Thursday, May 18, 2017


You’ll find many sources telling you that Salvador Dali’s soft clocks – the kind you see in “The Persistence of Memory” - were inspired by seeing a camembert cheese melting in the sun.  This kind of thing:

I didn’t Know this till very recently, and to my eyes, those clocks look to be inspired more by the thin floppiness of brie than of camembert, although admittedly it's hard to  who am I to argue with art experts?  Salvador Dali’s cookbook titled Les Diners de Gala (first published in 1975, reprinted in 2016 by Taschen) gives no clue, and makes no mention whatsoever of camembert or brie, although Roquefort is mentioned as the basis of a sauce to go with turkey.

Digging around I did find this picture by Irving Penn made in 1992, an homage to Dali no doubt, he did a lot of food photography for Vogue and he photographed Dali too.  And this surely is a camembert, unless of course it’s a baby brie:

Les Diners de Gala is an odd confection, for one thing it’s not absolutely clear who wrote it.  Dali one assumes, though it doesn’t actually say that anywhere in the book.  It says he “conceived and materialized” it, and presumably Gala had a hand in it as well.  It’s translated by Captain J. Peter Moore who was one of Dali’s “aides,” a man so trustworthy than in 2004 he and his wife Catherine Perrot, were convicted of “tampering” with Dali's 1969 painting "The Double Image of Gala." The painting was stolen in 1974 and found in the Perrot-Moore Art Center in 1999.  The authorities then searched Moore’s home and workshops and found 10,000 allegedly fake Dali lithographs.

Other names appear on the book.  There’s an introduction by P. Roumeguere.  The Draeger Freres “assured the layout” with the collaboration of Max Gerard “under the direction” of Rene Toutain.  

The book is illustrated partly with Dali’s paintings and partly with photographs, some of the photos are credited to R. Guillemot, a few to other photographers – and some are not credited at all.

As for the recipes, some of the dishes are really not very appetizing – frog cream, and veal cutlet stuffed with snails.  Some sound perfectly good but way more trouble than they’re worth: blood sausage with chestnut soufflé, Peacock a l’Imperial (actually a quail dish, though foie gras and truffles are involved).  Some just seem a bit dull.  Do I really need Dali, or Gala, to tell me how to make a celery gratin?

Still it’s a fine and intriguing art volume.  Obviously it was never intended to be a practical recipe book to be used in the kitchen, and for that very reason I had to try making one of the recipes. I went for quail eggs with caviar, a dish that requires assembly rather than cooking, and in fact it’s a recipe “given by Maxim’s.”  Of course I didn’t use real caviar, and I hardboiled my eggs whereas the recipe called for them to be soft poached.  Runny quail egg yolks and black fish eggs struck me as a bit revolting, but arguably that was the point.  The end result tasted fine and it more or less looked the part, though I can’t say it was very Dali-esque,

By all accounts (especially John Richardson’s) Gala was a bit of pill, but Dali obviously got something he needed from her, and together they did seem, at least once, to bond over the pleasures of a good lobster.

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