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Famous last meals

Zubin Dsouza

 

The recently concluded Lenten season was a period of deep introspection and thought. It is surprising that one’s thoughts turn most to food when one is depriving oneself of that particular sustenance.

Being Catholic, I subscribe to the faith and this recently concluded period is the most important one spiritually in the entire calendar year.

Towards the end of the season, my thoughts kept going back to the Last Supper that Jesus shared with his apostles.

What did they eat? Who prepared the food? Were they really laid out single file as depicted in the famous painting by Leonardo Da Vinci?

There is always a sense of despair when one thinks about a topic like last meals. People tend to associate it with death, executions and prisoners.

This should never be the case. Food is a cause for celebration and should be treated as such.

Food has the power to bring about a true change in one’s life. It can change one’s health or mood and has been also found to bring people out of depression. This all stands to change immediately if you are subjected to eating a meal cooked by me!

It is true that condemned prisoners are offered a choice of food before they are executed but not all last meals have a touch of negativity about them. Some of the greatest historical events in the world have centered on a meal.

Since we started off talking about the Last Supper; the meal ending had Jesus hauled away for torture and summary execution by crucifixion. But this event also leads on to the most spectacular aspect of the faith.

There are many of us who would ponder as to what we would have under similar circumstances. What would we do if we knew that this would have been our last day on earth? The last time we get to eat and savour food?

Would the thought of impending death drive away all hunger? Or would eating a meal you like bring comfort and solace in that bleak moment?

What thoughts would dictate your choices? Would your choices change because they would be chronicled for posterity and you wouldn’t want history to judge you based on your meal choices?

Ernest Hemingway had planned a quick exit with a shot to the head but before that he made sure that he had a great meal. He ate New York strip steak, baked potato, Caesar salad accompanied by lots of Bordeaux wine.

Not that Michael Jackson knew that he would go so unexpectedly but his last meal was an extremely healthy spinach and chicken breast salad.

On the other hand, Princess Diana was equally clueless about her impending death but she had just dined at the Ritz Carlton in Paris in the restaurant L’Espadon where she had a lovely meal that included Dover sole, vegetable tempura and a mushroom and asparagus omelette.

One of the greatest chefs to inspire the modern generation was Julia Child and she went to her maker with a very appropriate serving of French onion soup in her belly.

Elvis Presley who was always a gargantuan eater died after having consumed a paltry four scoops of ice cream and six chocolate chip cookies.

Before Saddam Hussein was executed, he was served boiled chicken with rice and hot water with honey. I guess after being in power so long and ending up eating something that frugal and miserable, he may have been all the more ready to go.

Adolf Eichmann was one of the highest Nazi officers to face trial after a dramatic kidnapping that saw him flown to Israel from South America. Surprisingly for a persecutor of all things Jewish, his last meal request was for a bottle of Carmel which is an Israeli red wine.

Aileen Wuornos, a serial killer who inspired the movie ‘Monster’ and an Oscar for Charlize Theron only drank a cup of coffee before she went up for her execution.

Peter Kurten who was dubbed the ‘Dusseldorf Monster’ for his murderous spree ate wiener schnitzel, fried potatoes and drank white wine. He enjoyed his meal so much that he asked for and received seconds! Strange for someone about to walk up for a decapitation!

As for me, I am like the Emperor Napoleon and treat almost every meal as my last meal so that there are no regrets and no reason for me to return as a ghost.

When the emperor died whilst in exile, he had just scoffed liver and bacon chops, shirred eggs, garlic toast with roasted tomatoes and sautéed kidneys. What a way to go, style all the way!

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