Mike Czyzewski over at The Budget College Cook blog emailed me with three well-traversed questions that, collectively, comprise what I call the “last supper” conundrum. You can read about his final meal, and others’, including mine, on his blog.
The task is preposterous. One meal? Are you serious? I can’t even make up my mind at the ice cream parlor and you want me to choose the meal that will send me off into that big eatery in the sky?
One of my favorite books is Melanie Dunea’s “The Last Supper, 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals/Portraits, Interviews, and Recipes.” Though I bought it and enjoy it mostly as a picture book, the reading in there is quite interesting, if not a bit morbid.
With nothing final and nothing committed, I decided it would be an entertaining exercise to go through. What I ended up with was something akin to the buffet line at The United Nations.
Of course, life is a river, or something like that. Ask me a year, a month, a day from now, and perhaps this will all change.
1. Who would you dine with?
I don’t like crowds. I prefer intimate affairs. So I’ll assume I’ve already said the proper good-byes to everyone I’ve needed to. None of my family members would be in their right frame of mind, so they’d be a killjoy. I think I’d limit my last meal to no more than a party of 10 – all of my closest food-loving friends – around a big round table with no centerpieces, maybe some candles. Don’t make me name you, you know who you are. If you have any doubt, you’re probably not on the list.
2. Where would the meal take place?
I’m assuming that you’re giving me carte blanche, sky’s the limit? I’ve been blessed with many travels. I’ve seen and visited many places that are beyond words. But few things take my breath away like New York City’s skyline. It beams with excitement, potential, hope, and magic – everything that I enjoy about life and living. I’d want my last dinner on a rooftop terrace overlooking Central Park and the city.
3. What would you eat?
This is trouble. I’d like to be more thoughtful about it, but I can’t. I love too many foods and am too equal opportunity about it to exclude anything I like. If you’ve read the book “My Last Supper” by Melanie Dunea, I’m going to ape Jacques Pepin and assemble the impossible feast, with the things that bring the biggest smile to my face. Some would be reminders of childhood; others of comforts on a bad day; and still others would massage my bourgeois tastes. Clearly, this meal would have to last all day (milking every minute of my precious life). Even if fate were mistaken, I would eat myself into oblivion anyway. I could be somewhat pretentious and lazy and rattle off specific restaurant dishes, but I’ll refrain. Instead, I’ll just assume that all of these foods will be prepared by experts.
Pâtés en croûte.
Fat oysters on the half shell.
Caviar, crème fraîche, red onions, blini.
Scallops, raw and served with melted seaweed butter.
Conch salad, with hot peppers, lime, tomatoes, red onions, and salt.
Steak tartare with a raw egg.
German potato salad (heavy on the diced cornichons).
Bread (extra crusty, elbows and knees only) and butter (good farmhouse, raw dairy).
Foie gras au torchon.
Deviled lambs kidneys on toast.
Grilled cheese sandwich and a shot of tomato soup.
Matzo ball soup.
Salad with candied nuts, blue cheese, and roasted beets.
Gravlax with sweet mustard and rye crackers.
Sea urchin roe on warm, short-grain rice.
Ox tongue with sweet, grainy mustard.
Falafel, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, and lots of tzatziki rolled up in warm pita.
Pasta with butter, cheese, and white truffles.
Pizza Margherita, Neapolitana-style.
Carolina pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw.
Ramen noodles with pork broth.
Omelette aux herbes fines with crème fraîche and caviar.
Vegetables of all shapes and sizes gently cooked and simply tossed with buerre fine.
Glutinous rice, chicken and pork fat and shiitake mushrooms steamed in a tea leaf.
Steamed pork riblets coated with cracked glutinous rice.
Roast beef sandwich (extra bloody) with melted Brie cheese.
Dry-aged beef burger with tomato, lettuce, red onions, and blue cheese, on a whole-grain bun.
Lobster with sauce gribiche.
Soufflé de poisson.
Wild mushrooms sautéed in butter.
Oyster mushrooms drizzled with olive oil, dashed with sea salt, and smashed on the plancha until the frilly edges go crisp.
Clam chowder with oyster crackers.
Crabs rubbed with salted egg yolk and wok stir-fried.
Scallops, pan-seared and served with a caviar cream sauce.
Oyster pan fry.
Roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon.
Xiao long bao.
Lamb rogan josh.
Char sui bao (extra fluffy, please).
Fish and chips with malt vinegar and sea salt.
Sole à la Hollandaise.
Stuffed pig trotters, braised.
Chinese hand-pulled noodles and beef broth.
Tacos al pastor.
Tafelspitz, boiled potatoes, carrots, and turnips, with a heap of freshly shaved horseradish.
Dol sot bi bim bop (raw egg, please).
Popcorn (sea salt and just a touch of butter).
Tripe alla Romagna (grilled bread on the side).
Gong bao fried dofu.
Ris de vea, roasted and pan-fried.
Poulet en vessie, vin jaune cream sauce and rice.
Lièvre à la royale.
Pommes Anna with freshly shaved black truffles.
Chinese salted fish with a bowl of short-grain rice.
Filet de boeuf Chasseur (medium-rare, please).
Frites, a whole haystack of them – thin and extra crispy.
Cheese. Every cheese you could possible muster with lots of thinly-shaved and toasted bread.
Macarons (every flavor imaginable).
Sweet, fermented rice porridge.
Apple pie with vanilla ice cream.
Cherry pie with dark chocolate ice cream.
Peach pie with almond ice cream.
Blueberry pie with sour cream ice cream.
Poppy seed strudels.
Prune & Armagnac ice cream served with warm prunes macerated in Armagnac.
Strong coffee ice cream affogato (best quality, dark espresso, double shot).
Banana split with strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate ice creams, pineapple, chopped peanuts, hot chocolate sauce, and maraschino cherries (hold the whipped cream).
Baba au rhum, extra boozy (hold the whipped cream).
Fruit macerated in Grand Marnier and vanilla beans.
Cannelés Bordelais (they had better be crunchy, or I’m sending them back, yes, I will be a pill about this).