Writing about last meals is nothing new. Food writers have often riffed on the theme. But last meals are usually framed as an end-of-life treat. A thoughtful article in the Sunday Times takes a different look at how we dine and asks: What would you order as a last meal if cancer changed the way you would eat from then on?
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The author pens her story just weeks after undergoing a complete gastrectomy and accounts for her last indulgent meals before a surgeon changed her life forever. There were peanut butter and jelly doughnuts, sushi and ice cream. A foie gras and fig torchon, and butter-poached smoked lobster. Just important as the food was her company, the time spent with her husband and family. Loss, and our fear of it, often sharpen our perception. We savor things differently when we're afraid we might never taste them again.
While I read about the author's experiences indulging in the company of her husband, I thought about my own last meals in New York, saying goodbye someone I still miss dearly. It drove home that fact that a "meal" is so much more than the sum of the ingredients on the plate. It's the day's proceeding events, your company, the weather, and endless other factors that take what might have been just another dinner and make it an experience you'll remember for life.
I'll never forget the delectable and tiny beef burrito wrapped in a delicate flour tortilla I ate in Dumbo, or a celebratory parade down Jay Street, toting a paper wrapped Grimaldi's pie. Errant cravings still linger for corned beef and cabbage and a simmering pot of red sauce and meatballs on the stove. Those meals may not have been as refined as a seven-course tasting menu cooked by a chef at the top of his game, but they were no less perfect. And framed with family and friends they formed food memories I hope never fade.
Check out Anna Stoessinger's story if you read anything food related today, and make a point to eat something special with someone you're close to as soon as you can.