March 31, 2009

the last supper

I cannot get over this list of final meal requests from inmates on Texas's death row. This was posted on the Portland Mercury blog the other day, and I haven't been able to stop thinking of it. Or reading it.

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

Never mind the sheer volume of food requested: that's easy to understand. Why not, after all? No worries about getting fat, no worries about the health implications of your diet; no worries, even, about feeling sick later. But how sad those thoughts are.

Heaping portion of lettuce, a sliced tomato, a sliced cucumber, four celery stalks, four sticks of American or Cheddar cheese, two bananas and two cold half pints of milk. Asked that all vegetables be washed prior to serving. Also asked that the cheese sticks be clean.

I'm just as fascinated by the things people chose, which, along with indicating favorite food preferences, also hint at family background, ethnicity, and tell a tiny story of their own about each of these people and the food memories they have.

Justice, Equality, World Peace

Reading them, I wonder if they all got what they requested. There's no way to know. A disclaimer on the list reminds readers that "final meal requested may not actually reflect final meal served." I hope in most cases it did. Although these men were put to death for horrific crimes, that fact doesn't obliterate their basic humanity: their childhood memories, their feelings, their fears at being put to death. Their personhood. And who's to say we should be in the business of ending their lives, despite it all?

Chocolate birthday cake with "2/23/90" written on top, seven pink candles, one coconut, kiwi fruit juice, pineapple juice, one mango, grapes, lettuce, cottage cheese, peaches, one banana, one delicious apple, chef salad without meat and with thousand island dressing, fruit salad, cheese, and tomato slices


  1. I once worked on a documentary about the death penalty, and I remember being really dismayed to find how little is put into fulfilling last meal requests. It varies from state to state, but in Texas they'll only provide food that's actually in the prison's kitchen, which means no real steaks (they only have hamburgers) or fresh produce. Prison staff will occasionally bend the rules, and the kitchen staff puts a lot of effort into making the most of what they have, but the last meals end up being pretty depressing in a lot of cases.

  2. that's makes me sad, though it's not surprising. I would be so gratified to know that someone had taken great pains to get the "2/23/90" frosted onto that cake.