I had lunch last week with someone who asked me what my last meal would be. If you’ve ever watched Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations, you’d know that he always claims it’s a little game chefs like to play. (I like to imagine they just get into pillow fights or play spin the bottle because chefs are behind only Postwar Jewish-American writers and pro tennis players in terms of sexiness in my book.)
I didn’t have an answer. It’s not that I haven’t thought about it because, believe me, I have. And it’s not that I’m an indecisive person because believe me, I’m not. I suppose food is as important to me as life itself and the idea of actually choosing the last meal I’d ever eat seems like too overwhelming a decision.
My theory is that you can go one of three ways:
A) Low brow
People sometimes decide they want something cheap but satisfying and usually fattening. This usually means fast food– something people can obviously afford to eat regularly in the economic sense but can’t really afford to eat regularly because of whatever tolls it might take on one’s health and appearance.
I was surprised by his answer. From what I gathered, he’s something of a foodie (though I hate that term and find it as embarrassing a label as “fashionista.”) He chose White Castle hamburgers, which I found endearing, perhaps because I have been known to make trips to Brooklyn especially for them and also because he probably has the means to eat whatever he wants and it seemed like an unpretentious choice.
Sometimes, people choose something close to home, their mother’s [insert ethnic specialty.] I understand this on an emotional level because food has the ability to transport us between cultures and time. I think one of the best scenes in Ratatouille is when Anton Ego, the ornery food critic, takes one bite of the ratatouille and is magically lifted to his sunny, idyllic childhood in Provence and his mother’s lovingly prepared food.
I credit my own mother for inspiring my love of food. She’s an excellent cook and truly loves eating, but I couldn’t think of one of her dishes in particular that would comfort me or send me skipping down memory lane on the eve of my death.
The last route, extravagant, is for those who would probably also want to go skydiving if they found out they were dying because they want to throw caution into the wind and live it up in a way they wouldn’t normally. I think I’m lucky in that I get to eat very well on a fairly regular basis, so this option isn’t as appealing to me. (Nor is skydiving, to be honest. If I die having never done it, I will still feel as though I had a very rich and full life. Not sure why people imagine it is the one component their life is missing whenever they face their own mortality.)
So I was stumped… but I think I’ve finally reached my decision. Last night, I was participating in a regular ritual I have with my dear friend John. We get Popeye’s fried chicken and we watch The Wire. I used to be really into pairing foods and movies like I was a cinematic sommelier… Popeye’s goes with most everything, Rocky IV in particular; another great combo is Thai food/Thai boxing (Bloodsport).
Maybe it was seeing so many deaths (it’s what happens when you snitch), but I started think about my own death and came to the conclusion that my last meal would surely have to be Popeye’s. That crispy, spicy batter, the juicy meat, those unbelievably buttery biscuits and the cajun rice. I could die a happy girl.
I suppose I might wash it all down with a good bottle of champagne, so perhaps I would give a nod to extravagance. Unfortunately for prisoners on death row, however, I learned that alcohol is usually verboten before executions because it dulls the senses. Wikipedia has a whole page on famous inmates’ last meals. (You might be surprised as I was to learn that many of them declined a special meal.)
So there you go. Hopefully, I won’t have to think about my own death for a very long time, but in the unlikely event that I get into some freak accident, be a dear and pass me a leg and a biscuit, won’t you?