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Death Row: The Last Meal

July 23, 2011
by

‘So he ordered a pepperoni pizza and a glass of root beer. It arrived at 4:00 p.m., rolled into the holding cell on a small tray by two guards. Donté said nothing as they left. He’d been napping off and on throughout the afternoon, waiting on his pizza, waiting on his lawyer. Waiting on a miracle, though by 4:00 p.m. he’d given up.’

Whilst reading John Grisham’s recent fiction best seller The Confession, I began to wonder what people eat as their last meal on death row, followed by a whole heap of other questions; is anything allowed; what are the restrictions; who cooks it; can they request a chef… and so the research for this post began.

One of the first articles I came across was The Observer’s interview with Brian Price, the man responsible for preparing the last meal requests in Texas. Brian explains the restrictions around the meal and the truth about what prisoners really receive (despite what is reported) and his experience of cooking over 300 such meals over 11 years.

Price says the first death-row meal he cooked was for murderer Laurence Buxton who requested filet mignon. He actually got a T-bone steak, but Price was touched when he sent word back saying how much he liked the meal. ‘I gave this guy a little bit of pleasure – just something to distract him for a brief moment before his execution. It’s a very humbling and emotional experience and I always prayed over each meal.’

In his book Meals To Die For, Price also tells that the most requested last meal is a cheeseburger and French fries and details how he  would season it with a little Worcestershire sauce, some garlic powder, salt and pepper. ‘Then I’d grill the onions right there beside it and toast the buns with butter. I did the best I possibly could with what I had and I’d always use fresh lettuce and tomato to garnish it with.’ He also lets on that his easiest meal that he ever prepared was a jar of pickles.

Here is a list of some the ‘notable’ last meals:

Andrey Chikatilo: porridge with a small piece of beef.
Dobie Gillis Williams: Twelve candy bars and some ice cream.
James Edward Smith: requested a lump of dirt, which was denied. He settled for a small cup of yoghurt.
John Albert Taylor: Pizzas “with everything.”
Odell Barnes: “Justice, Equality, World Peace.”
Philip Workman: He declined a special meal for himself, but he asked for a large vegetarian pizza to be given to a homeless person in Nashville, Tennessee. This request was denied by the prison, but carried out by others across the country.
Victor Feguer: requested a single olive with the pit still in.

Hopefully not my last meal:

10.15 Mornflake Original Oat Granola
15.00 3 Egg cheese, ham, mushroom and onion omelette
21.10 Pasta Carbonara
Nibbled: Chocolate Peanuts, Clementine x4, Honeydew Melon

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Lee Fordham permalink*
    July 24, 2011 9:52 am

    Thanks Ty, I hadn’t seen your blog or book before. Both interesting, what made you write it? If you’d like to guest blog with a bit more detail then we’d be happy to publish it? I’d like to know more about the rules of the last meal…

  2. July 24, 2011 9:28 pm

    Sure, I’d be happy to! Just send me an email and let me know what you have in mind.

  3. August 2, 2011 4:16 pm

    Did you see Bompas and Parr’s piece for the Jotta Remastered Exhibition? They re-imaginied ‘The Last Supper’ with three offerings; check it out at http://www.jotta.com/jotta/published/home/article/v2-published/1439/remastered-bompas-parr

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