Your Last Meal…?

When, as a mere lad, I began reading science fiction, one of the short stories that stayed in my memory was about a man on death row who made a deal with the devil. The details are a bit hazy — for example, I can’t recall exactly what the devil was going to get out of the deal; the usual “soul exchange” doesn’t seem applicable for reasons you’ll soon see — but the gist of the bargain was something like this. In exchange for…something…the inmate would be granted the ability to eat his last meal…forever.

The concept was genius, in my mind. The state owed you a last meal, and they couldn’t fry you before you finished it, right? Well, what if you never finished it? What if you just kept eating and eating and… you get the picture.

The twist of the story was that the inmate was a little, um, unimaginative, and when he placed the order for his last meal, he doomed himself to eating plate after plate after plate, ad infinitum, of beans.

Yes, they just don’t write ’em like that anymore.

But last meals continue to be the objects of fascination. The TDCJ recognizes this, the evidence being this website: Final Meal Requests. (Update: This web page was removed subsequent to the publishing of this post.) This rather unique website documents the final meal requests of death row inmates dating back to 1982. It provides the complete menu of the request (with the cryptic note, “The final meal requested may not reflect the actual final meal served”) as well as convenient links to offender information, where you can learn the details of the inmate’s life, including the reason(s) he (or she) was on death row. Some of this falls into the “too much information” category for me.

But, the meal requests themselves can be fascinating. Some of them are amazing cholesterolic exercises (“what’s it gonna do, kill me?”), like this one:

Two 16 oz. ribeyes, one lb. turkey breast (sliced thin), twelve strips of bacon, two large hamburgers with mayo, onion, and lettuce, two large baked potatoes with butter, sour cream, cheese, and chives, four slices of cheese or one-half pound of grated cheddar cheese, chef salad with blue cheese dressing, two ears of corn on the cob, one pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream, and four vanilla Cokes or Mr. Pibb

Others are Zen-like in their simplicity and obscurity: “Cool Whip and cherries,” for example, or “1 jar of dill pickles,” or this one that presumably prompted the official caveat noted above: “Justice, Equality, World Peace.” A number of inmates had no requests.

One has to wonder why the TDCJ feels the need to memorialize this aspect of these folks’ lives. I suppose the public appetite is voracious when it comes to such matters.

But, if nothing else, it does cause one’s mind to drift to the question at hand: what would you request for your last meal?



  1. SciFi comment prompted me to leave you this quote by Robert Heinlein, famed scifi writer. The quote is old but it was printed again right after the Columbia tragedy:
    We pray for one last landing on the globe that gave us birth; Let us rest our eyes on fleecy skies and the cool, green hills of Earth.

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