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Salvador Dali's Surreal Cookbook at the Castellani Art Museum

A foul that is cooked and eaten while still alive
The book in which Salvador Dali collected these gruesome fantasies, dedicated to his wife.
A dish inspired by the serial child killer Gilles de Retz

Les Diners de Gala

Salvador Dali, icon artist of the surrealist school, famous for his melting clocks and watches and absurd mustache, also made a cookbook, with lavishly depicted illustrations of the various concoctions. The illustrations and précis accompanying recipes or artist commentary are currently on display at the Castellani Art Museum at Niagara University.

Tell them you’re strictly vegan. So, no thanks on the stacked crayfish generously garnished with detached heads and torsos of martyrs, a creation in homage, Dali tells us, to the notorious serial child killer Gilles de Retz—whose often decapitated his victims—and previously companion-in-arms in the Hundred Years War to martyr Joan of Arc. The proper name of the dish is Cannibalismes de L’automne—Oeufs Fruits de Mer.

You may want to pass also on the Caprices Pincés Princiers, a portion of which looks at first glance like a human brain, but on closer inspection, some gory, chaotic scene of Classical World rapine, maybe the Fall of Troy. Dali explains how “the greatest gastronomical refinements consist in eating ‘cooked and living beings,’” recalling “the fundamental law of our Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Rumanian religion, i.e., to swallow the living God…in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.”

You might also want to forego the pleasure of a walk among the Viandes Sodomisées, which look pretty much like cuts of meat you’d see in an ordinary butcher’s shop, but of gargantuan dimensions in relation to the Lilliputian man and child strolling among them.

Another offering is a fish—that is, fish head—with a woman’s body, in homage to Dali’s friend and fellow surrealist René Magritte.

You get a sense of some of the sources of the surrealist impulse: religious mystery, Gulliver’s Travels, Gargantua and Pantagruel, Hieronymus Bosch, fairy tales, other surrealist artists. There are several derisory references to the Catholic doctrine on the Eucharist. (Whereas, Flannery O’Connor said, “If it’s a symbol, the hell with it.”)

One of more unusual fare dishes consists of a duck or goose—or in the illustration, pheasant—cooked still alive. You pluck the bird of feathers, except for the head and neck, but then the recipe instructions get a bit sketchy. Apparently you eat it still alive, too, but cooked, the part you eat, anyway.

Dali made the cookbook for his wife, Gala. (The final recipe is for Les “Je Mange Gala” Aphrodisiaques. Not clear just what these all consisted of.)

Unable to resist the pun, the Castellani Museum people are making the Dali exhibit the theme of their annual gala set for October 19, if you’ve got an extra $150 or so to spare for a good cause. Museum director Kate Koperski said the food provided would be palatable and excellent (not following the Dali recipes).

The exhibit continues until March 2, 2014.

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