Sunday, January 08, 2006

Ordering a Cheeseburger for Your Death Row Last Meal

Well, obviously, you shouldn't do that. But surprisingly, cheeseburgers and fries is the #1 requested last meal on death rows nationwide. This is one of those factoids that I was always sort of aware of, but I was never sure if it wasn't some urban legend canard. Well, sadly, it's true. Condemned prisoners want cheeseburgers and fries over all other choices. Cokes and vanilla ice cream is the standard accompaniment.

To all of you death row prisoners: shame on you. I don't know, maybe pop culture is responsible, but I was somehow under the impression that your typical mass murderer was a Hannibal Lecter type with exquisite gourmet tastes. I was wrong. Most mass murderers, when given a once in a lifetime opportunity to have any meal they want, want a cheeseburger. Where's the imagination? Where's the zest for life? Where's the joie de vie? When they hatcheted that family they had some zest. Where did it go?

Here are two websites I visited for the cheeseburger confirmation by the way.,9950,1166252,00.html

Some of the sites I visited had amusing anecdotes. One guy apparantly ate his cheeseburger, then got a stay of execution. Over the next few weeks while his case was reconsidered, he got nothing but jeers and mockery from the rest of death row for his unimaginative choice. On his new execution day, he got a new last meal and had the good sense to order a steak. Another prisoner asked for spaghetti-os but the request was misunderstood and he ended up with regular spaghetti. His last words in the death chamber? "I wanted spaghetti-os and I didn't get them."

To be fair, I'll play devil's advocate for a minute and say that it's possible that the prison kitchen may not be able to do a gourmet meal justice. It's like those times - not often - when maybe you're at some Mexican dive restaurant on the side of the highway, and the menu is the usual assortment of taco shop junk food. But then you notice in the corner of the menu that there's also Herb Crusted Salmon with Mango Salsa and Seasonal Chutney. And you think "Okay, that does sound good.... but do I trust these guys?" You know it's the standard crew of hairy, fat, tank topped Mexican short order cooks back there. There's no sous chef. They're flipping burritos, yelling at each other and listening to something way way up on the AM band.

I guess what I'm saying is, let's say you're about to be executed and you order lobster thermidor. You're dealing with the same prison kitchen that's been serving you slop for 20 years during your appeals process. Oh, sure - they'll get you a lobster. It'll be from the tank at a Chinese Buffet half an hour down the road. They'll get the cheese and the mushrooms locally. They'll get their hands on a recipe and they'll make it. But will it be a decent thermidor? Probably not.

And, another pro Cheeseburger argument might be that what you need during those final hours is comfort food. Something you know. Something you love. It may not be the time to branch out.

For the record, I think I'd like a plate of assorted standard and jumbo shrimp, on ice, with a cocktail sauce whose brand I'd have to specify (don't make me choose now). Follow it with a porterhouse, medium rare. (Horseradish and maybe bernaise on the side). Wrap it up with hot chocolate chip cookies and milk.

That's a one-two-three punch that would be tough to beat, plus it's not too demanding for the kitchen staff. It would be tough to screw that meal up.

Maybe, what these prisoners need in their last few days, in addition to the chaplain, is a kind of last-meal consultant. Someone to make sure they're fully aware of the entire range of choices. I think maybe I could be that man.


JMai said...

Wow. The word "canard" should be used more frequently.

That said, perhaps the last meal should be roast canard with marmalade coulis?

I'm just being snarky now. It really is a good word though.

da buttah said...

last meal?

Definately a nice carpaccio starter, maybe a little medium rare veal, and end it with the big bang of macadamai crusted bananna bread budding.

god. i miss culinary school sometimes