In the mid-nineties, I traveled to Oklahoma to visit my friend Doug. He took me on the grand tour of Tulsa’s finest thrift stores. Tulsa has a large proportion of wealthy folks from old-school oil money, so the thrift shops can sometimes hide some wonderful discarded treasures. It was mid-August and the temperature was in the 90’s with 100% humidity, so Mr. Peacock's butt was dragging a bit and my enthusiasm was definitely waning. Midway through our thrifting excursion, Doug struck gold and found a mint condition copy of "Les Diners de Gala” aka “The Salvador Dali Cookbook” for $4.50. I was so excited for him...but I wanted to find my own $4.50 copy of "Les Diners de Gala!"
Here’s the cover of “Les Diners de Gala”— front and back.
A few years later, I acquired my own treasured copy (but not for $4.50) of that beautifully eccentric tome by Mr. Dali—who was the king of all peacocks. The previous owner of my Dali cookbook left a weathered Florida newspaper clipping entitled, “Dali’s outrageous cookbook is part of museum collection,” neatly tucked inside the book. The museum, the article was referring to, is the Salvador Dali Museum, which is located in Saint Petersburg, Florida. The article explained that there were only 400 copies printed (I'm not sure if that is true or was a rumour started my Mr. Dali himself) and it originally sold for forty bucks.
Salvador and Gala Dali.
The book itself announces that “Salvador Domenech Philippe Hyacinthe Dali conceived and materialized this work dedicated to Gala,” his wife—who is stylized on the golden cover. There are 136 recipes in this glorious cookbook, which is an artwork in itself.
"Monarchial Flesh Tones"—Chapter 7: game and poultry.
Chapter topics of "Les Diners de Gala" include exotic dishes, snails and frogs, and aphrodisiacs.
"Sodomized Entrees"—Chapter 4: meats.
Dali adds to the adventure of the book with some linguistic looseness—made-up Dalinian words like “hors-texte” and “gastro esthetics.” In explaining his “gastro esthetics,” Dali writes, “In fact 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.” I guess, so much for spinach.
"Nocturnal Cravings"—Chapter 11: sweets and desserts.
The book is lavishly illustrated with a combination of drawings, paintings, collages, and photographs. "Les Diners de Gala" is a real jewel in my cookbook collection.
This spread shows an elegantly dressed table, with detail shots of recipe #56, "Veal cutlets stuffed with snails," and recipe #57, "Frog Pasties." The "Frog Pasties" are similar to a traditional Irish Pastie, meat filling topped with pastry, except Dali's is made with frog legs.
Recipe #129 for "Avocado toast" is mashed avocados with lamb brains and almonds—spread on toast.
Here’s recipe #71 for "Peacock a l’Impériale," which is made with quails.
"Soft Watches Half Asleep"—Chapter 11: sweets and desserts.
The collages in "Les Diners de Gala" remind me of the "easy fun ethereal" series of work by the artist Jeff Koons created a few years ago. Click here to see Mr. Koon's artwork.
Here’s Mr. Dali’s recipe for a pick-me-up drink:
“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
(Mr. Peacock is assuming that Mr. Dali is referring to 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.
"The I Eat Gala's"—Chapter 10: aphrodisiacs.
It's Friday, go ahead and make yourself a nice Casanova Cocktail! You can buy an autographed, first edition, of "Les Diners de Gala" here for $5000, and if you’re lucky find one for under $300 here. "Les Diners de Gala" would make the ultimate gift for any gastronome!