Famous last meals
I just returned from a much needed vacation to Japan and Korea to find myself in the throes of cookbook writing. Actually, these aforementioned throes were happening even while I was away on vacation. I was waking up early and staying up late to work on recipes, recipes, recipes. And now that I’m back home, I am even more deeply immersed in the recipe creating and writing. I’m telling you all this because it’s my legitimate excuse for not having posted a worthwhile entry in a while.
I am taking a mini-break from writing some head notes, tip boxes, and side bars (I didn’t even know what the hell these were until I embarked on this cookbook journey) to write a quick post so you, dear loyal reader, wouldn’t think I’ve forgotten about you. I have a glass of $3 Trader Joe’s shiraz at arm’s reach as creative lube; this glass of wine is also my dinner tonight so please excuse my nonsense ranting here as obviously, the wine has gone to my head.
Anyway, I was writing a side bar for one of the recipes in my cookbook when I found myself reading about last meals online as part of the research. Did you know that the act of the condemned accepting a last meal was a symbol of his/her forgiveness of the judge and executioner? It was a way of saying, “Hey, no worries. I won’t come back to haunt you after you tie this noose around my neck.” This is why the executioner and all others involved in the death penalty tried their best to get this person all of their requested foods before flipping the switch.
In my lovely home state of Texas, I learned that the “special meal” (a euphemism for “the last meal you’ll ever enjoy before you die”) has been abolished since September 2011 thanks to a certain prisoner named Lawrence Russell Brewer who ordered an insane amount of food—two chicken fried steaks with gravy and onions, a triple-patty bacon cheeseburger, an omelette, fried okra with ketchup, a pound of barbecue with half a loaf of white bread, three fajitas, a meat lover’s pizza, a pint of Blue Bell ice cream, a slab of peanut butter fudge, and three root beers—and did not eat a lick of it, saying he was not hungry.
I also learned about some of the last meals of famous prisoners:
- Saddam Hussein (death by hanging in 2006) supposedly refused his last meal of cigarettes (hopefully to smoke and not to eat but, hey, what the hell, you’re gonna die anyway) and chicken.
- Aileen Wournos (death by lethal injection in 2002, the serial killer on which the great film Monster starring Charlize Theron was based) also declined a last meal but was recorded to have had a hamburger and cup of joe.
- Clarence Ray Allen (a murderer from Utah who died by lethal injection in 2006) had KFC, sugar-free pecan pie, and sugar-free black walnut ice cream. My question is, why the hell would you eat anything sugar-free on death row?!
- Gary Carl Simmons, Jr. (Death by lethal injection this year) ordered a medium Pizza Hut Super Supreme deep dish pie with extra mushroom, onion, jalapeno peppers, and pepperoni; a bag of Doritos; two large strawberry shakes; two Cherry Cokes; super-sized McDonald’s fries; and strawberry ice cream. Now that’s a man who knew how to live…even if it was just for a few more hours.
- Rainey Bethea (the last person to be publicly executed in the U.S. In 1936 by hanging) ate fried chicken, pork chops, mashed potatoes, pickled cucumbers, cornbread, lemon pie, and ice cream. I wish I’d been alive to dine with this man.
- Ted Bundy (who needs no introduction) declined his special meal so he got the traditional Floridian medium-rare steak with over easy eggs, hash browns, toast, milk, coffee, juice, butter, and jelly. Sounds like a late-night Vegas meal to me.
- Timothy McVeigh (death by lethal injection in 2001) asked for two pints of mint chocolate ice cream.
I’ve been asked very often what my favorite food is. I always say I don’t have one favorite food; I have many. Then I proceed to tell the inquirer about how I am morbid and frequently think about if I were to die tomorrow, what would I eat today? I am all about variety—I love dim sum, tapas, and the general small plate offerings movement—and so if I were bound for execution, my last meal would consist of 6 courses in this exact order: 2 pieces of medium-fatty salmon sashimi, ten French fries, two eggrolls, half a slice of New York-style cheese pizza, a fried chicken drumstick, and a small bowl of noodle soup (either authentic Japanese ramen, Vietnamese chicken noodle soup, or Vietnamese spicy lemongrass beef noodle soup). Then I can die a happy, pot-bellied gal.
What would your last meal be?