I recently received, as a gift, My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals and My Last Supper: Second Course by Melanie Dunea. As the titles suggest, the books ask chefs about their ideal final meal on Earth.
The gift was very appropriate because I regularly ask people this question. It was, I believe, one of the first questions I asked The Wife when she was still The-Really-Interesting-Woman-I-Want-To-Date, and it is a question that I ask everyone that I interview for a job. During one such interview, another manager exclaimed, “That’s a really morbid question.”
I couldn’t disagree more.
I think that this question embodies some of the best parts of food and cooking. The world-famous chefs in Dunea’s books, some with a constellation of Michelin stars, talk about foods that bring them comfort, foods that remind them of good times. They talk about the people and places that make that meal special. Eating is about sustaining our bodies. Cooking and “The Meal” is about nurturing memories. It is about sharing. It is about awakening your senses. My last meal would not be about loss, but about celebrating the joy, warmth, and happy memories that accompany the best meals.
My question to you is:
What would be your last meal on Earth?
Since, Dunea, forgot to ask me, here you go…
Instead of dinner rolls, I’d want croissants served with homemade butter. Croissants always remind me of my first trip to Paris with The Wife. I knew I was going to marry her as I watched her pull a croissant apart layer by layer. Fresh shucked oysters on the half shell to start. Sliced tomatoes at the peak of ripeness sprinkled with lavender salt and served with burrata. My mom’s spoonbread made with fresh summer corn. My dad’s beef wellington. After dinner cheese plate. I wouldn’t be too particular about the cheeses as long as there was a triple crème in there somewhere and fig jam to accompany. Root beer floats for dessert made with homemade ice cream.
What would you drink with the meal?
Tap water imported from Portland (I firmly believe that it tastes better than other tap water I’ve had). Barrel-aged Manhattans for pre-dinner cocktails prepared by the Grant Grill at the US Grant Hotel in San Diego (we’ll fly them in). Champagne with the oysters. A 2004 Brunello di Montalcino with the main course. Iced Cider Wine with the cheese. The root beer float is on its own.
A meal is more than just the food, though. A meal is about context – where you eat it and with whom.
What would be the setting for the meal?
In an open field on a farm near the coast, probably somewhere in the North Bay Area. I’d want to be close enough to the coast that the oysters are fresh from the water and have an elevated view over the coast and the vineyards and the farmland. All the produce would come from the farm where the dinner was being held.
Would there be music?
There would be a live folk/bluegrass band playing. A banjo and a fiddle are a necessity. Possibly a washboard and a jug.
Who would be your dining companions?
I would start off the evening with just me and The Wife so we could walk through the fields, sample what the farm is growing, and enjoy the view. My immediate family and a few close friends would show-up for dinner. My dog, The Bear, would be there as well. She would have no idea what was happening, but would happily romp through the fields until she fell over from exhaustion. Everyone would leave after cheese so The Wife and I could sit and watch the sunset over the ocean while eating our root beer floats.
Who would prepare the meal?
It would be a group effort, like all great meals. The croissants would be made by a French baker. I don’t really care which one as long as s/he came from a small bakery in Paris that makes all their croissants in-house. Everyone could take part in the oyster shucking. The Wife would be in charge of tomatoes. My mom would make her spoonbread. My dad and Joel (best friend and fellow chef) would make the beef wellington. I’d make the ice cream for the floats as well as brewing from scratch root beer.
Your turn. What would be your last meal on Earth?