I ask this question to a lot of people.
Cooks I’ve worked with and friends and family. I love hearing the answers.
I’ve written about this before. The meal that puts you right in your sweet spot. Where indulgence and ingredient and technique form a perfect memory. I’ve had several last meals float around my head — things surely changing as I grow and am introduced to more unique experiences.
At first it was chicken wings and chili cheese fries.
Fried chicken will always find a place in my last meal. As will pecan pie and my mom’s sweet tea.
A fellow cook I work with said “cioppino” which is basically a fish stew. He’s from an Italian-American household in Astoria, Oregon where the weather and closeness to the salty ocean can almost force upon you a need to eat seafood. I can understand that. I loved his answer. Because it was something he associated with more than just food. It was that sense of place. Something I’m sure he loved growing up and can make pretty damn good.
So that led me to think about another part of this complex question.
This food — this “last meal” — this summation of all things good in your life would probably be nothing without the company of others to eat it with.
And that hit me hard. Right in my soft spot that is seemingly getting softer and softer.
To quote Alexander Supertramp, “Happiness is only real when shared”. This saying may or may not be true to you, but it resonates deeply to me.
We eat food alone all the time. But the memory of eating food with others seems to stick out the most. Sharing food has all the elements of what makes us healthy people. There’s a sense of nostalgia. There’s proximity. There’s vulnerability. There’s love and conversation. Food has this ability to break people down into their most human form. Creatures that need to eat to survive.
So I say I like my mom’s sweet tea…which I really do…but bigger than that, I miss and love my mom and what that taste of sweet tea does to me. It brings me back when she used to wash my hair in the sink when I was a kid and it reminds me of the crock pot of red beans and her love of magnolias and that when I think of hospitality, I think of her.
Fried chicken is best when eaten among others. (Or..in a dark room with the doors locked…as I joke.) It reminds me of lunch after church and taking a nap with Bob Ross on TV. The comfort that food brings is powerful.
Sure we all have things we’d love to taste before we die, but more importantly, we’d rather remember the people we loved and loved us back.
My last meal keeps getting bigger and richer.
The table grows each year.
So grab a chair and let’s talk.
There’s plenty to go around.