Tuesday, October 11, 2011

...And the condemned ate a hearty meal on True Crime Tuesday

HALLIE EPHRON: The State of Texas, always the leader in these kinds of things (sorry Debs), just eliminated 'last meal' request of prisoners about to be executed.

Apparently the request of a vicious white supremacist killer was the last straw: two chicken-fried steaks with gravy and sliced onions; a triple-patty bacon cheeseburger; a cheese omelet with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and jalapenos; a bowl of fried okra with ketchup; one pound of barbecued meat with half a loaf of white bread; three fajitas; a meat-lover's pizza; one pint of Blue Bell Ice Cream; a slab of peanut-butter fudge with crushed peanuts; and three root beers.

The final insult? He refused to eat it.

Now issues of death penalty aside, please, what this story got me thinking about was:
What one thing would I order up if I knew it was my last meal?

Easy answer: Chinese soup dumplings.

The best ones in Boston these days are in Chinatown at the (cramped, noisy, worth the wait no matter how long) Gourmet Dumpling House (on the menu they are the Mini juicy pork dumplings). And whoever's in that kitchen really knows what she's doing.

These little tender noodle-wrapped packets of savory pork and ginger are served in their steamer. The soup is IN the dumplings, so you have to carefully ease the dumpling off the steamer rack and into a spoon, tear a hole in the dumpling, ladle over it a bit of vinegar and soy dipping sauce, and slurp your way into heaven.

What's your final request?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I regret to disclose that I've actually thought about this.

It's so sad that I really can't decide.Because how would anything taste good? And I completely understand the guy trying to take his last bash at the system by making them provide a raft of food. Good for him. Hey, cheaper than feeding him for the rest of his life, right? The whole thing is horrible.

(Did you have those dumplings at The Royal East Restaurant? I agree, yummy.)

But if you're making me answer :-) : strip steak, grilled on charcoal, crispy on the outside and rare on the inside, with blue cheese melting on top. And french fries and green beans and lemon souffle for dessert. (But its still sad.)

Or, I'd be happy to have those dumplings with you.

RHYS BOWEN: Everything high cholesterol/high fat that I've been avoiding! I seriously don't believe I could swallow a last meal knowing what was going to happen to me. But maybe a few oysters would slip down. A lobster? Or skip the meal and have three desserts?

JAN BROGAN: Wow. I've never thought of this. But those dumplings sound awfully good. Using Rhys logic - which I applaud - they might not be high cholesterol/high fat enough though. I think I'd want lobster - but only if they could assure me it was right off the boat (I'm spoiled ) oysters, and eggplant rollitini. Roasted Broccoli. an Apple Fritters from Back Door Donuts in Oak Bluffs and New York Cheesecake. I think there's a good chance my heart would stop before they actually executed me.

And not for nothing, but couldn't the state of Texas just put a limit on the last request meal instead of banning it completely?

LUCY BURDETTE: First of all, no wonder the man couldn't eat the fried okra--he had them put ketchup on it??? Completely ruined...just hot sauce on mine please. And I like the idea of BBQ, maybe a few slices of Pepe's pepperoni pizza from New Haven, CT, mashed potatoes and turnips and gravy, a big piece of yellow sponge cake with chocolate icing and a glass of milk...and dumplings with Hallie!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: In my Southern incarnation, I think I might go for a fried oyster po-boy with coleslaw. (Ketchup on fried okra? Not even going there.) In my across-the-POND replication, I might have had the perfect last meal the other night. Fresh artisan bread dipped in olive that smelled GREEN and tasted heavenly, then steamed fresh mussels in garlic, cream, and white wine sauce.

And for the main course, roasted pork belly, which I don't think we even get in the US because people think it's too decadent, although I suspect it's not nearly as bad for you as a MacDonald's hamburger. (This is pork with the crisp crackling left on, and the rest of it melts in your mouth.)

Oh, and then, you might guess, shared Sticky Toffee Pudding. Probably a very good thing I don't get to eat like that very often!

ROSEMARY HARRIS: I had dinner at Paul Bocuse once and as I recall the food just kept coming and coming - so I can understand wanting to have a long, long last meal if only to be on the planet a little longer. Three bottles of champagne, caviar, cheese and crackers and foie gras (which I haven't had in years and don't even know if they still make.) And creme brule. I'd probably be so sick after all this that I'd want to go.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: How about some sashimi of that puffer fish that will kill you if not prepared correctly? I mean, what the hell...

If I had to choose a last meal, I'd probably ask for a Proustian one: the taste of my memories. So German sauerbratten with Syracuse salt potatoes on the side. Sliced tomatoes with vinegar and crispy fried okra. Wash it all down with a Pimm's Cup and for dessert? Maine blueberry pie. Oh, and on the soundtrack while I ate? Puccini's Turandot.

Hmm. Maybe I shouldn't wait until it's my last meal on earth to do this...

HALLIE: Definitely, don't wait! Bring on the fugu, if it's your heart's desire! Because tomorrow... well, you just never know, do you?

What would be on your table for your last supper?


  1. I forgot to add fried chicken to go with my mashed potatoes and gravy--the kind the maid makes in THE HELP.

    Julia I do love the idea of the poisoned puffer fish though!

    And of course we're being tongue in cheek, because who could eat a bite in that situation?? And should anyone even be in that situation? Another conversation for another day....

  2. Was wondering when that tradition would go the way of many others.

  3. I think I'd want comfort food.

    Fresh off the boat haddock stuffed with crabmeat. Sliced August tomatoes with a bit of sea salt. A nice baguette. Some goat cheese. A crisp Riesling.

    I'd want my last bite to be blueberry pie.

    I've got to say, it's kinda creepy to think about this on a Tuesday morning after the sweetest weekend in a long while . . .

  4. Yes, RO, caviar. Yum. I was at a party last weekend where the host--well, Julie Smith, actually!--served (among other wonderful things) deviled eggs with caviar. I had my share, AND Jonathan's share.

    But I agree,Roberta/Lucy, Can't we just talk abut foods we love? I mean--even that photo you found, Hallie, of the steak and blue cheese makes me famished..

    Debs, I'm not sure about the pork belly thing. Really?

  5. Lots of restaurants here are featuring pork belly. I saw it on the menu at Hungry Mother, one of Boston's hottest. Fat is in.

    Brenda, that sounds delicious!

  6. You might be interested to know that in Japan, the only other major industrialized country that still has the death penalty, those on death row are not informed of their execution date, thus there are no last meal requests. Executions are always carried out in the morning. So if a person on death row is not called out to a special room in the morning,the convict will know that he/she is making it through another day.

  7. I think I'd want taquitos and lots and lots of salsa and refried beans. I have a Mexican food addiction.

    There would have to be dessert, too. And maybe I'd even want to toss in a slice of pizza, some sourdough bread, and a bagel. See, I have a gluten allergy, so real versions of those are forbidden to me. I really miss a good bagel and the sourdough that was omnipresent growing up across from San Francisco.

  8. Deb, I've been seeing pork belly as an appetizer lately, a newly-rediscovered delicacy of sorts.

    Arizona long kept a list of last meal requests on the Dept of Corrections website. There’s even a blog on the subject: http://deadmaneating.blogspot.com/

    And there’s a fun song about a guy on death row ordering two cheeseburgers, fries, and a ton of other food. Can’t find the lyrics right now – anyone else know it?

    Although of course, as Lucy says, the whole subject does rather turn the stomach. ...

  9. I didn't know that about Japan. Somehow NOT knowing when seems worse than knowing. Both are dismal.

  10. All this talk about pork bellies reminds me of fish cheeks. A delicacy, it's the little cushion of flesh between the eye and jaw. Halibut cheek. Wall-eye cheek. Tastes a little like a scallop. Whenever we eat a whole fish, my husband fishes for the cheek. On a little fish it's about the size of a dime.

  11. I'm with Tammy -- definitely Mexican. There's this restaurant in Mpls. that features a carnitas sandwich with guacamole. It's great and authentic. It's rare to see a nonMexican in the place

  12. Wow, you can see my lack of class....I would want a couple of Route 44 Sonic Cokes and a gallon or 2 of Blue Bell ice cream.

  13. Seafood gumbo, loaded with shrimp, crabmeat, smoked sausage and salt pork, served over white rice. Hold the oysters and no okra. And since I'm going to die soon, I want the roux made with lard. Lots and lots of beautiful, snowy white artery-killing lard.

    With a Dixie long-neck and creme brulee for dessert, please.

  14. I had another thought--how about something so rare that they'd have to go to Tibet or the African jungle to find it and if they couldn't--well, they couldn't execute you without your last request, could they?
    The ever devious Rhys

  15. Oh, Rhys, I'll bet you were one of those kids who answered "Three more wishes" when asked what one thing you'd wish for.

    Either that or you're a devious mystery writer.

  16. Oh, I ALWAYS said 2 more wishes! I always wanted one wish granted, instantly, then two more.

    What is Sonic Coke? I keep hearing about this...

  17. If I can't get a reservation at Paula Dean's restaurant, then I want collard greens, baked macaroni & cheese, rice with gravy, candied yams, fried chicken and white cake with chocolate frosting and ice cream on the side.

  18. I've never had fried okra, now I want to try it.

    Not a big fan of the death penalty, but in my mind, the Japan way seems a tiny bit more humane.

    Pork belly's? I'm with Hank, the name alone turns me off.

  19. I once thawed some frozen okra for an attempt at gumbo -- and it almost did me in. Slimey slimey slimey! I could not get the image of slugs crawling across my kitchen counter out of my head. And very little phases me food-wise (As Lucy will tell you, I LOVE skate!)

    But fried it's delicious. Gotta be a cousin to eggplant. You rarely see it fresh here in New England.

  20. Some good Polish kielbasa, sauerkraut, potatoes with dark bread and butter and Guinness. Now since I am gluten-intolerant -- this could very well be my last supper or I would have the migraine to end all migraines!