Detail from the cover of Les Dîners de Gala (1973) by Salvador Dali

Salvador Dalí, celebrity chef

Our forthcoming cookbook anthology looks back at the master of surrealism’s 1973 foray into gastronomy

It might seem as if celebrities looking for a handy brand extension have only recently hopped on the cookery bandwagon. However, as our new title, The Cookbook Book reveals, the trend dates back almost half a century.

In 1973 the Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí published Les Diners de Gala, a cookbook dedicated to his wife and muse Gala Dalí. Written in an idiosyncratic, wilful style the book makes no effort to introduce readers to a single cuisine aspect of gastronomy, but instead appears to be Dalí’s own exercise in lifestyle publishing. Indeed, the recipes themselves – largely 20th century European dishes – are said to have been drawn up for Dalí by notable chefs of the day.

The real feast here is Dalí’s own visual contributions. The artist illustrated the book lavishly, and today a good copy can change hands for hundreds if not thousands of dollars.  As we explain in our new anthology of noteworthy cookery books, The Cookbook Book, “Ingredients were a recurring theme in many of the surrealist master’s best-known works, and this book features 12 unique lithographs depicting his favourite meals, as well as 136 lushly illustrated recipes. Each one is as evocative and strange as any of his paintings, ranging from the reassuringly edible, such as a sorbet of vintage champagne, to eccentric aphrodisiacs such as crayfish in ‘Viking’ herbs.”


Dali's illustration for 'sodomised entrees'
Dali's illustration for 'sodomised entrees'

Hardly the book to reach for when entertaining friends, then. Nevertheless, Dalí’s editorial introjections are charming. These range from waiterly suggestions –  “may I suggest that you serve it with thin garlic toasts” – through to earthier notices – he warns drinkers of his Casanova Cocktail that "it is rather speedy". And, in case any readers bought the book thinking it was an early copy of The South Beach Diet, the artist adds a few cautionary lines in the preface. “If you are a disciple of one of those calorie-counters who turn the joys of eating into a form of punishment,” he writes, “close this book at once; it is too lively, too aggressive, and far too impertinent for you.”

If only more authors were so forthright. We hope you’ve enjoyed this preview from our forthcoming title. You can pre-order The Cookbook Book from the people how made it, here.