Friday, September 7, 2012

the last meal


Question - what would you eat for your last meal? There was a piece recently about new research conducted by Cornell University on death row inmates' last meals. With the exception of Texas' inmates (who aren't allowed to make off-menu requests), most opted for meat and fried foods. These (not so surprising) results reveal a simple truth - when people are faced with their finality, they don't care for foie gras or lobster or caviar. No, when you can literally count the hours until your demise, you go back to the food of your childhood, the food so deeply ingrained in your psyche that it's just simply part of who you are. You can call it comfort food, but really, a person's comfort food is their identity, isn't it.

I love French food. I love French wine. In fact, despite all my affection for Niagara and German wines, I'd say 50-60% of all the wines I drink are French. But it's not my culture; it's not who I am, if only for the simple fact that I'm not a Frenchman. I grew up with the great food of my great-grandmother, my grandmother, and my mother . . . Shanghainese food, and food cooked in the southern Chinese style. And although I'm an immigrant and I've grown up a Canadian, my heart still thumps for the food from my motherland. Like Proust said . . .

"And as soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me (although I did not yet know and must long postpone the discovery of why this memory made me so happy) immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents (the isolated segment which until that moment had been all that I could see); and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the Square where I used to be sent before lunch, the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine." - Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time.

So what would your last meal on this earth be? I could be a smartass and say I want course upon course of every variety of seafood, to prolong the inevitable as long as I could, but really, all I would want is a heaping pile of steamed mitten crabs (大闸蟹) with bottles upon bottles of the most amazing, mature, whispering Shaoxing wine. Simple pleasures, to send me on my way.


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