I have this fantasy where I’m on death row and I’m just about to be sat down in the electric chair. You’re thinking that it’s a pretty morbid fantasy, but I’m not really focused on the execution itself. I’m more concerned with what I would order as my last meal. I’ve always been fascinated by the whole concept of the last meal, this crazy ritual so fundamentally alien to the majority of humanity, life, society. But it exists. And unless I get wrongfully accused of a heinous crime in a state that hasn’t yet abolished the death penalty, or, unless I actually commit a really terrible crime in one of those states and I get caught and sent to jail, then I’ll never get to have the experience of a state-sponsored last meal. I don’t know, part of that realization always gets me a little down.
I know that different states run their prison systems differently, but is there some sort of a general code of conduct for how the last meal is prepared? Is there a last meal cookbook? If there isn’t, I think that somebody should write one. It could be a collection of recipes of some of the most famous last meals in the history of the United States Department of Corrections. (Is that even a real department? I don’t know. Let’s just assume yes for continuity’s sake.) “What’s for dinner tonight Mom?” “You kids are in for a treat! It’s John Wayne Gacy’s final three-alarm chili!” “Yay!”
So you’re sitting there on death row. You’re thinking about the terrible crime that landed you right here. Whatever. They’re juicing up the chair. Or they’re juicing up the lethal injection. Or, maybe they’re juicing up the noose, tying that knot just right, or they’re making sure everyone on the firing squad is lined up exactly in a straight line. And they’ve sent in the Reverend, and he’s trying to make you feel really bad, one more time about what a miserable life you’ve had, trying to get you to feel guilty one last time about all of the wretched, poor decisions you’ve made, and how you ended up right here in this spot. Yeah, yeah, we’ve seen this on TV and in the movies a hundred times.
But I’ve never seen an accurate description or portrayal of the last meal. I know it exists. But I don’t know how I know that it exists. Maybe I read it somewhere. What happens after the priest? Does a chef come into your cell or do they lead you one last time down to the cafeteria? Is there a time limit? Do you get drinks and dessert? What about coffee? Popular myth always had it that the prisoner could request anything he or she wanted as a last meal. I always thought, easy, I’d request one hundred thousand hamburgers with five hundred thousand sides of fries and three billion glasses of Coke. That way they’d be like, “Dammit! He got us on a technicality! All right, Rob, but you better finish every last bite!” And I’d take my sweet-ass time. I’d stop after my third burger and ask for ketchup. Then I’d stop after my fifth burger and ask for mustard. Then after the sixth I’d ask for Tabasco sauce. Then after the seventh I’d ask for Chipotle Tabasco sauce. All while the warden stands right by, getting angrier by the second, his face turning beet-red, mouth clenched, hat in hand, simply unable to believe how easily I tricked him into staying my execution.
But unfortunately, about a year ago, when Texas announced, “Fuck it, we really don’t give a shit about any of these assholes. Last meal: cancelled,” I read an article in the newspaper about last meals, and how generally prisons accommodate requests only based on whatever they have lying around in their prison’s kitchen. That sounds awful. Aren’t prisoners fed something like thirty-five cents worth of food every day? Like the shittiest most low-quality chum that doesn’t even qualify to make into tainted batched of Chinese dog food? So basically, if I ask for a Big Mac, they’re going to try to make some BS knockoff out of whatever’s lying around in the commissary. No thank you. Come on, what’s so special about a last meal if it’s made out of garbage. Would it kill somebody to drive to McDonald’s?
No, now that I’m thinking about it, I’d request as my last meal something disgusting. I’d request a dozen eggs to be poached in a mixture of vinegar and blue cheese dressing. I’d like the mixture to be left out overnight. I want it to smell so awful, that everyone in the last meal room gets visibly upset as the tray is brought to my table. And I won’t eat it. I’ll just play around with it on my plate until my allotted time is up. Just a final “Go F yourself” to these monsters that won’t even get me a Big Mac. Sure it smells terrible to me too, but I’m in no rush, I’m going nowhere.