Last Meals

Last Meals

  • Submitted By: shenlee96
  • Date Submitted: 10/24/2013 4:09 AM
  • Category: English
  • Words: 4406
  • Page: 18
  • Views: 84

In January 1985, Pizza Hut aired a commercial in South Carolina that featured a condemned prisoner ordering delivery for his last meal. Two weeks earlier, the state had carried out its first execution in twenty-two years, electrocuting a man named Joseph Carl Shaw. Shaw’s last-meal request had been pizza, although not from Pizza Hut. Complaints came quickly; the spot was pulled, and a company official claimed the ad was never intended to run in South Carolina.

It’s not hard to understand why Pizza Hut’s creative team thought the ad was a good idea. The last meal offers an irresistible blend of food, death, and crime that drives a commercial and voyeuristic cottage industry. Studiofeast, an invitation-only supper club in New York City, hosts an annual event based on the best responses to the question, “You’re about to die, what’s your last meal?” There are books and magazine articles and art projects that address, among other things, what celebrity chefs—like Mario Batali and Marcus Samuelsson—would have for their last meals, or what the famous and the infamous ate before dying. Newspapers reported that Saddam Hussein was offered but refused chicken, while Esquire published an article about the terminally ill Francois Mitterrand, the former French president, who had Marennes oysters, foie gras, and, the pièce de résistance, two ortolan songbirds. The bird is thought to represent the French soul and, because it’s protected, is illegal to consume.

While the number of yearly executions in the United States has generally declined since a high of ninety-eight in 1999, the website Dead Man Eating tracked and commented on last-meal requests of death-row inmates across the country during the first decade of the new millennium. One of the site’s last posts, in January 2010, was the request of Bobby Wayne Woods, who was executed in Texas for raping and killing an eleven-year-old girl: “Two chicken-fried steaks, two fried chicken breasts, three fried pork chops, two...

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