Your Final Meal?
Posted 14 December 2003 - 08:54 PM
Let's say you end up on death row. You never know. Could you plan out your final meal for us?
Posted 18 December 2003 - 11:58 PM
As I know from sad experience, one fantasizes the oddest meals when one has been deprived of favorite foods for several days in a row. The most recent such sad experience was in 1974.
Otherwise, I get to eat more or less what I want, at least if I apply myself to it. But no amount of application and elbow grease would get me the one feast I especially regret never having been invited to. This would be my last supper. A few years from now, I might even apply to join the guys on death row just to be able to have it. And if this seems extreme, I can assure that with the banquet I'm thinking of in prospect, I would certainly forgo any legal appeals from a death sentence, if I should do something to deserve one.
The meal was just one part of the marriage celebration in Florence, in 1661, of Marguérite-Louise, daughter of the Duke of Orléans, to one of the Medici kids. Though the entire party lasted for weeks, I'm thinking of the merenda (ordinarily an afternoon snack) given by Cardinal Carlo de Medici, a lover of hunting, beautiful books, and all the pleasures of the table.
First came 35 cold dishes, among which were hams cooked in wine and decorated with carved, gilded bay leaves; a Genoese pie filled with cooked and uncooked egg-yolks and candied sweetmeats, and decorated with pistachios; roasted capons and young chickens, laid out with sweetbreads, small stewed birds, and slices of salted pig’s cheeks boiled and fried golden. There were flat omelets spread with capers, pitted olives, marzipan paste, fennel seeds, pistachios, sugar, and cinnamon, all arranged in little piles, three layers each, and decorated with egg fritters; and sheets of pastry interleaved with slices of lean ham, hash of roast capon, roasted sweetbreads, grapes, candied citron, pistachios, and marzipan—all sliced crosswise to reveal a striking mosaic.
The death row caterers must not omit the jellied dishes such as guinea fowl split and decorated with pine nuts in the shape of flowers and covered with colored aspics; and pigeons roasted and then stewed in muscatel wine and lemon juice in the Catalan manner, with powdered spiced biscuits and pounded candied citron to thicken the sauce, and served cold. The garnish would be ten little rose-shaped tarts filled with five different sweet preserves—red and white quince, bitter cherry, green grape, and plum, all covered with marzipan paste (in the shape of the oak tree from the bride’s coat of arms) iced with sugar and flecked with gold.
For dessert, the Cardinal offered fresh Tuscan cheeses; Pisa biscuits steeped in wine, arranged on a giant, iced platter, and covered with orange segments, split green almonds, tender sweet fennel, and diced, candied citron; Siena peach sweetmeats, sugar paste lilies, and a platter of Genoa sugar plums; marzipan eggs filled with favors for the ladies; small sugar baskets holding pistachio nougat also flecked with gold leaf; a plate of butter in the shape of a lion with a raised paw, another heraldic device of the bride’s family; ices of every description; and fruits half frozen in snow preserved from the winter months or served in cups carved out of ice with garlands of myrtle and flowers, or lodged in pyramids of ice.
This was just a part of the first of seven services at Cardinal Medici’s afternoon snack on June 10, 1661. It sure makes a fine starting point. It might even be sufficient for my last supper, or almost. I should mention that as I missed the original event, I have had to take most of the details from Elizabeth David’s Harvest of the Cold Months. I believe she attended.
The scourge of tobacco had been discovered in the New World at least a century before the Cardinal’s merienda. I imagine that the Old World was completely in love with tobacco by then, and that at least the men would have enjoyed a good smoke. I am surprised that the Cardinal's menu included no chocolate, which had been discovered, unknowingly, by Columbus on his fourth and last voyage, near the island of Guanaja, off Honduras, in the early 1500's. I believe that Cardinal Richelieu's brother, in France, drank chocolate for his headaches at least 40 years before the Medici wedding. I would have lots of chocolate at my last and final supper. Waiting on death row must be a real headache.
Posted 19 December 2003 - 01:46 PM
What happened in 1974? And what favourite foods were you deprived of? Did you binge after? Do they remain favourites?
What form would the chocolate take? Modern form or another feast from antiquity?