Our restaurant critic is often asked what his last meal will be: would he go for an outrageous banquet or a simple dinner? In his new book, My Last Supper, he decides to cook up a final feast while he’s still here to enjoy it
After a while you get used to people wishing you dead. In my case it helps that the ones making the suggestion do so lightly. Often there’s the catch of a laugh in their voice. It’s that stifled amusement, the giggle before the darkness, which alerts me to what’s coming. I am on stage in a small theatre or comedy club, the meat of my live show behind me, and I am taking questions. I am working my way from upstretched hand to upstretched hand, trying to be the most entertaining version of myself that I can. “Jay, so… Ha!” Here we go. “What would be your death-row dinner?” The audience laughs. The audience always laughs. By asking the question the balance of power appears to have shifted, and brilliantly. There I am up on stage, owning the space. And now here’s a member of the audience bringing me back down to earth by asking me to imagine I am about to be put to death for some crime of which I am obviously guilty. Then again, they have heard the question only once; I have heard it dozens of times. I reply. Some of the audience laugh. Some of them look puzzled. Others look utterly furious. As far as they’re concerned, I really haven’t played the game at all.
The idea of last suppers, be they caused by the judicial system, suicide or misfortune of health, has long fascinated me. It seems such a simple question. You are about to die. What do you choose to eat? But it isn’t simple at all. For a start, we eat to keep ourselves alive. That’s the whole point of consuming food. It’s literally a bodily function. But if you knew your death was imminent, the basic reason for the meal would have gone. You’ll be long dead before you starve.