Planning a Last Supper

We all know that life is short. But let's be honest: Do we ever do anything about it? Do we live as fully as we can, savoring each moment, enjoying each breath, or perhaps each bite?

With a birthday coming up, I'm doing a bit of waxing philosophical, contemplating this thing called mortality and the art of living as if today were my last.

The following quote from poet Emily Dickinson comes to mind:

That it will never come again
Is what makes life so sweet.

I got to thinking, if I knew my days were numbered, how would I spend them, and more importantly, what would my last meal be? Most the time, life is not so kind, taking us without advance warning, but with a wee bit of notice, imagine the feast that could be planned.

Remember Armande Voizin, the cranky old lady played by Judi Dench in the movie "Chocolat," whose diabetes was taking its toll? She asks Vianne (played by Juliette Binoche) to help her organize a birthday dinner, one with plenty of chocolate (bien sur). Everyone savors the meal, and the ensuing merriment at the table is infectious. Armande is just tickled. Later that night, she goes to sleep in her armchair and never wakes up, just as she had planned.

The passage of life is a topic that most of us in this culture tend to gloss over; we choose to reverse time rather than embrace it and lose sight of the here and now, as the doctor injects another dose of Botox.

In celebration of my upcoming birthday, I've decided to cook a feast, but unlike Armande, I'm not planning an exit strategy. However, as I plan the menu, perhaps I should be mindful of food and drink that really makes me happy. After all, if I go unexpectedly, would I be pleased with my last supper?

The list is long, and much of it likely won't be included in the menu. But if I knew that my time was soon up, my last supper would include the following:

* Mangoes -- many varieties, ready to eat. I'd encourage all guests to grap a napkin and slurp with abandon as they nuzzle away at the fruit's sunny flesh

* A pot of black beans, made from dried beans, with plenty of heat, spice and onions

* A pot of rice, simple but necessary accompaniment to beans and a sponge for the various juices dripping on my plate

* Plenty of pineapple, cut into chunks, to remind me of the sun and warm climes where I've traveled

* Avocado from Puerto Rico, where they are rich, smooth and full of flavor. Simply sliced, please.

* Coffee - A full-bodied pot of coffee that lingers on my tongue, with smoky and chocolatey notes

* A smidge of bacon -- crispy, Applewood smoked, by itself or with a tomato, a bit of frisee and a lemony vinaigrette or as an open-faced sandwich on a piece of garlicked toast.

* Something grilled, a butterflied chicken perhaps, with a limey-garlickly marinade, something that I can eat with my hands and sink my choppers into. Don't forget the hot sauce, please. I'll want that for dipping.

* For dessert, there will be layer cake, and chocolate is part of the equation.

* There will be bouquets of rosemary and lavender that will perfume the room, and the music will include everything I love, from classical to reggae, from bebop to samba.

What would be on the menu for your last supper? Share in the comments below.

Coming up at noon ET: This week's What's Cooking Web chat.

By Kim ODonnel |  August 7, 2007; 11:36 AM ET Kitchen Musings
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I don't like this post. Too dark.

Posted by: Too dark | August 7, 2007 1:02 PM

hmmmm, i don't think it's dark at all. it's about celebrating the life that we have. food is a part of our lives. it's a necessary part of life, but even better it's a integral part of how we celebrate life's moments. these are the foods that remind kim of life - vacations she's taken, people she knew/loved, places that are a part of her soul. the music, the smells of the herbs, the people she would invite -- it's all part of the same joy.

Posted by: live the life... | August 7, 2007 1:31 PM

From your chat -- I found a really tasty recipe for a pink beet sauce in a (translated) German cookbook. They suggest using canned beets, but I've only used fresh. Basically, I roast the beets (400-450) until tender, cool, peel, and puree in a food processor with some stock until desired consistancy. Pour into pan, add cream (although yogurt could be good), and warm. They suggest serving over gnocchi, I've served over homemade spinach ravioli. Garnish with chives and parsley. Simpley divine!

Posted by: Beets | August 7, 2007 1:36 PM

Also a chat leftover (and I'd rather post this than Death Row speculations!) - I made a tasty, summery salad last week. Boil red potatoes cut into chunks, add green beans and cook until everything's just barely done. Drain, and toss in some almonds. Dressing is one part dijon mustard to two parts or so olive oil, plus lots of parsley and dill. This was great warm, cold and at room temperature.

Posted by: GreenBeans | August 7, 2007 1:46 PM

I was surprised not to see a recipe to help keep us cool today! Thanks to the above poster for posting the recipe - sounds great!

Posted by: MMH | August 7, 2007 2:05 PM

I'd have to throw in steak and fries with bernaise sauce, oh and a sunny-side egg on top. But I'm with you on the avocado inclusion.

Posted by: | August 7, 2007 2:49 PM

i would definitely celebrate my soul going to Glory with a soul food feast!! crisp fried chicken ... deep fried spots and croaker ... collards and cabbage ... cornbread (the real kind and not some jiffy nonsense) ... mac and cheese ... baked sweet potatotes .. stewed tomatoes and okra ... peach cobbler to finish. take me now, Lord!

Posted by: ntt | August 7, 2007 3:15 PM

when we're bored on family road trips, we always play the "last meal" game. mine has changed in some ways over the years, also remained surprisingly consistent. i would want a fresh artichoke, steamed, to dip in mayo. guacamole and fresh corn tortilla chips. shrimp cocktail. a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. a big slice of ground turkey/red onion/cream cheese pizza. fresh, hot sourdough bread. cookie dough ice cream with huge hot brownies on the size.

ok, so yeah, my last meal would be a big one!

Posted by: Sarita | August 7, 2007 4:31 PM

Very strange. Kim must be getting to Wicca or something.

Posted by: Whatever | August 7, 2007 8:51 PM

Fantastic post. Those of you with no imagination, c'mon, lighten up.

I think bacon and avocadoes would figure solidly in a lot of people's last meals. Also, poached eggs. And a mangosteen. And a crusty boule. And lots of sweet (not salted, please) butter.

Posted by: the last shall be first | August 7, 2007 9:51 PM

My mom's Matzoh ball soup, a variety of Chinese-style dumplings and dipping sauces, green mangos from the Philippines, and a waffle cone filled with birthday cake remix from Coldstone; Yum!

Posted by: Sara | August 8, 2007 8:02 AM

For those who don't want to think of it as a "last supper," just think of what your ultimate meal would be. I would need a full day of meals. It would start with my amazing french toast, made with thick sliced challah and orange zest. With yummy sausage on the side. Then a fantastic salad for lunch, with fried chicken pieces, bacon, avocado, ripe tomato and a tangy blue cheese dressing. Then, dinner would be a huge medium-rare ribeye, maybe with a sweet marinade. Sauteed green beans, mac & cheese, and garlic mashed potatoes on the side. And, the best cherry pie for dessert! Oh man, now I'm really hungry!!!

Posted by: JN | August 8, 2007 10:04 AM

Good question..... Hmmm.... This is a hard choice because I love so many foods.

I would start with an appetizer of a Spanish tortilla, with egg, potato, onion, and chile peppers. (Not too hot, just with some authority.)

Then I would have a salad with fresh greens, apples, blue cheese, and walnuts with a light vinagerette. I would pair that with a cup of decadent avocado soup with crab.

For the main course, I would have fresh fish or seafood - whatever was alive a few minutes ago. Scallops, shrimp, crab, bluefish, rockfish, cod, tilapia..... I'm not picky. I would have it broiled or grilled with some latin flavors to it. I would serve it with rice pilaf, grilled pineapple, and fresh grape tomatoes.

For dessert, I want a fresh seasonal fruit and cheese tray and some Belgium dark chocolate truffles. I would pick up every morsel and savor it individually. Slices of mango, whole berries, morsels of tangy cheese, and a bite of truffle. Round and round the tray I go, letting each flavor tickle my tongue.

No - scratch that. Just serve me some of Mom's eggplant parmesan. She has given me her recipe (which includes such instructions as "mix it until it looks right"), but I have successfully duplicated it. Ever since I moved out of the house, I have missed it. Since I'm the only one who so adored it, she rarely makes it when we get together. I know, why not have both? I'll have the eggplant for last breakfast. I know, from experience, that eggplant parm tastes even better the second day for breakfast! :-)

Posted by: DC Cubefarm | August 8, 2007 10:27 AM

I probably shouldn't admit this on this post where the love of fine food is shared and appreciated but here goes--- I've always said if I had a last meal it would be all the McDonald's I could eat because it would be the one time I could eat it guilt free. No worrying about waking up the next day and the ol' pants don't fit or the blood pressure's through the roof.... :) Hand over the Big Mac's and fries!

Posted by: falls church | August 8, 2007 2:05 PM

... I could, however, easily join in on that soul food feast and go out in a blaze of glory!! Yum!

Posted by: falls church p.s. | August 8, 2007 2:27 PM

Avocado soup with crab? What a sublime combination! I NEED that recipe! Can I put bacon in it?

Posted by: Jess | August 8, 2007 2:43 PM

forgot to mention... beverage! would want an amazing bottle of zinfandel or syrah, all for myself. and some desiree chocolate port for dessert!

Posted by: Sarita | August 8, 2007 4:16 PM

I would say the classic Oklahoma dinner: TBone steak, baked potato with all of the fixings, garden salad with ranch dressing, sweet tea, and peach cobbler. Since it would be my last, you might throw in some catfish, huspuppies, good tartar sauce, smoked brisket and great bbq sauce.

Posted by: C. | August 8, 2007 5:36 PM

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