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?

30 Responses to last meals
  1. baonkobento Reply

    I would ask for a cup of coffee, fatty salmon sashimi, a course of the highest quality sushi, half a pulled-pork sandwich, baked oysters with cheese, tom yum or ramen or sinigang, the freshest and runniest fried egg with ketchup, an egg or fruit tart, a slice of decadent chocolate cake, a cream puff, and to top it all off, all the fresh steamed crab I can eat. I haven't eaten crab in years because I'm deathly allergic, and since I will die anyway it will be worth it! XD

  2. Michael Chen Reply

    10 french fries? haha so precise!

    Fried chicken (guilty pleasure), black forest cake, caesar salad, grilled cheese sandwich (sourdough with gouda, gruyere, sharp cheddar), lamb curry, and jumbo lump crab cake, pina coladas. In no particular order.

  3. J. Dent Reply

    When I saw the title of this new post, I didn't know what to think at first. You surprised me on MC, and you're still surprising me with this blog. I'll say one thing for that Brewer guy. If he had eaten all of that, I don't think they would have needed to "flip the switch" as your post put it. I imagine he would've been the first to eat himself to death.

    Anyway, I never gave much thought to what I'd eat if I were bound for the last mile or even if I were just to drop dead. Like you, I don't have a favorite food, although steak was always a top runner with me. I'd probably want a steak from Longhorn steakhouse (best cut of beef apart from home grilled), shrimp scampi, and then I'd go hog wild on desserts. Key lime pie, tiramisu, homemade ice cream, cheesecake (most likely Grasshopper). Hey, if I'm gonna kick the bucket or someone else is gonna kick it for me, blood sugar and cavities aren't going to be the first thing on my mind. I'd eat as much of it as I could…and then try to finish it.

  4. warbirdali Reply

    Flown over from England an Indian Doner kebab, Sihk Kebab, Samosas and Onion Bhajis as big as softballs from the "Curry Mile" of Manchester. I would be satisfied and also have the pleasure of knowing if my bowels gave out I would have revenge! And good luck doing the autopsy on me…..

    • Christine Ha Reply

      That sounds both fabulous and horrific but with hilarity.

  5. Jason Reply

    To drink, three bombers of Avery Maharajah at about 50 degrees. Food, I'll start with calamari with a citrus glaze and little dollops of wasabi scattered through it, and then a bowl of duck and andouille gumbo. After that, an open face pot roast sandwich with garlic mashed potatoes (a little chunky with the skins left on, please), and green beans that are still a little crunchy, cooked in butter and garlic. I will also need the better part of a loaf of French bread for dippin' and soppin'. The bread should arrive with the gumbo and remain for the main course. For dessert, bread pudding with lots of raisins.

    I would then die a happy, fatter man.

    • Christine Ha Reply

      And then you can say you've lived.Nice beer choice.Wow, everyone's last meals have been pretty fancy and full of variety. And I thought I was a diva for having a 6-course last meal…

  6. Jude Reply

    I hate food, which is why it's ironic that I'm reading your blog. I would probably go with a gallon of homemade strawberry ice cream, which is about the only food that I really love.

    • Christine Ha Reply

      Why do you hate food?

      • Jude Reply

        I think it starts with allergies–to nuts, watermelon, canteloupe, and onions. Then it probably comes from being descended from horrible cooks. As a child, I liked my grandmother's homemade noodles, her burnt roast beef, and her burnt bacon–and the honey taffy she made once a year at Christmas time. I think I have a fat intolerance. Oh, yeah, and I'm definitely lactose intolerant. Besides ice cream, I also like radishes. Food is a chore, not a joy. But I enjoy watching other people enjoy it.

        • Christine Ha Reply

          Wow, what a battle. :/

        • Ethnic Foodie Reply

          Hello Jude. From reading your above comment (and seeing that you're reading Christine's food blog), I have total faith in that you can learn to love food instead of not-really-loving it. Now, I'm not going to try to convert you if you're set on your belief – hey, you know yourself better than I know you. But seeing as Christine is *the* blind cook who totally amazed the world by winning MasterChef Season 3, I truly believe that if you truly want to conquer your food woes and want to savour the flavour of the world, you can do it just like Christine did it :) .

          Learning to cook with all the other ingredients besides dairy, watermelon, canteloupe, nuts, onions, and (fatty?) foods, not to mention deciphering all the (so-called) food ingredients out there, might help you enjoy the amazing world of food more. This is just my two cents, and I'm curious to know how you're faring with food :)

  7. sillygirl Reply

    I couldn't do just one last meal – I want to know at least three days in advance so I can really enjoy all the not-fat-free foods I have loved – and they or I would have to be flown around the world to get them. So many cuisines – so little time!

    • J. Dent Reply

      Now, that's something I'd probably do myself. My menu choices would probably keep growing, I'd need a week of last meals.

  8. Jerome Reply

    Hi Christine! I just started reading your blog today! I'm really a big fan of yours and you've inspired me so much since your days in the Masterchef kitchen. Anyway to keep on topic, my last meal would consist of Kare-kare (a Filipino-style beef stew with peanut paste), bagoong (sort of like a sauteed shrimp paste), two cups of basmati rice, two cans of orange soda, a big serving of chocolate ganache, and two Kit Kat's. I'm really looking forward to your recipe book!

    Cheers!

    • Christine Ha Reply

      Thanks for reading. I've had kare kare before and want to eventually learn how to make it myself. Kit-Kats are probably my favorite chocolate candy.

  9. Grace Reply

    Just wanted to say hi, and tell you that I'm so blessed by your cooking. My family used to make a bet on who will win Masterchef, but I've bet on you the first time I see you on audition, so thank you for inspiring me to learn more in culinary than just tasting and commenting on them(my mom called me a no-cooking food critique) and making me win me fifty thousand rupiahs. I live in Indonesia and I love Asian food, so my last meal will be a plate of richly seasoned rendang(Indonesian meat dish), a hearty bowl of soto(a spiced chicken with yellow broth), my Grandma's awesome dim sums(I miss her cooking so much), and the last are those sugary goodness by the pastry shops! I've never try darjeeling before, so my last minutes will be when I spend all my money buying expensive teas and pints of ice cream. I hope you can visit us in Indonesia.
    xoxo

    • Christine Ha Reply

      Glad you won the bet. ;) I've never had darjeeling either. I just recall a film by that name. Haha. I've had reng deng before from a Malaysian restaurant but not the other dishes you've mentioned. WOuld be nice to visit Indonesia someday. Tanya from the show is from there.

  10. guidepooch Reply

    Hmm, this is a tough call. I would have olive tapenade + bread, a bowl of mussels in white wine broth, a spicy black bean burger with mashed avocado, roasted red pepper hummus and soft goat cheese, a warm fudge brownie, a large soft ginger cookie, a london fog and a chai latte.

    This definitely gave me some food for thought!

  11. Lou Pounder Reply

    My family have last suppers before any of us go on a trip….have to say I thought it odd at first , but it is kind of nice, a good excuse for getting the family together.
    My last supper would be , cod and chips with mushy peas and curry sauce.

    • Christine Ha Reply

      Very British of you.

  12. Jesse Carter Reply

    In Order: 1 Red Lobster biscuit, a small ceaser salad w/bacon, 1 cup of lobster bisque, 1 supreme taco and 1 bean burrito from Taco bell, a KFC extra crispy fried chicken leg, 6 oz. filet mignon medium rare, some fried calamari /w maranara sauce, a fully loaded baked potato and a 4 oz. slice of strawberry cheesecake, booyah!

  13. Orange Profiteroles Reply

    Appetizer: cheetos flamin hot (4 huge bags) and pik-nik hot(30 huge cans)
    Entree: your flatbread and three bacon explosions
    Dessert: 10 cream puffs and a bowl full of hot caramel

    By the way, i will haunt mcdonalds forever

    • Christine Ha Reply

      LOL. Ain't no shame in the fast food weakness. THanks for adding my flatbread to your last meal. I'm quite flattered. And good thing it'd be your last meal because all those flamin' hot goodies will not make your rectum feel good. Yes, I said it.

  14. katie Reply

    Hi Christine. I ran acrossed you blog via youtube today. My husband and I are really good cooks and I love small plates so much I do sampling parties. My last sampler would have to be chilean sea bass en popette with saki and tarragon, smothered chicken, red pear with champagne vingerette, my seven mushroom creamed soup, spiced herb baguette, and apple streusel. All made by my own hand.

    • Christine Ha Reply

      Wow, I commend you for wanting to cook your own last meal.

  15. Artie Reply

    Hi Christine. I just found your blog today. Followed you through the show and can,t wait for the cookbook to come out. I think I would have to have crawfish gumbo, Yellowtail sushi, New England Clam chowder(from New England) and a couple rare filets.

    • Christine Ha Reply

      You love your seafood. :)

  16. Online herbal Reply

    Amazing blog i appreciate to your work.
    Thanks for the useful sharing.

  17. […] my alum Christine Ha wrote perfectly about convict’s last meals, and I have to say, if it’s a ni... livingaloudallowed.com/2013/11/08/fun-for-friday-houstons-best-10-course-meal

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