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The Surreal Cookbook Of Salvador Dalí


If you're of a certain age or if you love surrealist art, then you probably remember Salvador Dali. He was widely known for his celebrity persona, his pointy mustache and his canvases filled with melting clocks and other worldly deserts. But did you know that Dali also dabbled in other worldly 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. It was an opulent gold-leafed collection of exotic French recipes. Now after more than 40 years as a rare collector's item, it is being republished, as NPR's Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi reports.

ALEXI HOROWITZ-GHAZI, BYLINE: Unlike most cookbooks, this one begins with a warning...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: "Les Diners De Gala" is uniquely devoted to the pleasures of taste. If you're a disciple of 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.

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: It wasn't the first time Dali dallied in surreal dining. Food was a common feature in his paintings, and he and his wife were known for their dinner parties.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Mr. Salvador Dali gives a party. The Spanish painter's surrealism dresses Mrs. Dali in a unicorn's head just to start things off. As hostess, she presides from a red velvet bed.

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: On the menu that night, fish served in slippers and live frogs hopping from their plates. But to understand all these culinary ambitions, you have to go back to the very beginning.

HANK HINE: Dali said about his ambitions that when he was 6 years old, he wanted to be a cook.

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: Hank Hine is director of the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla.

HINE: And when he was 8, he wanted to be Napoleon and that his ambition only increased from that point.

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: But it was another childhood passion - painting - that set him on his path. The melting watches and eerie dreamscapes he painted in the '20s and '30s became synonymous with the French intellectual movement known as surrealism, and his growing fame quickly eclipsed many of his fellow practitioners. Andre Breton, the communist father of the movement accused Dali of selling out, and he coined an anagram of Dali's name.

HINE: Avida Dollars - meaning an avid passion for money.

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: The name proved to be prophetic. Dali went on to collaborate with Walt Disney and Alfred Hitchcock, became a regular figure on American television and even made commercials.


SALVADOR DALI: Alka-Seltzer is a work of art, truly one of a kind like Dali.

CAROLIN YOUNG: He becomes a caricature of himself.

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: Carolin Young is an historian of European art and cuisine. She says that as Dali grew older, his innovation came more in the way he commercialized his work.

YOUNG: He's arguably the first brand master artist before Andy Warhol or Jeff Koons or anybody that we might think of now and really kind of lost sight of the original mission in a sense.

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: But not if you take Dali at his word, that his real mission was to become a kind of Napoleon of 20th-century art with a persona bigger than any one medium as he told Mike Wallace in 1958.


MIKE WALLACE: In other words, what is most important to you...

DALI: Is my personality...

WALLACE: Is expressing Dali...

DALI: Dali.

WALLACE: ...Not the painting, not the clowning, nothing but...

DALI: Le painting, le clowning, le showmanship, le technique - everything is only one manner for express the total personality of Dali.

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: Dali wrote books, plays, he made experimental films, and in the early 1970s, he finally got around to fulfilling that earliest of childhood dreams by publishing his first and only cookbook. The recipes came from some of the most illustrious old guard restaurants in Paris, and the book itself was opulent, filled with erotic lithographs, sketches of vivisected animals and dreamlike photographs of Dali surrounded by towering pyramids of lobsters, whole taxidermy peacocks and decadent dishes.

HINE: All of them are filled with cream sauces and organ meats and puff pastry.

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: Museum director Hank Hine.

HINE: These are dishes to clog your arteries.

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: And if some of the recipes sound more grotesque than delicious, Jon Shook says that's a reflection of our changing taste.

JON SHOOK: Back then when the book was written like sweetbreads, liver, ears, tails, tongues like - that was popular.

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: Shook and his partner, Vinny Dotolo, run Animal, a restaurant in Los Angeles specializing in bold, carnivorous cuisine. They prepared a couple of recipes from the book, deep-fried goose eggs and pig's ear stew.

SHOOK: It's a bean stew with pig ears. It's pork and beans.

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: The book was printed just once and quickly became a coveted collector's item. Publisher Benedikt Taschen was 10 years old when he came across one of those in a bookstore in Germany.

BENEDIKT TASCHEN: Printed on heavy golden stock paper - they just looked like objects of desire that you instantly wanted to possess.

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: Now more than 40 years later, Taschen has built a successful business selling art books and decided it was time to resurrect "Les Diners De Gala" with an exact page-for-page facsimile of the original. Hank Hine of the Dali Museum says he plans to cook some of the dishes over the holidays.

HINE: These recipes stand as terrific inspirations to excess.

HOROWITZ-GHAZI: What's important to remember, he says, is that Salvador Dali saw the entire world as his canvas, and the dinner table was no exception. Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi is a host and reporter for Planet Money, telling stories that creatively explore and explain the workings of the global economy. He's a sucker for a good supply chain mystery — from toilet paper to foster puppies to specialty pastas. He's drawn to tales of unintended consequences, like the time a well-intentioned chemistry professor unwittingly helped unleash a global market for synthetic drugs, or what happened when the U.S. Patent Office started granting patents on human genes. And he's always on the lookout for economic principles at work in unexpected places, like the tactics comedians use to protect their intellectual property (a.k.a. jokes).

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