You have one meal left in your life. You can eat whatever your want. What’s your last supper?
Michael Nagrant is the dining contributor for Redeye. He was the food critic at the Sun-Times before that newspaper decided to shed all pretense of caring about anything except hyperbole and yellow journalism. He contributed to the Alinea cookbook and freelances all over the place. Plus, he’s nicerenamufucker. Follow him on Twitter.
The Last Supper:
When I first started interviewing chefs, I used to ask this question a lot. There was a sort of young man’s hubris and optimism in that question. I sorta almost believed somehow the subject would actually truly have the opportunity to know when their last meal was coming and plan for it. It was easy to ask the question, because as far as I was concerned, the two us, me and the chef, were never gonna die. It was an optimistic, but inconsequential parlor game.
But, that all changed for me when Charlie Trotter stroked out on his couch last year. Arguably one of the greatest culinary visionaries of all time went down, unsuspectingly, in front of his TV, a man of ultimate control, controlled. He did not, as far as I know, consume a bottle of 1900 Chateau Margaux and a plate of pristine seafood as he’d hoped. I like to believe he’d just finished off a Hot Pocket.
And, as I’ve gotten a little older, metaphorically and literally, death haunts me more than it used to. I’ve seen the carcasses of so many news organizations I’ve worked for picked over, and I’ve lost some people I’ve loved. I don’t believe in fortunetelling, but I expect I’m gonna die earlier than I should.
So, now what I try to do is pursue some semblance of my ideal of a last meal as often as I can, day after day, instead of planning and hoping for a blowout that ain’t never gonna come.
I am not rich by any means, but I rarely pass up an opportunity to drink a glass of Pappy Van Winkle when that bottle glints at me across a bar. I get at least a pound of fresh never frozen Alaskan King Crab from Dirk’s Fish Market every year, dunk it in a pound of European butter and go to town. I get a white truffle in season from time to time and shave it over things like handmade pasta, and sometimes, directly in to my mouth.
I don’t make it to Memphis as often as I should, but when I do Gus’s World Famous fried chicken gets in my belly.
Everytime I go back to Michigan, I’m making sweet sweet love to a large “super” pizza from Buddy’s, a coney dog from Lafayette and some snackers at Olga’s kitchen.
I just discovered it a few weeks ago, but every time I go to Las Vegas, I will stop by Kabuto, and I will go omakase and eat whatever chef Gen Mizoguchi tells me to stuff in my maw. And then I will demand some fatty tuna collar after he’s done telling me what to do.
I go to New Orleans every few years, and not a trip passes without a Parkway Bakery roast beef po boy, a half and half from Domilise’s, and BBQ shrimp from Mr. B’s. I don’t care where they’re from, but I eat a truckload of fresh oysters and a bucket of mignonette often.
I’ve kicked the turkey to the curb and on Thanksgiving there is now country ham on my table, Benton’s, Broadbent’s or Newsom’s depending on how I feel.
Three words: bul go gi. Rarely a fee months go by where hot charcoal coals aren’t involved and a forty of shitty cold Korean lager isn’t at my side. Same with Thai – crispy on choy at Andy’s Thai Kitchen and fucking everything at PokPok whenever possible.
It ain’t all fancy food. My mom makes this “éclair” cake from Jello vanilla pudding, graham crackers and baking chocolate. It is the very nadir of 1980’s Ladies Home Journal-inspired cuisine. I crave it on the regular. There is always a bag of Totino’s pizza rolls in my freezer or one of their “party” pizzas. Totino’s will likely be the true death of me, but what a heavenly way to die.