Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Your last meal?

What would you want your last meal to be? Pecan-encrusted pork chops? A little too frou-frou, uh? How about something that shouts egalitarianism from the rooftops, say a burger and fries? From McDonalds, of course. And add a shake, too.

Scratch that: let’s load on the sweets. Since it’s November, we’ll include all the pies (pumpkin, pecan, and apple to start), and maybe a decadent chocolate cake. Homemade buttercream icing – definitely.

In an era of nothing being too taboo and everyone being wholly irreverent (which I relish, if you haven’t realized), an article on Slate made me drop my soup spoon during my lunch break. It talked about death row prisoners’ last meals: can they really order anything? What do they choose to eat? Nothing was remarkably surprising about it: many chose filet mignon or, indeed, a burger and fries. The filet mignon often resulted in a hamburger steak, and the guy who requested 24 tacos was given four. Basically, if the kitchen could make it, it would, and improvise when necessary.

I am vehemently against the death penalty (for matters practical and those not so tangible), but whatever your politics, the article – and the links in the piece*—were startlingly sad for a Wednesday afternoon. What if you were the cook preparing the last meal – who were often prisoners themselves: would you add extra butter and substitute the skim milk for whole (and what does it matter now)? Add a garnish to the plate? Say a prayer as the plate was covered and brought to its final patron?

This wasn’t supposed to be a treatise on last rights, the judicial system, or any of that: I want to talk about food. For someone saddled with Crohn’s, I adore food. Right now I’m dreaming of roasted vegetables (pass the rutabaga, baby) and think there are few things more delicious than a Cortland apple or a chewy brownie with cold milk.

My last meal wouldn’t be anything fancy, but quietly forbidden in its own simple way. I would have a mound of spaghetti with fatty meatballs and the richest, most tomato-y marinara know to man, with buttery garlic bread. For dessert, I would have a sample: tiramisu, crème brulee, and chocolate truffles. If eaten today, this meal would leave me bedridden. Anything fatty is a deal-breaker and makes me run for the hills (correction, I would only stiffly walk to the hills, and only if a bathroom was located there), so the ground beef is a no-no. I think the garlic bread slathered with butter speaks for itself. Acidic tomatoes are a nightmare, and the desserts? White sugar and fatty cream (oh, luscious luscious cream) are toxic. (And boy oh boy, I love and eat all of these things a little more than occasionally.)

Crohn’s be damned, what would your last meal be? Please leave a comment for a hungry girl!

*The article has links to the state of Texas’ correctional website, which records the final statements of inmates, which were strikingly sobering. Some inmates reiterate their innocence. Almost all denounce what they did and allude to God. The most unsettling statements say, “Warden, I’m done now” or “Warden, I’m ready”. I don’t know why I read so many – it’s the worst form of voyeurism I guess – but definitely thought-provoking.


  1. I read so many of the last statements and they were all so chilling! I kept reading them aloud to my room mate, who was studying, so I don't think she appreciated it. But I just had to share! Many of the men seemed sincerely sorry for what they had done.
    One said "I hope that one day we can look back on the evil that we’re doing right now like the witches we burned at the stake."

    After all of that, I read the list of last meals to shake that feeling. I decided mine would be scrambled eggs and homefries from my favorite diner, a little steak, one chocolate chip silver dollar pancake, a raspberry smoothie, and broccoli in garlic sauce with white rice. For desert- white cake with white frosting from a grocery store. mmmmm it would be a big meal!

    - Julia K

  2. Julia,
    I know; they are so eerie and strangely compelling! I couldn't stop reading, either. I didn't see the witch comment, but did read a statement about a guy who denounced it and said this isn't even how they euthenize dogs...

    On a lighter note!...

    Your last meal is absolutely fabulous and I sort of want to re-do mine! Love the addition of the Chinese in garlic sauce, and pancakes... OMG...YES! How about with banana AND chocolate chip? That is my favorite...but Matt refuses to make them (just makes them with banana) b/c he says, "That's not a breakfast; that's dessert!" and I go, "EXACTLY!"

  3. What I get for waiting a few days to catch up on your blog: from the hysterics of Nature Girl to the crushing reality of our justice system. I read through some of the last statements and looked at some of the younger offenders to see what they'd done to warrant death under the Texas penal code. Truly sobering and sad. Now I need some levity back.

    Your post had a twist of irony for me because I got out of the hospital about a month ago after an eight-day visit. I left on 60 mg pred (I know, sucks for me) with instructions to taper weekly down to 20 mg to stabilize before entering a clinical trial for a new biologic drug. Stabilize isn't my word, of course, because 20 mg does nothing for me. Anyway, the night before I dropped to 50 mg, I told my boyfriend I wanted a decent steak as my "last supper." I knew what was ahead while I "stabilized" to get into the clinical trial, and I didn't care that the steroids still hadn't brought back my appetite. I was (and still am) literally forcing myself to stay in a flare, and damnit, I was going to eat a steak.

    We didn't have a lot of time, so we went to Outback at the edge of the city (I live out in the country about 60 miles from an interstate), and I made myself sick on fried mushrooms, sauteed mushrooms, and a cheap sirloin steak. The ride home wasn't pleasant, as you can imagine.

    I love steak, and not just any, but a medium rare Kobe filet tender enough to cut with a butter knife. Not wanting to waste money on someting I knew I wouldn't enjoy, I settled for the el cheapo Outback special for the last meal and now regret it. My diet since Outback has consisted of crackers, Ensure, broth, the occasional tuna sandwich, and a little cheese souffle I whip up when I'm feeling adventurous.

    Sometimes, my appetite is back with a vengeance, but I know better than to indulge. The hospital stay and TPN are too recent in time. In those moments, I think about my first supper. You know what I'm talking about: everything I'll eat when I can really eat again. I'm thinking it'll go something like this...
    A salad and there better not be a single shred of iceburg in it. I want butter lettuce and raddichio and romaine. I want it drenched in homemade hot bacon mustard dressing. I'll need a loaf or two of warm bread and softened REAL butter to go along with it. Then I want the steak. Kobe beef filet...just 10 ounces because I don't want to be a glutton. A side of fresh, steamed broccoli would do me just fine, along with mushrooms sauteed in garlic and butter. For dessert, there's a German chocolate cake with my name all over it. I can taste the coconut now.


  4. Greta,

    You should be a food writer - jeez louise! I am not a red meat/steak lover, but you really got me going witht that Kobe steak description.

    I agree with the absolutely no iceberg - I'm a mixed baby green fan and have a personal vendetta against the stuff. Iceberg is for taco salads, and those delicious little Asian carrot dressing salads you get at sushi joints.

    So sorry to hear about the recent hospital stay and the dreaded TPN and prednisone. I am overweight (so have the opposite problem of most Crohn's sufferers) and asked the TPN nutrionist to down my TPN bag to, perhaps, 1200 calories, but she insisted on 2200! So after weeks on TPN, not being able to enjoy the food I so desperately (and obviously) love, I didn't lose a pound.

    I hope you are feeling better, and I'm absolutely dying to hear about this new biologic you're testing!

  5. Oh dude, fried turkey (this may be a Southern thing, but its SO good), a crips fresh salad, and a bunch of Snickers bars. And super buttery popcorn. I miss popcorn like crazy. When I had surgery in 07 i considered sending someone out for some, i figured since I was having surgery...I took my IV pole to the lobby and stared at the Snickers so intently and so longingly that they gave me something to help me sleep, telling my dr "she was just staring at the candy machine, something's not right with the girl". Nuts, seeds, anything too fiberiffic, spicy, or heavy or super fried is the devil. Snickers and popcorn I have found no subs for so yeah, In fact, forget everything else, just give me those two.

  6. Definately popcorn! Miss it like crazy! First time I landed up in hospital was coz i finished a bag of popcorn by myself (pre-diagnosis) and haven't really had it for bout 10 years!

    Any great food with loads of fiber and creamy stuff I miss too.

  7. It's so sad because people without Crohns are all cookies, pies, cakes...And the Crohns peeps are all salad! popcorn! nuts!

  8. I thought about this for a few days, and I would go back to some of the foods of my childhood, but to a large extent, still make today.

    First off, pierogies, definitely pierogies, but not Mrs. T's. I want the kind the grandmas made at church bazaars in the coal country of northeastern PA. Since we lived across the street from our church, I remember going to fetch my gram in the church hall, telling her to come home for dinner. I remember the women peeling potatoes for the potato-cheese filling, sauteeing cabbage for another, rolling the dough, and the constant Lithuanian chatter, some of which I understood (and since forgot). These little boiled dumplings were then drenched in brown butter with sauteed onions, and I could eat a dozen. Oh, pure lusciousness! And Lithuanian potato kugeli--a savory concoction rich with grated potatoes, eggs, bits of fried bacon, and of course, more butter! Baked till the sides and top crisped and served with a dollop of sour cream!

    I'd also have corn on the cob, which we picked from my uncle's farm, and juicy beefsteak homegrown tomatoes, maybe accompanied by the perfect burger.

    For dessert, only a sour cherry or huckleberry pie will do. My mother bought the cherries from truck farmers who came through our town, but we picked the huckleberries ourselves in the surrounding hills. The berries ripened in July, and oh, my, they were tiny! I remember crouching and picking till my knees ached, and the scent of crushed sweet fern and teaberry underfoot, and the "zzzzzz" of grasshoppers buzzing about my head all in the hot sun of a dry shale-barren hillside. Sometimes, you hit it lucky and could stand and pick "swampers" (high bush blueberries) in wetter areas. I suppose the pies tasted particularly good since so much work was involved in producing them. I suppose a prison cook would make huckleberry pies with canned blueberry pie filling, but that won't do. Fresh cultivated blueberries are an acceptable substitute.

    Oh my, I'm making myself hungry again!


  9. MONG--what a great meal, beautiful sentiments, expressed eloquently! I have been pondering this question, but cannot come up with real meals, more like lists of favorite foods--like real homemade chips, aka steak fries, lasagna, baked brie, homemade bread, fresh strawberries, homemade lemonade, my mom's cheesecake, my grandma's potatoe filling .. . .the corn on the cob is a good idea too.


  10. I forgot the Lonacre's mint chocolate chip ice cream.

  11. Thank you everyone for commenting! Everytime someone mentioned their last meal, I felt I had to ammend mine (which seems so uninspired now)!

    You're right about the difference between the Crohnies and those not afflicted; I'm feeling better than I have in a long time at the moment (fresh off of surgery), and I know it will be fleeting, so I'm just loving being able to eat all those fiberous no-no's (nuts, greens....I'm eating multi-grain things again which I've avoided for years). And I've heard amazing things about fried turkeys!!!!

    It's eye-opening and humbling to know bad this disease gets: I know I have it good and realize that when I read your posts, and your's, Belinda.

    Mom (aka MONG):
    I miss Kugeli!!! You should make me some.

    Something about Longacre's ice cream (and well, all ice cream) makes me run for the bathroom (sorry for the unpleasant picture)...that stuff is RICH! Mmmm..homemade warm bread with butter....

    Thank you all for sharing!