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food, police related

Any Last Meal Requests? (actually, scratch that, your choice has been revoked)

Cover of "My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs ...

Cover via Amazon

You know what? This is your last day on death row (because your bucket is about to be kicked for you), maybe I don’t care so much about the last bit of food that’s to go into your digestive tract.

The recognized concept of the last meal for condemned prisoners has been  long-standing custom around the world.

In pre-modern Europe, granting the condemned a last meal has roots in superstition: a meal was a highly symbolic social act. Accepting freely offered food symbolized making peace with the host. The guest agreed tacitly to take an oath of truce and symbolically abjured all vengeance. Consequentially, in accepting the last meal the condemned was believed to forgive the executioner, the judge, and witness(es). The ritual was supposed to prevent the condemned from returning as a ghost or revenant to haunt those responsible for their killing. As a superstitious precaution, the better the food and drink, the safer the condemned’s oath of truce. Last meals were often public, and all parties involved in the penal process took part.

Generally, the day before execution prisoners receive the meal ( and or religious rites, if they want) Many countries allow the prisoner to select what the last meal will be (within reason). In the United States, inmates aren’t allowed an alcoholic beverage… (I wonder why? hmm…)

Fun facts: In Louisiana, the prison warden traditionally joins the soon-to-be executed person for said meal. (again….I say why? hmm…)

Until 2004, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice posted the last meals of executed prisoners on its Web site, but removed the list after receiving complaints that it was offensive. (and it’s was crazy creepy!! click that link and see for yourself. Not only do you get a full lay out of their meal choice, you’re also privy to their picture and criminal case low downs–all in one place. Ew. It’s creepy…)

Also in Texas news, today the lone star state is completely over this tradition. No more special last meals for anyone. You can eat whatever everyone else is eating. Done. Texas prisons end special last meals in executions

The controversy began after Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was executed on Wednesday for the hate crime slaying of James Byrd Jr. more than a decade ago, asked for two chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, fried okra, a pound of barbecue, three fajitas, a meat lover’s pizza, a pint of ice cream and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts. Prison officials said Brewer didn’t eat any of it.

Clearly that angered (see: pissed off!) more than one person. I mean really, how are you going to order all that food and not even take a bite!? That’s just rude.

Senator John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, wrote Thursday to Brad Livingston, the executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, saying  “It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege.”

“Effective immediately, no such accommodations will be made,” Livingston said. (aka–eat this and die. Literally. Wrap up the chewing, we have to get a move on; death waits for no one.)

We’ll see if this will start any sort of chain reaction in other states on the matter. As far back at the most noted Last Supper (that of Jesus Christ), these meals have brought about discussion for various reasons.

State.com wrote an interesting article on the topic of prisoner meal requests: I’ll Have 24 Tacos and the Filet Mignon (Can a prisoner request anything for his last meal?) 

And more than one book has been printed about this subject specifically, including:

Meals To Die For

Written by a prison chef who prepared meals for prisoners on death row. Provided are summaries of each person’s crimes, their last words and meal requests.

Last Suppers: Famous Final Meals from Death Row

(warning…you’re going to need a sense of humor to get through this one…)

Does a condemned man’s last meal somehow shed light on his inner psyche? Like a mystic reading tea leaves, do we hope to discover the reasoning behind a mad killer’s crimes by examining the gravy smears on his plate?

Their Last Suppers: Legends of History and Their Final Meals

Did you know that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian and his longtime private chef was Jewish? What dish played an integral role in Marilyn Monroe’s unsuccessful bid to woo back Bobby Kennedy? Part historical narrative and part grilling guide and cookbook. Author Andrew Caldwell guides history buffs and gourmands alike through gastronomically inspired biographical accounts of more than 20 legendary personalities (like Martin Luther King, Napoleon, Princess Diana, the captain of the Hindenburg Ernst Lehmann, Elvis Presley, and Cleopatra.)

This next one isn’t even about people who’ve actually died, it instead focused on inquiring what selected famous chefs would like to have as their last meal.

My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals / Portraits, Interviews, and Recipes

Dunea, an award-winning photographer, wrote to 50 famous chefs and asked them to describe their ideal last meal.

Lidia Bastianich bids adieu over a plate of linguini and clams, Laurent Tourondel wants nothing more than a BLT sandwich from his own restaurant. The meals are curiosities, the recipes are included, and the photographs of each chef make this book so kind of hilarious. (Doesn’t even matter if you haven’t heard of them, or dined in their restaurants)

Marcus Samuelsson poses, impishly, in a Japanese-style headband made of salmon; Wylie Dufresne leans like a centerfold on a table stacked with American cheese; and Anthony Bourdain poses totally nude, strategically wielding a butchered leg bone. But perhaps no picture is more memorable than Dan Barber’s, a soft-featured New York chef, posing alongside a massive boar named Boris. His last meal is rack of boar, of course: “If I’m going, so is Boris.”

I don’t know what I’d want to eat, but it probably won’t have pepperonis on it. (Anyone else remember the old Tombstone commercials from the 90’s??!!)


About maggie.

Maggie Barnes is a nonprofit and for profit business content specialist / social media consultant; and social sciences web writer interested in everything from psychology and sexuality, to technology, race, and economics. She is passionate about good communication and information accessibility.


One thought on “Any Last Meal Requests? (actually, scratch that, your choice has been revoked)

  1. Nice Post.

    Thanks for Sharing.

    Posted by TechieChef | September 23, 2011, 8:47 pm

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