself was opulent, filled with erotic paintings, sketches of exotic animals and dreamlike photographs of Dali surrounded by enormous pyramids of lobsters, peacocks and decadent dishes.
HANK GHAZI: So not the kinds of dishes we would prepare at home on a regular day…
ALEXI HOROWITZ: No, not exactly. All of them are filled with cream sauces and organ meats and puff pastry. These are dishes to clog your arteries just by looking at the pictures!! Not exactly for the calorie conscious!!
HANK GHAZI: Nothing like a green salad with avocado…
ALEXI HOROWITZ: No, not at all! It is very heavily meat based. And not exactly lean meats like chicken breast, but rather things like goose meat fried in duck fat or pig ear stews!
HANK GHAZI: It is also true that culinary tastes have changed a lot in the last 40 years and that people back then were not as concerned about what they ate as we are now.
ALEXI HOROWITZ: Absolutely. Also, you have to remember that this is a cookbook by one of the most amazing and surprising artists of his time, so you cannot expect anything simple even for those days.
HANK GHAZI: Of course. Like his paintings, they are probably surreal in many ways.
ALEXI HOROWITZ: Yes, and you can tell that many of the recipes are there because of the visual impact. In some ways, they are like small paintings that can be eaten.
HANK GHAZI: Have you considered adapting some of the recipes to more modern
ALEXI HOROWITZ: No, we wanted to keep it as close to the original as possible, with all its excess and decadence. Adapting it to modern culinary tendencies would have been like going against the spirit of Dalí.
HANK GHAZI: How about the gold-leafed pages?
ALEXI HOROWITZ: We thought a lot about that and in the end we decided to publish a very small number of those, exactly as they were published in the early 1970s. But we also wanted to make the book available to a larger audience, so we will also be publishing a simplified version. It will still have all the recipes, drawings and pictures, but there will be no gold and it will also be much cheaper.
HANK GHAZI: Do you think many people will try the recipes?
ALEXI HOROWITZ: Probably not, among other reasons because it could be difficult for most people these days to find a lot of the ingredients. But, as I said before, the book is a tribute to the author’s amazing mind and his endless creativity. We have to remember that Salvador Dalí saw the entire world as his canvas, and the dinner table was no exception.
HANK GHAZI: Well thank you so much for this fascinating conversation. We will certainly be looking forward to getting a copy of “Les Diners de Gala”, though maybe not the gold edition!
ALEXI HOROWITZ: Thank you very much for having me.