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The Last Supper Club
Meal #16 - Meals Like White Elephants

Ordered by: Ernest Hemingway

Papa knew how to wear a sweater.

Date of Meal: Presumably 7/1/1961

Meal: New York Strip Loin with Garlic Herb Crust, Baked Potato, Caesar Salad, Bordeaux

Participants: Grace and Crystal

Clockwise from left: lettuce (2 heads), Chatham Village croutons, Bordeaux (2 bottles), olive oil, Ortiz anchovies, sour cream, lemon (1), Pure Irish butter (that’s a thing, I guess), egg (1), chives, NY strip steaks (3), garlic (1 head), Colman’s mustard powder, potatoes (3)

Preparation

The three of them entered the small apartment. He took the brown bag of groceries he cradled in his arms and set it on the counter. 

"We should begin," he said.

"Yes," Crystal said. A cat came out of the open room at the end of the apartment and cautiously watched them.

Grace peeled each clove of garlic and chopped them on the cutting board. At the first thud, the cat started, but soon he settled on a chair, lazily watching. 

"What are you doing now," he said, taking out his phone and setting it on the counter.

"I mixed the chopped garlic with salt, and now I’m adding lemon juice."

"I want to do that too."

The package of anchovies leaked oil as he pulled them out, one fish at a time, and placed them in a bowl. Crystal took the bowl up and began to mash the fish together into a paste.

"These anchovies are delicious," he said, taking a filet from the package. "I could eat these all day." He took another. His fingers glistened with the packing oil.

In the shadow of the porcelain bowl, the anchovies rested. They were mashed.

Grace took a second clove of garlic and mashed it together with a half of a stick of butter. 

"We should grease the potatoes," Grace said.

"Then why don’t you do that," he said. "Remember to stab them with the fork."

She rubbed oil onto the skin of the potatoes. Their eyes shone glossy in the light. She pushed the fork into each potato, turning it over and stabbing it.

The cat watched the man take another anchovy and dangle it above his mouth.

"I can’t believe I’ve never eaten these before. Do all anchovies taste like these?"

Grace took the container of mustard seed. “A teaspoon of dry mustard.” She held the page of the cookbook down with her pinkie. 

The mustard powder was dry.

"Add it to the mixture," Crystal said. 

"I had no idea all these things went into Caesar dressing."

"We haven’t even added the egg yet."

"This is classy."

"We have to boil an egg for 60 seconds," Grace said. "I don’t think this is really necessary."

"To cook the egg? Of course you should cook the egg."

Crystal combined the anchovies with the mustard, salt, pepper, garlic, lemon, and oil in the bowl.

"Here, try."

"This tastes lemony," he said.

Grace added the egg and whisked it together with the mixture. “This is supposed to emulsify,” she said. 

The yolk floated in the mixture. It did not emulsify.

They prepared the salad with the lettuce and croutons.

"We should check the baked potato in 10 minutes." 

The man went to the bottle and poured another glass of wine. 

"I’m going to rub butter on the steaks now," Grace said.

"That’s ok. I’ll do it," the man said.

"Remember to rub the garlic and salt onto the meat as well," Crystal said.

"Too many cooks," the man said.

"You’ll put Jasper into the blog, won’t you?" Grace said. The man continued to rub the steaks. "Jasper has his own blog, you know."

"Jasper has a blog?"

"Of course he does." They looked at the cat. "He’s giving sulky eyes now."

The man walked over to the computer. “This is what I was telling you about before. These ads are ridiculous.” He read aloud from the screen.

"Hook reports?" Crystal said.

Book reports,” the man said. “What’s a hook report, and why would someone put it in a personal ad?”

"I don’t know. That’s why I asked."

"Oh, are these Ortiz anchovies?”

"I’m in the middle of a story."

"No, there’s a story behind them. These are extraordinary anchovies."

"I know, I’ve been eating them. They made me like anchovies."

"It says to break the egg over the salad."

"Shit," Grace said.

"We can cook the steaks the way I’ve done before," the man said. He rubbed oil into the meat. Grace put salt and pepper on top as his hands worked the meat.

"They call me meat hands," he said, his voice taking on a Southern twang.

He cooked each side of the steak in the pan for thirty seconds. 

"These are sticking to the pan," he said as he flipped them. Grace laughed, watching him pull at the steaks with a spatula and a fork. He put the pan with the steaks in the oven.

"Anybody need a refill?" the man said. He filled each of the three glasses. 

"I think it’s go time," Crystal said. They moved around the kitchen, walking past each other.

"I think you’ll get to break the egg over the salad," the man said.

"Don’t talk down to her," Grace said.

"I’m not talking down to her. I’m being enthusiastic."

Crystal mixed the salad together. The man took the potatoes out of the oven and bisected them. He put a small pat of butter in each, spooned sour cream on, and added chives. They took the steaks out of the oven and placed them on a plate.

"The steaks need to rest before we serve them." Grace placed large pats of butter on the steaks.

"That’s a lot of butter," the man said.

"This is how French restaurants do it. That’s where he ate before he died."

"Ok. Are we ready to eat?"

"Yes."

They sat down to eat.

Your meal is served. 

[The subtext to the above story, by the way, is the Crystal was going to get an abortion and I was impotent.]

The Meal

1. What do you think he did?

This question seemed a bit pointless, since we all know what he did, or did not, do. I guess if pressed, I would say the elegance of the meal probably meant that he kidnapped young twenty-something men, murdered them, and had sex with their corpses. Just on first blush, that would be my guess.

2. What are your first impressions?

Eric: Looking at how much butter we used, I’d say if the shotgun shells didn’t kill him, this would have.

Grace: This is very elegant. Simple and clean flavors. It’s like it’s classy, but working man.

Eric: Like the Old Man and the Sea. Or a French peasant.

Crystal: He didn’t mess around. Also, I’m not getting an abortion!

Eric: Creative license!

3. How close is this to what you would have picked for your last meal?

Eric: This is an important question here. We’re all pretty happy with this, but would you have picked it on your own?

Grace: This isn’t far off. It’s nice and solid, but I would have maybe gone with a roast chicken. Something satisfying and homey.

Crystal: This is really complete. Mine would be a little more eclectic.

Eric: I’d definitely take the steak. I wouldn’t complain if this were my last meal. I always had a prejudice against NY Strips. I guess they seemed like a lower class cut to me. It always used to be associated with steak and eggs or something, but this one is really good. The Caesar salad would be the only thing I would never have asked for.

4. What are the strong elements? What are the weak elements?

Grace: I think it’s all pretty great. I don’t like the Caesar salad as much, but I don’t think we did that right. Anyway, a Caesar salad is for when you don’t really want a salad. It’s like a “boy salad”.

Eric: A “boy salad”?

Grace: Girls order salads as meals, but boys order a Caesar when they don’t really want to eat salad, and it goes with something else.

Eric: See, I think women order a Caesar when they don’t want to eat much, and that’s their meal. I’ve never been into Caesar salad, since it’s just croutons, lettuce, and dressing. How do you make a salad without tomatoes and cucumbers? I’m glad I got to try a homemade Caesar dressing, though.

As for the strong elements, everything else. The potato was great, the steak was amazing. I ate the gristle. That’s how good it was.

5. How does the meal work as a whole? Were there any unexpected surprises in the pairings?

Very good. No surprises. This was pretty traditional.

Crystal: The man knew what he was doing.

Eric: It’s understated, like his fiction. (how clever of me!)

Crystal: I used to love Hemingway in college. I’d always write papers on him.

Eric: I always felt a lot of pressure to write like him. Hemingway and [Raymond] Carver. A bunch of stories where people are talking and no one is saying what they’re actually thinking. They speak in text message voice, with no inflection. And everyone’s trying to quit drinking, and they smoke cigarettes. I think a lot of people were writing like that for a few decades. Now they’re all writing in a new style. It’s weird. 

Eric: Oh, wait! Huge surprise (though it wasn’t exactly part of the meal) were the anchovies. I LOVE these anchovies. I want to buy a package of them and sit around at home eating them.

Grace: You might just like these types of anchovies. They apparently have a perfect balance.

6. How satisfied are you after the meal?

We were all very satisfied.

Eric: I feel like because we respected him a lot (as opposed to a murderer), it made us very introspective. We thought a lot about Hemingway and what we were eating. 

Grace: Not to get all foodie about it, but this meal satisfies a different class of person. It’s not like a bunch of fried foods or a hamburger or something. 

Eric: Right, that’s all hangover food. This is very solid and clean. This is a meal I would eat when I’m having “me” time. I’d have a bubble bath after this, or something.

Crystal: I don’t think this meal is actually that reflective of a rich person versus a poor person, though. In Europe, the people in the countryside tend to eat very nicely because they cook for themselves, and it’s simple, but good food. This could be something a farmer would eat.

Eric: I could have this meal every day. Well, maybe not every day. That would be gross. Once a week.

Grace: Papa had it almost all the time. At Michel’s Christiana, in Ketchum, Idaho.

Eric: He ate it so often that he killed himself.

7. Is there anything you’re craving after this?

Eric: Maybe just one spoonful of dessert. This is the kind of meal where I want to eat just enough, but not to be any more full than this. This is perfect.

Crystal: A cigarette?

Eric: I crave the idea of a cigarette, but not an actual cigarette, I think.

Grace: A digestif would be really nice.

Eric: Oh, definitely. I’ll have a digestif! Also, my favorite shotgun! Juuuuuuust kidding…

8. What there anything missing that you would have liked?

Everything was awesome. Nothing was missing.

9. What does this do for your state of mind? Do you feel more at peace?

Grace: I feel great. Perfect.

Crystal: I feel really happy.

Grace: I’m full, but not too full. Fully satisfied.

Eric: Would you be surprised if I went home and killed myself?

Grace: Nope.

Eric: Me too.

Grace: Let’s not play this game.

Eric: I’m just saying, if I was 65, this would be a nice way to eat before going.

10. Ready to die?? 

Yeah, we’re all pretty good with this meal. If this were the last one, we’d be going out in style.

Crystal: That’s the thing about Hemingway, he really did know how to live.

Eric: Well, for a limited amount of time, yes.

Lessons Learned

  • Simple works. Great ingredients just being heated up or mixed together can be enough.
  • Ortiz Anchovies. They don’t fuck around.
  • You probably need to make the mayonnaise separately by emulsifying the egg yolk with the oil, then adding the other ingredients. Otherwise it just seems too hard to get the creaminess you want.
  • My Ernest Hemingway impression is middling, at best.

And finally, the LSC has now been in existence for over a year! Thanks to all the wonderful readers and guests who have made this fun. I know there have been a few sabbaticals from time to time, but hopefully 2012 will be the year of many, many last meals and only one arterial bypass! Happy New Year!

Eric

Extra helpings - Meal #15

Dan: Would you eat until you were stuffed at your last meal?

Nikki: Definitely. I’d just keep eating until I couldn’t go anymore.

Eric: Ugh, but you’d feel uncomfortable. I hate that feeling.

Ashish: Look, you know you’re going to shit yourself either way, right?

Nikki: I would make myself throw up, so I could keep eating.

Eric: Oh no, that doesn’t work. We tried that once.

Everyone else: WHAT?

Eric: Yeah, back when I was in Korea, we went to this Oktoberfest being held at the Marriott there, this big party where they serve all you can drink beer and German food. 

Nikki: Was this you and Mark (The Octopus)?

Eric: Yeah, and a few other people. So Mark and this other guy decide to go make themselves vomit so they could eat more. 

Ashish: They really did that? I mean, I’m not surprised…

Jim: I’m expecting a joke to come at the end of this, but go on…

Eric: No, there’s no joke. The joke is that these are people. So they do this, and actually had some trouble getting their appetite back after they puked. That’s a surprise, right? I mean, they eventually were able to eat again…

Nikki: So you just disproved your initial theory that it doesn’t work.

Eric: Well, I guess you can get over the vomit…I don’t know.

Ashish: So you wanted to give us an example of a time when this didn’t work by telling us of a time when it worked?

Meal #15 - Georgia On My Mind

Ordered by: Thomas Stevens

Unfortunately, no photos of Thomas Stevens are on the internet, but here’s a blogger’s rendition (explanation later).

Date of Meal: 6/25/1993

Meal: Spaghetti with meat sauce, green beans, rolls, peach cobbler, and iced tea.

Participants: Nikki, Jim, Ashish, Bhavi, Dan, Jonny

Clockwise from left: Unknown bottle of something from Kirkland, 1 stick of butter, brown sugar, peaches (8), 1/2 lb of ground pork, 1/2 lb of ground veal, 1 lb of ground beef, 2 cans crushed tomatoes, 2 boxes of spaghettini, 4C breadcrumbs, basil?, 2 containers of crescent rolls, parmesan cheese, onions, eggs,pork sausage, parsley, garlic, green beans.

Preparation

I don’t any better way to put this: I fucked up. It’s been a busy month, and all these other excuses, but when it comes down to it, I got sloppy. You’ll see clearly that Thomas asked for spaghetti with meat sauce, but for some reason I read that as “spaghetti with meatballs”. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I’ve never been that excited for spaghetti with just meat sauce. I mean, why would you have just some ground up meat instead of a real meatball? That’s like something you make when you’re cleaning out your freezer, and you need to cook some beef in there, but got too lazy. 

Next, I completely blanked on the iced tea. We just didn’t even have it. We had a lot of wine instead. Again, I just didn’t remember he had even asked for it. 

And finally, the ingredients. I honestly won’t be able to supply much direction in how this stuff was made. Nikki took charge of the cooking, and I didn’t get a chance to record what all the steps were. There will be a lot of approximation here.

As for the participants for this meal, you should know everyone, including the new name, Jonny, who has previously been referred to as The Roommate. Jonny is huge into food, so much so that he writes about his meals on Jonny’s Daily Dish, and sometimes posts pictures of my bedroom after the ceiling collapsed from Hurricane Irene. 

Ashish dices garlic. Seriously, what is that little bottle next to the brown sugar? No, I’m not talking about the Heineken next to Ashish (see what I did there?).

Nikki pours out the tomato sauce while I chop parsley.

Sauce gets on my work shirt.

Jim chops the parsley instead. I’m busy salting my shirt to keep the stain from setting.

Mix the meat in with the breadcrumbs, and I’m guessing crack an egg in there or something. Seriously, this is Nikki’s recipe, and the only one I know of that calls for 4 types of meat.

And just so you know the magic that goes into writing this blog, that piece of paper in the corner is Nikki’s email to me with the list of ingredients and cooking directions! The brown bottle must be olive oil! Oh, and the cheese is Pecorino Romano, and the onions are actually shallots. Ok, we’re back in business!

To make the sauce, you first begin by sauteing garlic in olive oil. I was doing this the first time, but I burned the garlic, so Nikki put me on parsley duty and took care of it herself.

 

Just up and to the right you’ll see my garlic cloves. I like them well done; what’s the problem??

Next, you open the can of peeled plum tomatoes and hand crush them in a bowl. The other can should just be roughly chopped up, and the two are mixed together. Make sure to get some on a work shirt, for full authenticity.

Yum! Now put in a pot and let it sim-simmer.

For the meatballs, and that picture of the mixing bowl, you put together 1 cup of breadcrumbs, an egg, a 1/2 cup of the cheese, a tablespoon of the chopped parsley, 1/2 a teaspoon of minced garlic, and a teaspoon of minced shallots into the bowl. Then, in the words of the recipe, you “break casing of the sausage to release the meat.” I’m definitely going to find an occasion in the next few days to yell out, “Release the meat!” You mix in the other meats until the mixture is fully incorporated, and then add a cup of water to make sure everything sticks nicely. Then you bring in these meatballs to play:

Jonny and Dan. We really don’t pass up a chance to make jokes about playing with balls.

They look pretty good, don’t they? And if you told me they were animal testicles, I’d about 47% believe you.

To finish off the meatballs, heat up a large pot of oil and cook the meatballs in batches, browning all sides. 

Brown balls. 

Simmering for twenty minutes. I’m hungry for this meal again.

For the green beans, we simply washed and boiled them, and then tossed them up with oil, garlic, and shallots, since this dish got Nikkicized

Minced and sauteed

Kind of looks like a Chinese dish.

For the cobbler, we used a Magnolia recipe for Nectarine Cobbler. Same difference, right?

So, one thing I’m a little confused about is that Nikki had us boil the peaches first. I didn’t see that in the instructions, but I trust she knows what she’s doing. Actually, I ate the cobbler. Spoiler: she knows what she’s doing.

Just in time for Halloween! Bob for boiling peaches!

After this, we were told to skin the peaches. Again, I’m reading the instructions for the first time now, and this was not part of it. But Bhavi and I began peeling, regardless.

Step up from tomato duty.

I decide to eat all of the peach peelings, mostly as a dare, but also because I had been eating as I was peeling, anyway.

There’s the payoff!

After cutting the peaches, we had to make the topping, which involved combining the ingredients and mixing them up. Jim was all too happy to take care of this, while I read poorly from a cookbook.

And finally, we needed the rolls. I don’t think this required much more than making crescents. I’ll let you judge how that came out (blame Dan and Jonny).

Like doughy snails.

Ok, that’s all the preparation. I know it was a lot (and a lot of pictures), but now onto the finished product and the meal.

This is just food porn at this point.

Your meal is served. I have nothing snide to say here. It looks fantastic.

The Meal

1. What do you think he did?

Dan: I’m going pedophile, kidnapping, death.

Eric: So you’re saying he kidnapped a child, molested him, and killed him? Ok, but remember he had peach cobbler, not a sundae.

Jonny: Bank robbery with a murder.

Nikki: My normal response is that I think he was innocent, but I think he killed his mom. This is the kind of meal he probably had from his mom all the time, “but one time she made the meatballs wrong, so I killed her.”

Jim: Breaking and entering and murder. No one he knew. Got a little bit of change from it, but it wasn’t premeditated murder.

Ashish: I’m going with parricide. Killed both of them. I think it was bloody and awful, and this meal is making up for it. This is like a hearty Friday night meal. I also don’t think his meal was as nice as ours. I think he got like Chef Boyardee.

Bhavi: I think he loved his mom. I think it was a heat of the moment kind of thing. Definitely a robbery, but a high scale robbery with a lot of guns.

Ashish: Like Ocean’s 11?

Bhavi: Like a big bank robbery. I think he just made the wrong friends.

Eric: You always think he makes the wrong friends.

Bhavi: I think he came from a good family that always made good meal for him.

Nikki: I think this guy was the wrong guy and his friends met him

Eric: This is a relatively complete meal, so I’m going to say career criminal who got caught after a couple murders. It was all in a day’s work for him.

Dan: Are you saying he’s an Italian hit man?

Eric: I wouldn’t say he’s a mobster, but just like a street guy who committed a lot of crime.

It turns out Stevens was a former soldier who kidnapped, sodomized, and drowned a cab driver. So Dan was the closest with the sexual deviance. 

Ashish: I didn’t say he didn’t fuck his parents first.

Also, Stevens was from Georgia, which has been pretty big in the Death Penalty news lately. I have to say I’m kind of floored by this break in the pattern. Dessert has almost always dictated sexual crimes, and he didn’t order any ice cream. At the time of the dinner I thought the meatballs might have been the X-factor, but he didn’t actually order meatballs, so I’m stumped. Sometimes rapists have unexceptional palates, I guess.

2. What are your first impressions?

Dan: This is a meal I would have often.

Bhavi: I wouldn’t mind if this were my last meal.

Eric: You don’t tend to give spaghetti and meatballs a lot of credit, I think.

Nikki: What do you mean? I give it enough credit.

Eric: But you go into an Italian restaurant, you’ve got a whole menu of stuff…you would order that?

Jim: I would definitely order spaghetti and meatballs. It’s like the perfect Italian dish.

Eric: I think if you’re trying a restaurant you’ve never been to, you wouldn’t necessarily want to get it, because it’s the watermark for a good place. If they serve the basic stuff well, then you know they do a good job with everything else. You don’t want to take a chance on it being not great, so you would tend to go for stuff with more adjectives. I mean, I just don’t always feel like evaluating a restaurant when you go. You just want to make sure you get something they can’t fuck up. That being said, I do enjoy spaghetti and meatballs.

3. How close is this to what you would have picked for your last meal?

Jonny: Right on. This is what I would have had. I would have done a broccoli rabe, not green beans.

Dan: I would consider it. I don’t know if this is what I would choose, but I would be pretty happy with it.

Jim: Pretty far. I would not go for this as my last meal. I’d do more of a ceviche to start, then maybe surf n’ turf.

Nikki: Where are you that you’re getting ceviche? I mean, I guess you’re going to die, so it doesn’t matter.

Eric: Right, they get it off the truck by the docks on Monday morning and use lemon juice from those packets for tea.

Bhavi: I never had meatballs and spaghetti together before, so this is pretty far. It’s good, though!

Jonny: So you’ve had meatballs before?

Bhavi: Yes.

Jonny: And you’ve had spaghetti?

Bhavi: Yes.

Jonny: But never together?

Bhavi: No.

4. What are the strong elements? What are the weak elements?

Everyone decided the meatballs were the strongest elements. There were no weak elements in the meal, although many people wanted broccoli rabe instead of string beans. String beans just didn’t fit the meal as well. Had we actually had iced tea, that would probably have been a weak element.

Might as well talk about the peach cobbler now, which was fantastic.


That is an amazing topping right there.

I thought the topping tasted a little like cornbread, although there was no cornmeal in there at all.

5. How does the meal work as a whole? Were there any unexpected surprises in the pairings?

Strong meal. It works really well as a whole. The string beans didn’t fit in, exactly, but all in all the dinner was delicious and well-balanced. 

Eric: Were there any unexpected surprises in the pairings?

Bhavi: Meatballs and spaghetti!

6. How satisfied are you after the meal?

We were all deeply satisfied. The meal was pretty amazing and filling.

7. Is there anything you’re craving after this?

Ice cream. We all wanted ice cream with the cobbler, and some people wanted coffee. Nikki always wants a cigarette…that should have to go without saying.

8. Was there anything missing that you would have liked?

Broccoli rabe, obviously. Nikki wanted a caesar salad, to complete the Italian aspect of the meal.

9. What does this do for your state of mind? Do you feel more at peace?

Nikki: I feel pretty great right now. This was comforting.

Jonny: This is my first last supper, but this seemed like the most normal, planned out menu. Not knowing that this was someone’s last meal, this could have just been something that Nikki had decided to make and invite us to.

We all felt at peace. I think I’m converted to spaghetti and meatballs.

10. Ready to die??

Nikki: I will never be ready to die.

Eric: Right, I understand, but if you didn’t have a choice…

Nikki: If this exact meal were given to me as my last meal, I wouldn’t be too upset about it. I’d be ok, if it was all this exact (read: not prison quality) food.

Jonny: I still have wine in my glass. Not ready yet.

Eric: I think I’d be good dying after this. Maybe I’ll have a couple more meatballs, first.

Lessons Learned

  • I have to take better measures to remember what the exact meal is. Meat sauce is not the same as meatballs
  • It’s nice to make things at a higher quality from time to time. I feel like we got to see the best impression of the food, especially since bad spaghetti and meatballs would have been so sad. We’ve all been there, and there’s no reason to willfully subject ourselves to that.
  • It might seem boring to order spaghetti and meatballs at an Italian restaurant, but that might be one of your few ways to learning how good that restaurant actually is.
  • Don’t eat boiled peach skins. It may seem like a good idea at the time, but you’ll immediately regret it.
  • A big one: the ice cream = sexual violence corollary was violated. This might need a more complex postulation. 
Introducing Nikki’s Corner!

Readers who have taken the ride with us from the beginning are no doubt aware of a minor phenomenon that crops up every once in a while when we make and review a meal here. Menus sometimes alter, new (or non-prison grade) ingredients are suddenly included. Food looks better. In short, things start to get a bit Nikkicized every now and then.

Well, I’ve come around to the belief that we could benefit from abandoning the prison-grade ingredients (sorry Lays!) and stretching our cooking chops to try to create the best versions of the meals that are ordered, while still remaining true to the menu itself. But we’d still be missing that special element, that x-factor that comes in like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (I don’t watch this show; did I get that title right? Are there other editions?) and spruces up a depressing menu with that je ne sais quoi. Actually, I do know what it is, usually: butter. No matter, no more wondering what could have been. I present to you, Nikki’s Corner, taking your sad meals and making them better, better, better, better, better, better, ahhhhhhh (you can do the “na-na”s on your own).

Nikki’s Corner

Meal Ordered: Two hamburgers, double order of french fries & fried onion rings

Nikkicized: Two 4 oz cherry burgers with goat cheese on brioche buns, sweet potato fries with honey maple dipping sauce, frizzled onions, homemade pickles, and a vanilla malted (heavy on the malt powder)   Nikki Sez:
To be honest, this one was easy. It is similar enough to something I would eat, so my edits are minimal, in a way. Right off the bat, the hamburger needs to be changed to a cheeseburger. Who would eat just a hamburger, when adding cheese to meat makes it infinitely better? Ok, there are those who keep kosher, but they miss out on bacon entirely, so I tend to discount them as having any real culinary input. I debated for a while whether I would do a bacon cheeseburger, but since its summer, and cherries are still available, I opted for the cherry burger with goat cheese. This is actually what I had for dinner last night, anyway. I add ketchup to mine, but the fresh chopped cherries keep the burgers moist, so its not necessary.
[Did anyone else notice how cherry burgers were mentioned like it’s a completely natural thing to put cherries in your burgers? Show of hands if you’ve ever done this before. I don’t believe you, you haven’t. Masterful move pairing it with a season, though. Now I feel like the asshole because the whole world knows that summer means cherry burgers.]
Next, the french fries have to change to sweet potato fries because they would just go better with goat cheese burgers. Serve them with a side of honey maple dipping sauce, because honey maple dipping sauce kicks ass.
[She’s right. It does. Although I’ve been kind of down on sweet potato fries lately. I remember like ten years ago I had them for the first time and thought they were amazing. Now, they’re just sweet fries. I’m kind of over it. Maybe that’s just me. It probably is.]

Get rid of those same old onion rings to frizzled onions to lighten things up a little, while staying somewhat true to the original flavor pallete. Frizzled onions are like those very thin, stringy fried onions you can get at places. They’re great to eat alone, or if you’re so inclined, you can throw them on your burger.

Finally, finish those burgers off with a pickle and a malted. They always make burgers better. Again, I am probably a horrible Jew, but the truth is, there is nothing more enjoyable than washing down a cheeseburger with a delicious thick vanilla malted, heavy on the malt powder.
Have questions? Would you have done anything differently? Are you curious about how to make any of these things? (I know I am). Write in! Comment! Ask your neighbor and make plans to try something new over the weekend. Just get out of the house already!
It Always Takes One Asshole To Ruin It for the Rest

Well, it’s the end of an era. Texas, the leading exporter of the Death Penalty for the U.S., has taken away the privilege to order a special last meal before facing execution. But don’t worry, they’re still killing people. They’ll just be eating whatever the prison was serving for dinner that day.

Of course, when God flips a 4000-volt switch on a chair, he also opens a window. I see new appeals in the future, asking for specific execution dates. Going off of the offerings in my office cafeteria, I can tell you for a fact that no one wants to meet their maker on Yankee Pot Roast day.

Article here. It figures a racist piece of shit would be the one to bring the system down. Thanks to Smussy and Bolton for the Google Reader and Facebook links.

Troy Davis refuses his Last Meal request

Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed today at 7pm EST in Georgia, which a few of you may have heard about. Here’s the link for that story. Apparently, in each of the previous times when he was scheduled for execution and asked to make a request, he said, “This will not be my last meal.” The prison guards are reportedly very moved by the conviction with which he’s said this.

Now, I’ve never used this space to discuss my actual views on the Death Penalty, mostly because I’m not all too sure what they are. I also can’t speak as to Troy Davis’ innocence, though many people seem convinced of it. I know enough to not speak on things that I know very little about, but I know this: it seems that Davis’ guilt is certainly not a cut-and-dry affair, and we can’t say with absolute certainty that he’s guilty of this crime. He did, however, go through the legal process as it has been set up in our country for over two centuries, and was continuously found to be guilty.

So here, I think is my view on the Death Penalty: I believe there are clear-cut cases where I would endorse it, and all of the ethical and moral weight that it carries. That guy who kept his daughter in the basement and raped her for something like a decade and a half? He should be put to death. I don’t have any question in my mind about this. That’s an evil son of a bitch. A serial killer? Go ahead, you have my blessing. But a guy who has been found guilty of murder, yet there are still questions about the testimony of witnesses and the bias of the jury? Ok, he was found guilty by our judicial system, fine. But does capital punishment have to be applied? Is that our way of saying we’re going to stick by the judicial system, warts and all?

I guess I just don’t understand why we can’t just admit that our legal system is flawed in many ways, and that while capital punishment might be a fitting punishment in some cases (and I know people would argue against this as well, so I’ll just say this is opinion), it shouldn’t be the default punishment for certain crimes. Just because the victim in this case was a cop, it does not make it ok to expedite the “service of justice.” If we’ve found him guilty, lock him up for life. At least it leaves an opening for a future, when either the system can be fixed or the evidence is enough to overturn his sentence. What we’re presented with instead is just…unconscionable. Again, I don’t know if this guy is guilty or not, and I’m willing to trust in the legal system, but I don’t trust it enough to allow it to cover its own ass and truly remain “blind”.

That’s about all I have to say on that topic. I hope cooler heads prevail before 7 o’clock.

Meal #14 - They just smiled, and gave me a Vegemite sandwich

Greetings! I’m writing to you from the Land Down Under, where I have been sent for nearly two weeks for work. Normally I would just spend my time watching movies in my hotel and making pathetic attempts to be comfortable eating by myself at restaurants (spoiler: there is nothing you can do that makes you feel like you’d not prefer to be sitting across from someone, anyone), but I happen to have a few friends here who suggested a dinner party, and we all knew what happened next…

Tammy and Karen work at the client where my project is based, and they took me under their wing pretty much immediately. I met them last year when I spent 5 weeks of my summer in Sydney, working grueling hours with no break for 11 days, and this on top of my girlfriend at the time breaking up with me as soon as I arrived, fresh off of 24 hours of travel. It was the kind of experience that could have been absolute misery: by myself for over a month in a city where the only person I knew was someone who caused bitterness and bile to rise up whenever I saw her. Into that void came these two awesome girls who took me into their group and invited me out for drinks, dinners, and treks—which is a distinctly Aussie thing to do. They sure do love their walking. In short, I had a great time, and our friendship was quickly formed, making my return this year much more anticipated and less filled with dread.

In terms of food, this was an interesting meal to plan. Karen has been a vegetarian for over 20 years, for moral reasons. Tammy has become a vegetarian, I suppose through her inseparable friendship with Karen. Seriously, they switch off bringing lunch for each other during the week. They live walking distance from each other, and Tammy often leaves her car with Karen to drive. They’re a bit like Bert and Ernie.

As you’ll probably guess from the list of Texas requests, there are not a lot of vegetarians in the bunch. Something about murder makes people hungry for meat, I guess. After some research through a few additional books about last meals, I finally came up with one that I thought would work. At this point it is very apparent that this post will not follow the same formula as all the previous ones, which will become clear later on, but I figure since I’m in the Eastern and Southern hemispheres, completely opposite from my own, it would be fitting to have an inverted post. So, without further ado, on to the meal and the questions!

Vegetable soup with mashed potatoes. Your meal is served! Guten appetit!

1. What do you think he did?

Guest #1, Melissa: Well, it can’t be anything too serious, since it’s someone who’s having vegetable soup for their last supper. They can’t be that bad a person if they’re choosing something as wholesome as soup.

Karen: (at this point they were trying to figure out what kind of person this was, since I told them it was not necessarily a person on Death Row) Was this person limited on the ingredients he could choose?

Tammy: I think it’s too wholesome for him to be bad. I think he…accidentally killed someone?

Me: So, accidental murder?

Melissa: I bet he’s like the world’s biggest mass murderer.

Guest #2, Jenny: What about the apples? Were the apples part of the meal?

Me: Yup.

Jenny: I think it was someone, 50/60 in age. A man. He was a pretty simple man, with simple desires. He was just doing his bad things for many years and hiding from everyone.

Me: Are you a profiler?

Tammy: He was either a famous person who was poor or rich. It’s mainly grown veggies, nothing extravagant. It’s like food reminiscent of his home town.

Guest #3, Michelle: No idea.

Me: Just take a stab.

Michelle: Maybe murdered his family. (she uttered this so casually, it was pretty funny. Adding to the humor, she’s pregnant.)

Answers to come later. I recused myself, because I unfortunately already knew who it was.

2. What are your first impressions?

Tammy: It’s kind of a pauper’s meal.

Karen: It’s bland. Boring.

Jenny: Depressing.

Tammy: It’s devoid of any colour. (I’ll spell it the English way in her honor)

Me: I was saying before, when we were cooking this, it’s a meal for people who don’t have any teeth. Everything is pretty much liquefied. 

Jenny: The apple thing is really throwing me off. Why would they have apple in this?

Me: Yeah, I have no idea. That was really weird.

3. How close is this to what you would have picked for your last meal?

No one would have picked this for their last meal. The soup tasted like I was eating clay. What a dumb, horrible thing to eat before you die. Maybe the potatoes would have been in my meal.

4. What are the strong elements? What are the weak elements?

Me: Are their strong elements?

Karen: The mash is good.

Me: True.

Melissa: It is a bit warming. The apple is a flair.

Tammy: It’s all starch.

Me: Is that a strong element?

All five girls immediately said it was not said as a compliment.

Melissa: It could use some herbs…Maybe some…

Karen: Taste?

5. How does the meal work as a whole? Were there any unexpected surprises in the pairings?

Me: It doesn’t work. We made a backup meal. We knew as we were cooking this that it was not going to turn out well.

Melissa: The mashed potato and soup was unexpected.

Me: Was it good?

Karen: I actually like mashed potato and soup. But I would have wanted something more liquidy. The color scheme was horrible, too. 

Me: We still have a whole pot of this soup, by the way.

Karen: Do you reckon the homeless shelter will want the leftovers?

Tammy: We should give it to the uni students upstairs. I always see them bringing in boxes of ramen noodles.

Me: Are you sure this is any better?

Karen: I think I’d prefer the 2-minute noodles.

6. How satisfied are you after the meal?

We were not satisfied at all. I tried putting my mashed potatoes in the soup, but that only made the mashed potatoes drop down a few notches. 

7. Is there anything you’re craving after this?

Everyone was craving the vegetarian chili that Tammy threw together last minute, while the soup was simmering. So, yeah, basically we were craving dinner.

8. Was there anything missing that you would have liked?

Tammy: Aroma.

Karen: Color.

Melissa: Taste.

Jenny: Some schnapps or something. Wine?

Me: Yeah, it’s your last meal. This is so plain. You should have a treat.

Tammy: I wonder if someone ever made a meal with cyanide in it.

Me: So like a last meal and a form of execution?

Karen: I reckon that would not be one of the meals you should do for your club.

9. What does this do for your state of mind? Do you feel more at peace?

Melissa: Makes me feel like committing suicide.

Karen: I’m glad this is what he had. You know, as a form of punishment.

10. Ready to die??

Karen: If only so I never have to eat this again.

Michelle might have been ready to give birth. I think once the baby had a taste, he realized that his nutritional needs were no longer being met. Personally, I had no desire for that to be my last meal. What a colossal failure.

And now for the reveal…

Ordered by: Adolf Hitler

Meat is MURDER!! Despite that, not a fan.

Date of Meal: 4/30/1945

Meal: Vegetable soup with mashed potatoes

Participants: Eric, Karen, Tammy, Melissa, Jenny, Michelle

Clockwise from left: Butter that’s named as if it was a laxative, carrots, milk, celery, potatoes, flour, onions, Granny Smith apples (4), 400g mixed roasted nuts, turnips (3)

Preparation

I took the bus out to Randwick in the suburbs of Sydney to meet Karen and Tammy and go shopping. 

Tammy and Karen and a cart for der Fuhrer’s meal. Aren’t those flowers pretty??

Even in the supermarket we were pretty sure that we were going to need an alternate meal after this one fell on its feet. Here are the ingredients, taken from Their Last Suppers by Andrew Caldwell:

1/2 cup onions

1/2 cup celery

1/2 cup chopped apple

1 cup potatoes

1/2 cup carrots

1/2 cup turnips

4 oz nut compound (ed. note: Does anyone know what that means???)

1 apple sliced

1 cup flour

2 pints water

salt and pepper to taste

We figured these were the ingredients for one bowl, so we multiplied roughly by about 6 and just got a bunch of vegetables, since extra vegetables never actually ruined a soup, right?

The first step was to chop up all the vegetables, which I did while Tammy peeled the potatoes for boiling and mashing.

I actually agonized a little about how I should be cutting everything up. You’ll see why this is stupid pretty soon.

Tammy on onions. She’s crying because I told her about the fight between Ron and The Situation. It was all so senseless!

Next, toss die judische Schweine innocent vegetables into the pot. You’ll know when they’re done when they get soft and their screams cease.

Stir. Stir! (this helps if you hold your forefinger over your upper lip and shout)

Once the veggies are done, pull them out and you’re left with a vegetable stock. It actually smelled pretty good.

A huge, heaping bowl of mushy vegetables. Yum!

The next two pictures were my observations of how Tammy was setting things up when I left the kitchen for a few seconds. 

 

Neat and orderly. Interesting. You know, I seem to remember a certain Austrian with a bit of a thing for order and cleanliness. The other two bowls are the nut compound, which I took to mean that we throw a bag of nuts into the food processor, and some chopped apple. 

A window into Tammy’s mind? This is like a scene from The Cell

Let’s take a look at Tammy’s library, by the way. I mean, it’s not like she’s obsessed with crime and murder, right?

This might be hard to read, so I’ll point out some winners. There’s the Australian Police Journal, Helter Skelter, The Book of Execution, and In Cold Blood. Eric, the call is coming from inside the house. GET OUT.

 

Next, pour in the flour slowly while stirring to make a roux. We had about 5-6 pints of water, so I put in about 2 cups of flour. As you can see, they’re forming dumplings at the moment, which was very stressful. I’m not totally sure what a roux is, but I know it’s not lumpy.

Next, throw in the cooked vegetables, nut compound and diced apples. Doesn’t this look amazing? 

Pureeing the mixture. So it didn’t matter how I cut anything. In the end, it’s all mush. We also kept a bowl on the side with all the vegetables’ belongings and gold fillings. Ok, maybe that last one was kind of wrong.

The finished product. I think this is the swamp that Artax sinks into in The Neverending Story.

At this point I was tasting it and going, “You know, maybe I’m crazy, but this isn’t that bad.” And that’s how the Nazis took power in Germany. Never again. And by the way, I don’t know what “salt and pepper to taste” means in this context, since I think the only options I could find from that soup were over-salted and under-salted. There actually was no median. In the meantime, the mashed potatoes were made the pretty normal way. Potatoes were boiled, mashed up with milk and butter and some minced garlic thrown in.

I was the only one who knew this was Hitler’s last meal until somewhere in the middle of the questions, so obviously that took over a lot of the discussion. I made sure to point out that Karen and Hitler had a lot in common, and that everyone thought from the meal that whoever had ordered it couldn’t have been all that bad. 

It turns out Hitler became a vegetarian after his niece committed suicide (I don’t get the correlation either), but he was often caught eating meat, as liver dumplings were his favorite dish. Naughty Adolf! Let’s add lack of conviction to the Nuremberg files. Apparently, he had a personal chef for years who was his favorite, until one day he discovered she was actually a Jew, and then she kind of disappeared. The master (race) of this recipe was actually Hitler’s dietitian, who hated the fact that Hitler was a vegetarian and sneaked marrow into his soup. On a side note, can you think of a person you’d trust less in their job than a dietitian from Der Vaterland during World War II? I mean, Civil War surgeons were probably very awful, but at least their work produced results. Yeah, you lost a leg, but the gangrene was stopped. A dietitian from the 1930s is probably akin to a psychic in 2011. Wasn’t Freud prescribing cocaine to his patients just a few years earlier? Crazy times. 

Lessons Learned

  • Hitler may have had a few good ideas (kidding!), but cuisine was not among them.
  • Vegetarians, get off your high horse! Then eat it! Maybe it will keep you from the urge to murder Catholics, Jews, Gypsies, and the handicapped. Maybe there’s not a direct correlation, but everyone’s been to Bikram yoga, right? I’m just saying it’s a slippery slope.
  • Hitler was kind of an unimaginative prick. I mean, he had the kind of meal that futurists used to talk about as an efficient means of getting your nutrients without having to spend time on eating. This was like a fascist’s Ensure. Is it all that surprising that the biggest solution to the major depression all of Europe was in was to just get rid of a bunch of people? Nothing was nuanced with this guy. I used to hate him before, but now I don’t even respect him as someone who actually took the time to try to solve his problems. I bet he really loved enriched white bread.
  • While none of us enjoyed eating this meal, it did make us feel pretty satisfied to know that Hitler and Eva probably didn’t enjoy it that much. It’s nice to think of their last days in a bunker with no sunlight, grimly eating Oliver Twist’s leftovers before ending it all.
  • On a cooking note, nut compound really thickens a soup up, but it also makes it taste kind of nutty. Buyer beware.

But before we close off this chapter, we are still left with the story of what happened to what I’ll now refer to as “The Final Solution”. There was a whole pot of this, and we were excited for some chili and brown rice (which was delicious, by the way. Of course, saltines would have been delicious after Hitler’s meal), so we had to dispose of it.

Need I make the obvious comparisons here? I think I do. Hitler ate diarrhea soup! So it shall be written.

Much love and thanks to Karen and Tammy (and co.) for making my time in Australia a super fun one. I purposely set up some problems in their company’s system so they’ll have to call me back in a few months (hopefully in summer) to fix it up and go hang out on the beach. Last Supper Club out!

Meal #13 - Surf n’ Turf!

Ordered by: Ronnie Lee Gardner

What a charmer.

Date of Meal: 6/15/2010

Meal: Steak, lobster, vanilla ice cream, and 7-up.

Participants: Dan II, Jill

Clockwise from left: Entenmann’s “Homestyle Apple Pie”, Breyers vanilla ice cream, 7-up (2 lt), lobster (alive-ish), steaks (dead) (not pictured: butter, garlic)

Preparation

I took a bit of a summer hiatus after our grand Last Supper back in April, but I felt the draw of cooking and morbid meals pulling me closer to arrange another meal. Aside from general scheduling issues, I think the usual guests were a little worn out after cooking a meal for 12, so I called in some help from my buddy Dan (we’ll call him Dan II to distinguish him from last meal’s Dan) and his girlfriend Jill.

Dan II has been a long-time reader of the blog, and has always been very vocal with feedback on everything in the whole presentation, so I had a feeling this would be a good meal right away. He was already in the mindset; no need to get on the same page. Jill, a very classy lady, is a voracious reader and general appreciator of all things cultural and worldly. I think these guys not only know how to eat, but they also are interested in talking about the more heady parts of the blog that delve into the human condition.

Also, all three of us have been catching up on Breaking Bad for the past few months, and we figured what better way to watch the season premiere, am I right??

As usual, since I know I will eventually eat every meal, I gave the choice to Dan II. He picked Smilin’ Ronnie Lee up there because he wanted a meal that included lobster. “Well, I think part of this blog is for you to answer the question for yourself, of what you would eat for your last meal,” Dan II explained. “I know you’ve always talked about how lobster is one of your favorite foods, so I wanted to put that to the test.” Who am I to turn down a chance to eat some lobster at home? Let’s answer the man’s question!

Cooking lobsters is surprisingly easy. You just boil up a big pot of water, put a live lobster in without the rubber bands, and cover for about 15 minutes. Once the lobster is red and the tail is curled up, it should be ready. Sounds easy, right? Well, Dan II, in his excitement at getting lobsters, put them in his sink filled with water to keep them fresh for when they came over. Saltwater lobsters in fresh water sink. So while we tried to convince ourselves that they were all just a little in shock from hanging out in a completely uninhabitable environment, it’s likely they were the first execution at the literal hands of the LSC. 

Actual thought: Do lobsters have eyelids? Maybe he’ll blink or something so I know he’s alive.

Looks like Ronnie’s not the only smiling murderer here.

Our HBO: Boxing After Dark promo pic. I would have done something fun like have his claw picking my nose, but I was afraid he’d rip my septum out in the middle of his death throes. You know.

Lobsters pretty much done.

Seriously, who first thought to eat a lobster? Most unphotogenic food on the planet. Can’t trust them with those beady little eyes.

When it came to the steak, we weren’t prepared to grill on the barbecue, so we utilized a technique Dan II has been perfecting. Adopted from Alton Brown, he’s done it a few times with steaks and pork chops, to good effect. You start by heating the oven up to its highest setting. Then you heat the pan up in the oven. You put some oil and garlic on the steaks, and put the range on at the highest flame. If you haven’t gathered so far, you want things at supernova temperatures. The hot pan goes on the high heat, and you cook the steak for 30 seconds on one side, flip for 30 seconds on the other side, and then put it in the oven for 2 minutes on each side. This will bring it to about medium rare. I threw my little flourish at the end, which is to lightly glaze the steak with butter to give it that golden brown texture, which I learned from a video with Jimmy Kimmel, Adam Carolla, and Adam Perry Lang. Anyway, butter always makes things good; this is a fact.

Dan: Ruth’s Chris does a thing with butter. That’s their secret ingredient.

Me: Butter? That’s their “secret”? (Editor’s note: Does anyone know why it’s called Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse? Not an easy name to understand if you’re hearing it for the first time. Someone google this and get back to me.)

We then had a conversation about steakhouses in general, and Jill made an interesting point.

Jill: Meat is really “in” right now, but steak isn’t quite so “in”. You have Prime Meats or places that are big on pork belly or short ribs, but a cut of steak isn’t quite “in”. 

I had no idea there were meat seasons, but there you have it. Steak pictures!!!

I could honestly just pick one of these up in my teeth and go sit in the corner of the backyard gnawing for a little while.

Rape oil, salt, and pepper. Rub that shit in!

That happened in 30 seconds. Also, the kitchen was sweltering, thanks to all this flash cooking.


It looks like I’m delivering a baby. A meat-baby.

Frying up some garlic to go with the steaks. See that browning? THAT’S BUTTER.

Your meal is served. Make sure to leave room for dessert!

The Meal

1. What do you think he did?

Jill: I’m wondering if his crime was nautical. Because he asked for surf and turf. Maybe it was pirating-related.

Me: Try to be as specific as you can.

Jill: Oh, you want a serious guess? I think he killed two people.

Me: What makes you think that?

Jill: I think he killed one person who was nautical…

Me: Oh, come on! 

Jill: I think it was a drugstore robbery gone awry. He didn’t intend to kill anyone, but he panicked and killed a lot of people. Definitely the owner, the owner’s daughter, and maybe a customer. Then he escaped and was on the lam for a while, but eventually his crime caught up with him.

Dan II: I think the fancy, classy surf n’ turf meal is kind of a ruse. It makes you think he’s classy, but I think he’s having this meal because he can, and it’s probably his first time having it. I’ll say he’s a Southerner and consistently violent lifestyle, couple of murders. 

Me: I agree in part. While lobster is kind of extravagant, this is not a sexual crime. Rapists go for decadent desserts, not lobster. I would agree with Dan that he’s treating himself, because he probably hasn’t had it before. And here’s why: he doesn’t know how to support the meal. If you were to have lobster and steak, you’d have creamed spinach, maybe a starch with it, and a really good dessert. Something to round the meal out. The pie a la mode is a dead giveaway. (How classist can this blog get??) I’m going to say he murdered someone he knew for about $800. Someone he knew, like a colleague, got a bonus, he knew the guy was flush was money, so he just murdered him. That’s a pretty safe bet.

Dan II: I’d like to amend my answer and add that he’s a stabber.

So here’s what he did, and all of Jill’s guesses aside, hold on for some weird coincidences. Ronnie Lee robbed the Cheers Tavern in Salt Lake City back in 1984. Ok, first problem: you never rob Cheers! Everybody there knows your name!! Horrible joke aside, he shot the bartender while under the influence of cocaine, which I’m pretty sure is the plot to Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues”. The robbery netted him a take of less than $100. While in custody, Gardner attempted an escape and shot a man doing pro bono work for his church, but was caught. In prison, he stabbed a man with a homemade shiv made from a pair of sunglasses. Ronnie Lee selected to be executed by a firing squad, one of only 3 people since 1976. 

To be honest, I’m pretty surprised how close Dan and Jill (we’ll put them together as a team on this) got to his actual crime. Well done, guys.

2. What are your first impressions?

I should point out now that I only learned way after the meal that Ronnie Lee had only received a lobster tail, so our assessment is not exactly a reflection of what he ate, though I’m still not sure if he actually requested only a tail. The following comments were when we were under the impression that he wanted a whole lobster.

Dan II: The first impression I have is that there’s a certain violence to this meal, with the cracker and the steak knife. There’s also a lot to deal with.

Me: Right, that was my impression, too. I was thinking that this meal needs that thing you always ignore. Like french fries or something. I’ve always loved lobster and steak, but I’ve never had surf and turf. I like how the lobster juice mixes with the steak, too. 

Dan II: I normally wouldn’t have a meal like this without a glass of wine or beer, but the soda is doing a pretty good job right now.

Me: So far this is one of the top ones. It could use some of the other sides, but it’s pretty awesome. You say it’s violent, but I find it meditative. Usually, eating is about shoveling food in your mouth, and you don’t spend a lot of time working on it. When I eat a lobster, though, it takes time, and I know what I’m eating. I can get full on a lobster, whereas I could probably eat a pound of lobster meat without thinking twice.

Jill was a bit inexperienced with lobster, so this was all new to her, but I think she liked it.

3. How close is this to what you would have picked for your last meal?

Jill: Very far. First of all, it would not be hard to eat. And it would definitely involve vegetables. 

Dan II: Would you go greatest hits or a complete meal?

Jill: It would be a meal.

Dan II: This would go on my short list. I would add some things, but lobster and steak is pretty good. 

Jill: This strikes me as a guy’s meal.

Me: This is pretty close for me. I love lobster, and I would probably pick it. I can’t think of any reason not to, so yeah, it’s sort of like the greatest hits list. I love the steak, too, but I have to say that it’s a distraction to me. I’m working on this lobster, and I have this steak going cold. I’d like to try a traditional surf and turf, with a lobster tail instead of a full lobster, so that I can enjoy the best of both. (for those unfamiliar with lobster, the tail is the greatest part) And of course I’d want the sides that come with it. One of my favorite meals was when I went to this steakhouse, Ben and Jack’s, and the sides played as important a role as the steak.

4. What are the strong elements? What are the weak elements?

Do we really have to say what the strong elements are? Lobster and steak! There aren’t any weak elements, really. It’s a pretty plain meal. Even the 7-Up wasn’t bad.

5. How does the meal work as a whole? Were there any unexpected surprises in the pairings?

Works pretty well as a whole. You can’t really fuck up surf and turf. The 7-Up was a pleasant surprise, as a palate cleanser. We’ll see with the apple pie and ice cream, but that’s pretty standard, too.

If you squint, you can sort of see some steak on that plate, underneath the gigantic fucking lobster.

6. How satisfied are you after the meal?

We were all very satisfied. The apple pie and ice cream were actually quite nice.

It may be simple, but it’s a classic.

7. Is there anything you’re craving after this?

Jill: A toothbrush.

Me: Floss. A wet nap, too. 

Dan II: I have to take a whiz.

8. Was there anything missing you would have liked?

It was surprisingly not as big a problem as we thought it would be, but we all could have used some vegetables and a starch. Maybe mashed potatoes.

9. What does this do for your state of mind? Do you feel more at peace?

Jill: No, but I feel full.

Dan II: Pretty good.

Me: I’m not stuffed to the point where I’ll fall asleep, which I like. 

10. Ready to die??

Dan II: No meal would make me ready to die.

Me: This meal was really good, but it wasn’t perfect. It just didn’t hit that note where you sit and go, “Wow, everything is amazing.” This is a good foundation, though.

Quick note: it’s really hard to get people to admit they’re ready to die. This question always has to be framed differently to get anything other than a resounding no.

Lessons Learned

  • I probably knew this already, but lobster is almost definitely on the list. Here’s a quick anecdote about how much I love lobster: It was Nikki’s birthday, and as usual with most birthdays, we went to Francisco’s Centro Vasco for dinner. Most people ordered lobster, but Josh and Nikki went for the 2 lb. ones, and I, for some reason, thought getting the twin lobsters would be fun. Fast forward to 2 hours later, I haven’t finished the first lobster. Everyone else is by now so impatient with me, and they know I have a whole second lobster to go, so people start grabbing parts to crack open, so I can just eat the meat. I am wearing a lobster bib covered in body parts, as though I’m an ogre in a fairy tale. I likely smell like a fisherman’s asshole, and I can barely touch anything without feeling like I’ve soiled it. And then I notice Rachel McAdams sitting one table over, looking gorgeous. Argh, if only I hadn’t been covered in crustacean [raises nutcracker into the air menacingly]!! Rachel, I promise I’m not always a mess. 
  • Don’t gild the lily. The answer to “What’s better than steak and a lobster tail?” is not more lobster. There’s too much competition.
  • 7-Up is a decent substitute for beer. Also helps to be drinking beer on the side with it.
  • Apple pie and ice cream. The iron man of desserts. It’s not flashy, but it gets the job done.
  • BUTTER.

The remains of the day.

Quick Note: You may notice that Dan II is wearing a quite fetching Bike Brooklyn T-shirt. This was actually designed by his company, BQTshirts. You may know them from Jay-Z’s blog, which wrote up their MTA fare hikes shirt. Check them out, they’re doing great stuff…and it’s all coming from Dan’s back room (but not in a creepy way, like hair dolls or something).

Meal #12 pt 4 - The Last Supper

I’m in love with this picture. Left to right: Dan, Jess, Ashish, Josh (Judas), Erica, Eric, Grace, Crystal, Liz, Nikki, Jim

Ordered by: Jesus (of Nazareth)

This is the least creepy picture I could find.

Date of Meal: ~4/2/33 A.D.

Meal: Leg of lamb, tzimmes, grape leaves, kubeh stuffed dates, mixed greens, tilapia, charoses, hamine eggs, jugs of wine, rice and lentils, and tabbouleh.

Participants: Dan, Erica, Josh, Nikki, Jim, Grace, Crystal, Ashish, Jess, Liz, Eric

So at last we have the review. I won’t waste much more time, except to introduce Liz, who is Nikki’s sister. Everyone else has been introduced or has been in the LSC before, so let’s get on to the meal.

Your meal is served. L’chaim! (or whatever the Hebrew word is for “death”, I suppose)

The Meal

1. What do you think he did?

Ok, we’ll forgo the usual “peace on earth and goodwill toward men” answer, or even “tried to be King of the Jews.” The question is what this meal says about the person as a potential criminal.

Nikki: I don’t think this is what he ate. I don’t think it’s fair to judge Jesus based on what we have here. (awesome. Very productive answer, Nikki.)

Josh: This intricate? I think he was killing people and making little dolls out of them to put into a doll house.

Eric: I do feel like marzipan is a sexual thing. Also, there’s the Aramaic surf-n-turf. I feel like that makes him a sexually violent criminal.

Nikki: Can we decide what you would have done, since you chose this menu?

Eric: No. We’re assuming this is what he wanted to have. Stop being counter-productive, Nikki. (believe me when I tell you she did not let this go here)

The actual Last Supper also had a 3D TV for them to watch while waiting to eat.

2. What are your first impressions?

Ashish: This is the best Last Supper I’ve ever had.

Eric: I like the fish and the lamb. A little heavy, a little light. Lots of vegetables.

Tilapia with olives. Aramaic surf.

Aramaic turf. I’m actually not that comfortable being the “head of the table” and carving up the roast, but I think I did alright. I had my dad-beard, at least.

Jess: A lot of variety.

Dan: Yes, I think we can conclude he was not from the South.

Eric: This is so balanced! 

Jess: That’s why you like it. It’s refreshing after all that shit you’ve been eating. So is this what makes you think of supper, since it’s the Last Supper? Is this supper food?

Eric: What’s “supper”?

Ashish: It’s your blog.

3. How close is this to what you would have picked for your last meal?

Liz: Far away. (Liz ate only the tilapia and the lettuce, I think)

Nikki: Jesus didn’t go for a milkshake. Everyone else went for a milkshake or something.

Eric: They’re all rapists and murderers! Ok, is this close to what anyone would have had?

Dan: The lamb, maybe.

Eric: I do love grape leaves. I have a funny grape leaves story (yeah, they exist):

In my hometown, we used to go late-night to a diner where all the scumbags and everyone else would congregate to eat as a cap to the night. I was with a few friends and I decided to order grape leaves. So this dirtbag is coming by, and he walks past our table, looks down, and goes, “Yo, what the fuck is that you’re eating?” So I respond, “They’re grape leaves.” This guy looks around, and exclaims to no one in particular, “Yo, look at this motherfucker, eating motherfucking grape leaves.” Which I think was meant to be an insult. But hey, which of us wound up not working at 24 Hour Bagels after graduation? So yeah, motherfucking grape leaves.

4. What are the strong elements? What are the weak elements?

Dan: Of that story?

Pretty much everyone except Liz, who would have preferred just the tilapia, agreed that the lamb, tilapia, and tzimmes were great. Nikki liked the mixed greens.

Jess: Of all those things, you really like the lettuce the most??

Nikki: Also the tzimmes.

Jim: I like the jug of wine and the grape leaves as well. I thought there were too many small grains happening. The rice, the grape leaves, the lentils. Too much.

Josh: I liked the marzipan.

Jess: I liked the tabbouleh, and the variety overall. I liked everything on my plate.

Ashish: My favorite parts were the tzimmes, the tilapia, the lamb—for the most part. I got a couple fatty bites that were gross. I liked the grape leaves, but I got one that was simmering in the juice more, and that was the money grape leaf. I wasn’t crazy about the rice and lentils. Marzipan isn’t generally my thing. The charoses was good too. Just dried fruits. My mom would love it.

Eric: Did anyone have a good experience with the egg? Because these are supposed to be super creamy, and I feel like it was a waste of six hours of my life. The eggs were lackluster. I like the matzah balls. It’s one of my top ones. It’s thick like concrete. I actually wasn’t a big fan of the charoses. It was just mashed up dried fruit.

Dan: I like the tzimmes, the lamb…I think I’m enjoying the soup…The egg didn’t do much for me. 

Erica: I’m not loving the broth of this soup. It’s kind of watery. 

Dan: Oh, also the tabbouleh. And the greens.

Nikki: There’s nothing wrong with liking the greens!

Dan: What’s funny about these matzah balls, is that when people make really thick ones, it tastes horrible. But when they’re filled with meat, they’re great.

Grace: I liked the lamb and the tabbouleh. Lowest was the egg. We should have gone 18 hours, maybe.

Crystal: Lowest is the egg, as well. The top are the tilapia, lamb, and grape leaves.

5. How does the meal work as a whole? Were there any unexpected surprises in the pairings?

This is a pretty complete meal. I think we all decided that if you throw out the rice and lentils, it would be perfect.

Eric: The biggest surprise was the matzah ball. The meat-zah ball. Huge surprise.

Jess: Love the meat-zah ball.

6. How satisfied are you after the meal?

Everyone was satisfied. At this point we were picking up more slices of lamb, and Josh, who had recently put in notice at his job, was content to chug his own jug of wine.

A rare occasion: Josh has checked out.

7. Is there anything you’re craving after this? 

Liz: A creamy egg.

Eric: Not cool.

Dan: Lamb.

Nikki: A cigarette.

Erica: Ice cream and chocolate.

Eric: I feel like the dates are doing it for me, dessert-wise.

Jess: Passover cake. It’s part of the meal to me.

[Jewish editor’s note: Passover cake is gross. This is like

8. Was there anything missing that you would have liked?

Dan: More lamb?

9. What does this do for your state of mind? Do you feel more at peace?

Dan: I want to drink an entire jug of wine.

Josh: I’m ready to be crucified.

Eric: That’s a pat answer. Seriously, what do you guys think?

Ashish: I’m full. I feel like this was a good last meal.

Everyone at this point felt very good. 

Nikki: I’m pretty satisfied even though I didn’t have my milkshake, my ice cream sundae, my chocolate chip cookies…(she went on for a while)

10. Ready to die??

Actually, we were all pretty ready to die. This was a great meal, but probably the biggest factor of the meal was that we all got to have it together. It was really pleasant to each such a large, well-balanced meal with so many vegetables, but having 11 friends sitting around, drinking wine and laughing was a pretty good way to enjoy the meal, no matter what. So that’s why I decided to poison the wine. I figured things we could never top that, so why bother?

Lessons Learned

  • Nikki is very easy to convince when it comes to the Last Supper. She may not know what Jesus ate, but she is dead-set in believing what he didn’t eat.
  • Light dressings on salad. Sometimes they make up for lack of other vegetables. It’s quite refreshing.
  • Lamb is EASY to cook. This is something everyone should try in their life, providing they enjoy eating meat.
  • Charoses recipes: they are not all equal. One day we’ll do my family’s. It’s like another dish completely.
  • Meat-zah balls! I’m not even going to elaborate.
  • Two giant jugs of wine makes every dinner more fun.
  • Hamine eggs: don’t bother. If you want it creamy, make it a soft-boiled egg and safe yourself the frustration. Dumbest shit I’ve ever attempted.
  • Sometimes (oftentimes) the best ingredients are the company you have. I’ve been lucky enough to have dining partners for every meal, but having a lot of people together in one room, all making food and contributing and laughing really highlighted how nice it could be. Honestly, I doubt Jesus even got to the part where he starts talking about one of them betraying him. What a fucking buzz-kill that would have been.

One leg of lamb, to go.

Meal #12 pt 3 - Final dishes

To catch up on the earlier preparation, check out Part 1 and Part 2. Coming into the dinner, we all gathered at Nikki’s apartment with our pre-prepared dishes, but figuring that we’d do a few dishes the night of the dinner. After all, half of the fun of doing the LSC is about preparing the food together and everyone learning to do things they haven’t done before. All that was left to be made was the salad, the tilapia, the charoses, tabbouleh, and the kubeh (or kubbeh or kibbeh). I’d say by item #3 we lost everyone but the Jews, but throw in kubeh and that’s nearly everyone. I certainly had no idea what it was.

I took the reins on making the charoses, which is a component of the Passover Seder plate, and has been there since the days when Moses was angrily shaking sand out of his Birkenstocks and saying they should have gone to the Y instead. Charoses is a dish that is meant to symbolize the mortar that the Jews used in the labor to build the pyramids (which actually may not have happened. More likely it represents the glue we used to seal the envelopes when filing the Pharaoh’s tax returns.). Like most Passover dishes, there’s no one recipe for charoses, and how you make it is often indicative of your family’s background. Askenazi Jews (from Eastern Europe) tend to stick with apples and nuts, while Sephardic Jews (from the Mediterranean and Latin countries) will put in dried fruit. In my family, our recipe is just walnuts that are mashed up in a brass mortar and pestle with apple, then you add cinnamon, ginger, and Manischewitz.

Aka “Jewish purple drank”

The action of making charoses is not difficult at all. It’s literally pounding something until it’s a crunchy paste, and then adding the ingredients and pounding and mixing. But it occupies a special place in my heart. For one thing, while the women in my family make nearly all the food we eat for the night, the charoses has been passed down among the men in my family. My grandfather used to make it, and he taught my brother, who then taught me. There are no measurements, and I always forget how much apple I need, but while I make it I know exactly the next thing that’s needed. My mother, grandmother, and father all backseat drive while I’m making it, which I suppose is also part of the tradition, but it always turns out great, and it’s always the first thing finished at dinner. So that’s all to set up the fact that I really wanted to make the charoses for this meal.

The only snag is that Erica is deathly allergic to nuts. Sephardic it is!

Figs, apricots, dates…throw in some Werther’s Originals and you’ve got the makings of Retirement Home Crack.

Cutting up fruit. Which is impossible with mushy things. This is the complete opposite of my family tradition. I need to pound something!

YES! That’s what I’m talking about!

Nikki’s mortar and pestle. Also doubles as Rosa Mexicana’s guacamole set.

The only other thing we added to this was orange juice, to give it a little bit of juiciness. 

For the mixed greens, we went with just lettuce and Nikki’s simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice (both of which could easily have been in the Jesus’ Own dressing line).

Nikki and Jess, washing and tossing. Oh, and that’s a salad spinner Nikki has there. Don’t you want Nikki’s life salad spinner??? I feel like such a chump using tongs.

When life gives you lemons, you can also make dressing. Lemonade is going to just pack the pounds on.

For the tabbouleh, Jess and Nikki also took that on. I confess I didn’t actually watch the process or take note of what they were doing. Um, they used bulghur and chopped up tomatoes and parsley for it. I’m pretty sure that’s all. See what you can figure out from the pictures.

 

Candid shot of Jess cutting tomatoes.

Parsley needs to be handled by as many hands as possible before being served. Don’t take my word for it; ask the busboys at Sizzler’s.

Are you more interested in the mixing happening here, or that giant Buddha head suddenly achieving Enlightenment? Trick question—we were all looking at the two jugs of wine.

Tabbouleh, done!

Next up, the tilapia. We’ll rapid fire this one, since I also wasn’t involved in the preparation. Josh took this on.

Tilapia filets in olive oil with pepper.

Now with dill!

Sorry we didn’t get Josh in there pictured preparing it. There will be plenty of him in the final chapter, though.

Finally, we come to the coup de grace: the kubeh. What makes the kubeh so important? It’s ancient matzah ball soup! Now, if there’s one thing my tribe is known for, it’s matzah balls. So you can imagine how exciting it was to find out that they made it in ancient days. And on top of that, the recipe called for the balls to be filled with meat!! DREAM. COME. TRUE.

The soup was definitely one of the scarier things to prepare the night of the meal, since we were worried about time. Soup in general just takes a while. Who knows how long ancient soup takes??? The first step was to get the vegetables and boil them in water.

Erica cuts onions. Again, the jugs of wine look on.

I prepare to cut a tomato. Dan prepares to drink an El Presidente, a beverage popular among other guys named Jesus.

Also in the boiling water, squash! Pre-cut :(

While those vegetables are boiling, let’s go to making the balls. For the filling, Erica pre-prepared choppped onions and meat by frying them up with garlic, salt, and pepper. Please take note that when preparing a large, complicated meal, it’s always best to invite someone on maternity leave, because they’ve got all the time in the world to help cook!

Photo by Erica. How pretty!

Photo by Erica. How meat!

Ready for stuffing.

While we waited for the vegetables to cook, we began to stuff the kubeh. Erica had made the mixture earlier by mixing matzah meal, eggs, oil, and water, until it formed this giant lump of presumably Jewish stuff.

FYI, this is how you make a Golem.

So the idea is simple. You take some of that “dough”, form it into a small ball, shove the cooked meat inside, then manipulate the dough around it. Between this and sticking garlic cloves inside the leg of lamb, you’re going to have tons of fun. 

Can you guess how many “stuffing my balls” or “put my meat in it” jokes we made during this process? Whatever number you just said, multiply it by 500,000. Side note: What am I staring at so intensely???

BALLLLLLLLS!

You probably shouldn’t eat these uncooked, but looking at this picture now, I kind of think you should.

Let’s assume the vegetables are all cooked and softened now. You then take them out and put them in the food processor to blend up.

This is how they make V8.

Sorry, turns out this is how you make baby food.

Once the vegetables are blended, you put them back into the soup.

Have a smiling new father stir the soup. This is important.

So that’s it for the food. Sorry for stretching it out a bit, but as you can see, there was a lot to cover. Just looking at this again makes me kind of hungry. Next up, the actual Last Supper, with pictures, and more importantly, THE REVIEW. Happy Memorial Day Weekend, everyone!