My Last Meal

I wouldn’t consider myself preoccupied with, or particularly prone to, morbid thoughts (insofar, of course, as I’m able to judge such things, which really means it’s got about a 50/50 shot of actually being true). I have, however, on occasion, thought about the end of my life through one lens which, I would argue, reveals a probably uncomfortable number of details regarding what most people would term “priorities” and my personal misplacement of them. While most people are concerned about their family’s financial position, the lasting impact their actions will have on those they’re leaving behind, or the complex legal web their loved ones may have to navigate upon their passing, my concerns have been primarily gustatory.

I know that it’s doubtful (again, insofar as I can judge) I’ll ever commit a crime serious enough to warrant the death penalty, but that hasn’t stopped me from considering (“fantasizing” can’t be the word, right?) what I would request as my last meal if such a dark day ever came. Thankfully, I don’t live in Texas, so (A) I have a relatively small chance of being sentenced to execution, and (B) I would actually get a last meal. The question of what a person would eat for their last meal is like a grim version of “Desert Island,” the game where you choose which five movies or books or albums you would choose to be stranded with until the end of eternity (or until the smoke-monster devours you – whichever comes first, obviously). Your choices and explanations of them, as The Office episode “The Fire” reminded us, are supposed to signify something essential about who you are and what you hold dear.

There are at least a few different ways to plan out your last meal, but I’ve only ever thought out two of them. The first is to give yourself free reign and choose whatever items you want. Want a steak from your favorite restaurant and a lobster tail from that seafood place your family always goes after church on Easter? Go for it. Hankering for your mom’s macaroni and cheese and a side of McDonald’s french fries? Be my guest. This is, admittedly, the more fun method and a great game to play in the car on long road trips (my recommendation: limit your selections to five items, plus desert and one drink). Creating a kind of Frankenstein’s Monster-like meal has a lot of obvious things going for it, and insofar as thinking about your last meal can be “fun,” it’s definitely the most fun way to go.

……….

My birthday was last week, and this past weekend, my wife and I were driving back from running some errands (read: she was running errands, I went to a bookstore) when she floated the idea of going to dinner. For a few minutes, we did that married-people haggling thing where she suggested one place and I made a face and offered some explanation of why I didn’t want to go there, then I suggested a place and she did the same. As we came nearer to home, the options lessened and lessened. Desperate, I suggested my favorite restaurant, a rickety little country diner called Ramsey’s, knowing full well that my wife really doesn’t like eating there. Since she’s not a fan of the (mostly) heavy southern cuisine in which Ramsey’s specializes, the menu presents her precious few options. I watch her head start to shake from side to side, but before she can speak, I do something really despicable and pull out a trump card. “We never did go anywhere for my birthday, you know. It would be nice to go to my favorite restaurant for my birthday.” Reprehensible, I know. If you see my wife, give her a hug.

This person seems to have gotten only one side. I assume they will never be allowed back at Ramsey’s.

A host seated us, took our drink orders, and laid in front of us two menus. It’s protocol, I know, but for me, a menu at Ramsey’s is completely superfluous. I’m one of those guys who tend to get the same one or two things at every restaurant; once I’ve settled on something I love, I stick to it. In this case, what I love is the Cajun Fried Catfish, usually with fried okra, mashed potatoes and gravy, and corn on the cob as my sides. Yes, Ramsey’s dinners come with three (!) sides; I imagine that the head cook has to be a southern mom, just like the ones who become legitimately worried about your health if you refuse their multiple offers of food. That this meal also comes with a piece of cornbread (for dipping into the gravy, clearly) and two massive, doughy hush puppies provides me any proof I was lacking re: the whole southern mom thing. When the whole thing is delivered, it’s like receiving a Christmas present that you asked for, and were pretty sure you were going to get, but when you actually tear the paper off and see it sitting there, it surpasses all your hopes. The food is literally piled upon the plate. In fact, the okra has to come in a little bowl on the side because there’s simply no room for it otherwise. I took a second just to let the aroma of my favorite meal drift up and meet my nostrils.

This is, admittedly, less of a game, but I think that if it really came down to it, this last meal is the one I’d choose. I mean exactly this one. I’d spend a long day with my wife and son, maybe look around a bookstore for a little while, and I’d go to Ramsey’s, order my favorite meal, talk, laugh, and get up from the table knowing that of all the ways we can go out of this world, I’d just experienced a pretty wonderful one.

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Categories: Various Things

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