What Would You Eat For Your Last Meal?

I was asked by a reader to contemplate what I would like to have for my final meal, if I could plan such a thing.

That is a hard one. Not that I dislike the idea of contemplating death–having faced it once or twice in my life, I am not particularly disturbed by the thought of shuffling off my mortal coil.

What is hard about this request is to narrow down which foods I would want to have as the last taste in my mouth.

I think I would want something amazingly scrummy, like Thai Chili Basil Squid–a dish which I have not made at home, since squid are thin on the ground here in Ohio, but when I am in an excellent Thai restaurant, I order it every time. It is filled with the scent of the ocean, the incendiary power of Thai bird chilies, the sweetness of shallots and garlic and the herbal song of basil leaves, all held together by the sour tears of lime.

It is a wonderful dish, so lighthearted and joyful. It is like singing “Simple Gifts” and dancing a circle dance on a sunny May morning.

That is a fine thought if my last meal was in the spring, but what if it was in winter, and the sky was grey and cold, and snow blustered in the air?

Ma Po Tofu, steamed rice and Gai Lan and Shiitake Mushrooms with Oyster Sauce would be my last meal of choice. For whatever reason, Ma Po always makes me feel comfortable and comforted, like a warm quilt wrapped around my tastebuds. And the crisp, snappy stalks and velvet leaves of the gai lan pair perfectly with the fleshy musk of the mushrooms. These vegetables, too, are a comfort on a cold winter’s night, especially with a mug of smoky lapsang souchong tea.

What if my last breath were to come in October, my favorite month? What if I were to breathe my last on a morning when mist rises from grass lightly tipped with silvery frost, burned away by a golden sun blazing in an azure sky, setting the scarlet maples aflame with her brilliant rays?

Ah, then it would be simple.

A bowl of pinto beans cooked with a ham hock, onions, garlic and cumin, garnished with raw onions and cilantro, a basket of sweet cornsticks flavored with chili and cinnamon, a mess of greens cooked with bacon, onions, garlic and chili and dressed with balsamic vinegar, with fresh apple cider to drink.

And were I to go in summer, what would I want?

Nothing more than a pie made from freshly picked sour cherries wrapped in a crust of lard, butter, flour and a touch of sugar.

The truth is, I cannot decide what I would want for my last meal, in large part, because I cannot predict being able to predict when death will come. Death has always been a bit of a trickster, coming like a thief in the night, where none shall know his passing, so thinking about what I would plan to eat were I to somehow know when to expect his knock upon my door is a bit odd to me.

I suppose I could look at it this way: what would I plan to serve Death when she came calling for -our- last meal together. That makes a bit more sense, for as I was raised by southerners, I find it to be very rude to sit and eat without asking my guest to sup with me.

So, the question could be, and perhaps it would be better answered this way: what would I offer Death when he comes on his errand to fetch me?

The answer to that is simple: the best of what I can offer.

It is always foolish to slight a guest, particularly one so implacable and powerful as Death.

So, what would -you- want for your last meal?

Or, if you prefer–what would you sit down to eat with Death on your last day?

(And Bry, or Dan, or Zak, if you say, “salmon mousse,” I shall toss a fish at you.

(Thank you to Hillary from Chew On That for this evening’s thought-provoking post idea.)


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  1. My eternal love for cheese tells me that a block of any cheese would be fine when I am on death bed.

    Comment by Pintoo — July 26, 2007 #

  2. It would most definitely be a pizza–my eternal favorite food. No matter how many wonderful foods I discover and adore, it always comes back to pizza.

    Probably a delectable pizza, with olives, fresh basil and lots of chopped garlic on it.

    And for “dessert,” a Thai Mussuman curry with lots of fried tofu in it. (I am not much of one for sweets.)

    And some perfectly ripe, sweet cherries and nectarines.

    Comment by SecretNatasha — July 27, 2007 #

  3. What a thought provoking question…..I would probably not want to have my favorite dish. Rather, I would want to breath in the scent of what is the base of most dishes I enjoy…..garlic, ginger, and onion!

    Comment by Kirk — July 27, 2007 #

  4. Ooh, that’s one of those questions like “What’s your favorite food?” I always say, “What, I have to pick just one?”

    What comes to mind right now is chicken curry from my favorite little Chinese restaurant, Food King. It may not be authentic Chinese, but it sure is good, and spicy as you could want.

    Comment by Lucy — July 27, 2007 #

  5. My last meal would be two Jack-in-the-Box Ultimate Bacon Cheeseburgers; a triple order of curly fries; a pizza with pineapple, green pepper, ham, and anchovy toppings; a pint each of Ben & Jerry’s Black & Tan, Mint Chocolate Chip, and Vanilla ice cream.

    Comment by Martin Evans — July 27, 2007 #

  6. The hearts of my enemies!! GRRR!

    Barring that, your vegetable and bbq steam buns, one of those peanut butter hamburgers from the Irish Pub that was in P’cola, a picanye steak and sawaro cactus fries from Fogo De Jo in Dallas, a choclate milkshake from the old Woolworths here in Athens, topped off with a slice of pecan pie from a little roadside stand near Mobile, Al.

    Yea, the happiness that is food based memories.

    Comment by Bryian — July 27, 2007 #

  7. My love for rice tells me that I shud eat biryani ( the hyderabid version of rice and a vegetable medley) before I die.

    Comment by Dee — July 27, 2007 #

  8. As much as it is a thoughtful question, its scary to think abt it. I would eat anything my mum dearly cooks for me. What cud be special than that?

    Comment by Suganya — July 27, 2007 #

  9. Salmon mousse.
    (Ha. You didn’t say I couldn’t say it.)

    Comment by the other daughter — July 27, 2007 #

  10. Lol! As long as the salmon mousse isn’t at a dinner party on a cold drizzly day… although I like to think that I could put on a proud British accent for just such an occasion.

    Comment by Erika — July 28, 2007 #

  11. Rare roast beef, crispy potatoes baked along side it in the oven, gravy, home cooked string beans with a really nice red bordeau and chocolate cake for dessert. Can you tell I’m an American?

    Comment by Linda — July 29, 2007 #

  12. Dear Barbara,
    I’ve decided that I would require an entire day of meals. I would recreate the foods I ate when I attended our last family reunion some 16 years ago at Ocean Grove, New Jersey, when we rented two Painted Ladies on the Atlantic beach front.
    First, I would start with a Taylor Ham sandwich. Taylor ham is a pork roll that is easily obtainable for New Jersey residents. The smell and taste reminds me of my childhood.
    For lunch, I would have the New Jersey pizza we ate each day. A giant slice of thin crust pizza with fresh tomatoes, basil & garlic. And lemonade with mint.
    For dinner, I would have soft-shell crabs sauteed with garlic butter.
    And I would want to eat all the meals staring out at the Atlantic Ocean.

    Comment by Sue — July 29, 2007 #

  13. No question, I don’t even have to think for a split second. The ham I get from Gallo Nero delicatessen. I won’t even attempt describing it’s flavour, because [he says, pulling out the oldest cliché in the book] no words can describe the pleasure of picking up an entire slice and devouring it in one go. It’s quite simply the tastiest ham you’ll ever come across. If I died with a slice of that ham in my mouth, I’d die a happy man!

    Comment by Trig — July 29, 2007 #

  14. Good lord, I have no idea.

    Off the top of my head for the most fantastic foods from my memory, it’s narrowed down to several, depending on my mood that day:

    1) A slice of Sicilian with Meat Sauce pizza from Pizza on the Pier at the South Street Sea Port in New York City.

    2) A Good chicken or lamb Curry over basmati rice with peas in it, prefereably by Barbara or Sher Y’ Punjab.

    3) Something as simple as a slow-roasted chicken with in-the-bird rye bread, celery, onion, and spicy sausage stuffing, gravy, and mashed potatoes.

    4) Even more simple, a well aged, well, seasoned and marinated, thick fillet steak, brown outside and reddish pink in the middle, with a big Idaho Russet potato topped with real butter, salt and pepper, side salad topped with Barbara’s pomegranate salad dressing and pomegranate seeds

    Appetizers are a EXTREMELY simple choice. Crab Rangoon and Scallion Pancakes from China Fortune here in Athens

    And Desert, equally simple. Barbara’s pomegranate cheesecake. Whole thing. Not sharing, either. It’s my last meal. Might as well die happy. 😉

    Comment by Dan — July 30, 2007 #

  15. It kills me–we came up with the idea, and yet none of us can decide on our own Final Foods! I mean, I can probably pick my final drink–Planter’s Punch all the way–but what on earth do I want to eat before I breathe my last? Some angel hair pasta with really good olive oil sauce, chicken, and vegetables?…no, too simple. Ron of Japan? No, too lowbrow. Maybe Korean BBQ…simply because that way, I’d be guaranteed to eat my last meal surrounded by loved ones. You can’t make gal bi alone!

    Comment by Jim — July 30, 2007 #

  16. I can’t really decide. I can tell you one thing, though — if it came in July, it would NOT have zucchini in it!

    Comment by Brenda — July 30, 2007 #

  17. […] Read the full post here! […]

    Pingback by Chew On That » Blog Archive » Last Supper — July 31, 2007 #

  18. I think it would be a tie between your Jambalaya and Bryian’s chicken gumbo. Both of these dishes remind me of what I call ‘home’. I remember Bryian fixing gumbo and corn bread in the cold of an Athens winter to warm the house and everyone who happened to stop by for food. I remember your Jambalaya at one of the first times we met and it reminds me of an Athens summer and crawling around in a field of summer grass.

    It’s odd how food can remind ya of such strong memories.

    Always the Quest,

    Comment by Tomcat — August 1, 2007 #

  19. I really like your idea of twisting the question to ask “What would you serve Death?” I find it much more interesting to think about what Death might like to eat than to just compile favorites.

    Thinking about last meals always makes me remember the list of Texas Death Row inmates’ last meal requests.

    What the list doesn’t show is that, while some of the requests are obviously extraordinary, even the simple ones are almost never fulfilled. They only receive what is available in the prison kitchens that day. A sad way to end, I say.

    Comment by April — August 2, 2007 #

  20. April, that’s pretty odd–I saw a comprehensive website listing hundreds of prisoners’ last meals from multiple states, and quite a lot of them seemed to get whatever they wanted. I especially sympathized with the guy who ate an entire pint of Breyer’s Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream.

    But hey–Texas.

    Comment by Jim — August 3, 2007 #

  21. Jim – It’s good to hear that things are not so dismal in all prisons. Maybe it depends on whether they have families/outside sources who can provide special requests. I do have a friend who has worked with death row inmates and has assured me that at least in some places, the choices are pretty limited – but it’s true that I should be careful about posting secondhand information (although the source is reputable, to be sure). Breyer’s mint chocolate chip is pretty tasty stuff.

    Comment by April — August 3, 2007 #

  22. If it were my last day on earth and I had to choose my last meal. Twizzlers, A big bag of flamin’ hot cheetos, a 24 pack of diet coke. and some Mandrin Chinese Food.

    Comment by Teresa — January 7, 2010 #

  23. Plate of moo goo gai pan with brown sauce and chicken fried rice, crispy fried pork chop with mashed potatoes and gravy, asparagus, home made fudge and a 2 liter of ice cold pepsi

    Comment by Monique — April 1, 2011 #

  24. I would want to eat all the things that remind me of the most special things in my life.
    1). Cotton candy becuase I love the funfair.
    2). Cookies with white chocolate, because they remind me of lovely christmas.
    3). Pineapple juice, because it reminds me of all the wonderful trips I’ve made to Spain.

    Comment by Daniëlle — October 22, 2011 #

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