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A book for Dada cooks

THE COOKBOOK ISSUE | COOKBOOK WATCH

November 02, 2005|Wesley Bausmith | Times Staff Writer

JUST out in a pocket-sized paperback edition, Allan Ben's "Art and Cook: Love Food, Live Design and Dream Art" (Universe, $23), takes an overtly arty tack to a book about cookery. The cover -- reminiscent of Man Ray or Rene Magritte -- features a surrealistic shot of an egg cracked open to reveal an eyeball, which stares, Cyclops-like, at the viewer.

Inside, the fun continues. Recipes in nine categories -- from appetizers to desserts -- mine the same vein as the Dada-esque images. Unexpected combinations and juxtapositions create dishes with pan-global flavors.

But it's really not about the recipes. This is more of a look book than a cookbook.

Visuals are arresting or alarming. An illustration with a recipe for stuffed grape leaves makes you look twice, then laugh. A layout featuring a live chicken confronting one that's been butchered and dressed, well, that might be more than we want to think about when preparing a meal.

And that may be where this book succeeds most, in making us think about food, where it comes from, and its role in our lives and culture. With its winks and nods to high art, it feeds our heads and is a feast for the eyes.

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