There is something fascinating about last meals. Eating is something we do multiple times on a daily basis; it is what gives us life. Surround yourself with chefs, cooks, and culinarily inclined guests at a dinner party, and you may very well be presented with a particular question: "What would you want for your last meal on Earth?" Some will choose indulgent dishes like oysters, lobster, and foie gras, while others will instead favor comfort foods from their childhood or simple dishes from home, like spaghetti pomodoro, steak, and mashed potatoes, Mom's meatloaf, or homemade biscuits.
In reality, very few people - at least those who aren't on death row- actually have the opportunity to choose their last meals before they die. When you learn the last meals of people who died suddenly, it can add eeriness to otherwise mundane foods. Was the dish the cause of their death? Was it a special occasion? Was it an odd combination of dishes? Maybe the fascination with the idea of the last meal is that is gives us insight into an otherwise unknown area of life.
Few people would be interested in the daily breakfast, lunch, or dinner of somebody who remains alive - but after death, characters are often mythologized and looked at under a new light. Knowing that Julia Child had French onion soup just before she died certainly emphasizes and even enhances the role she was so famous for as an American cook and writer popularizing French cuisine in the United States.
Will these last meals surprise you, or will they reinforce famous reputations? Read on and discover the last meals eaten by 23 famous people throughout history.
Left: CNN; Right: Nick Parfjonov/Wikimedia Commons
In 399 B.C., a jury of Athenians selected death for Socrates as punishment for impiety and corrupting the youth of the city. The philosopher was taken to the nearby jail where his sentence would be carried out. Athenian law prescribed death by drinking a cup of poison hemlock.
On August 12, 30 B.C., in Alexandria, Egypt, Cleopatra watched her husband Mark Antony breath his last (just after, the story goes, finishing a glass of wine). The distraught Cleopatra then ate a handful of figs, according to historical conjecture, and either chased them with a poisonous concoction of hemlock, wolfsbane, and opium, or subjected herself to the deadly bite of an asp.
On May 5, 1821, while in exile on the island of St. Helena, the erstwhile emperor of France ate liver and bacon choOn May 5, 1821, while in exile on the island of St. Helena, the erstwhile emperor of France ate liver and bacon chops, sautéed kidneys in sherry, shirred eggs with cream, and garlic toast with roast tomatoes before breathing his last.ps, sautéed kidneys in sherry, shirred eggs with cream, and garlic toast with roast tomatoes before breathing his last.
Left: National Gallery of Art/Wikimedia Commons;Right:istockphoto.com
On April 14, 1865, before heading out to watch the play "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater, President Lincoln dined on mock turtle soup, roast Virginia fowl with chestnut stuffing, baked yams, and cauliflower with cheese sauce.
George Armstrong Custer
On June 25, 1876, Colonel Custer ate roasted buffalo steaks, beans with molasses, roasted wild corn, and prairie hen before recklessly leading a battalion of the 7th Cavalry into disaster at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Custer and his entire detachment were killed.
Left:Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons;Right:istockphoto.com
In the early morning of December 30, 1916, Grigori Rasputin ate honeyed cakes, Madeira wine, black bread, and assorted Russian hors d'oeuvres (most of which had been poisoned) at the home of Prince Felix Yusupov in St. Petersburg. When the poison failed to kill the mad monk, Yusupov and his associates shot him repeatedly and dumped his body in the river.
On April 30, 1945, holed up in his bunker underneath a shattered Berlin, Hitler ate spaghetti with "light sauce" (although some biographers say he had lasagna) - almost certainly meatless, as he was a vegetarian. Shortly after the meal (which had presumably not been vetted by his personal food taster), Hitler and Eva Braun, whom he had married less than 40 hours earlier, went into a private room and took their own lives.
On the evening of January 30, 1948, Gandhi enjoyed one of his standard healthy dinners - goat's milk, cooked vegetables, oranges, and a concoction of ginger, sour lemons, and strained butter mixed with aloe juice - before he was assassinated by Hindu nationalist Nathuram Godse.
On September 30, 1955, a few hours before he fatally crashed his Porsche Spider near Cholame, California, the actor and heartthrob allegedly stopped by a roadside diner and ate a slice of apple pie with a glass of milk.
On the morning of November 22, 1963, JFK ate breakfast in his room at the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth. According to the hotel's executive chef, Otto Druhe, he served the president "coffee, orange juice, two boiled (five-minute) eggs, some toast, and marmalade on the side." The president's entourage then left for downtown Dallas, where they were scheduled for a 1 p.m. luncheon to take place directly after Kennedy's motorcade made its way through town. Kennedy was shot at 12:30 p.m.
Left:White House Press Office (WHPO)/Wikimedia Commons;Right:istockphoto.com
On September 18, 1970, around 3 a.m, Jimi Hendrix's girlfriend Monika Dannemann prepared him a tuna fish sandwich in her London flat. At 11:27 a.m., the guitar virtuoso was discovered alone and unconscious. Hendrix was pronounced dead at the hospital about an hour later. He was 27.
On August 16, 1977, the King downed four scoops of ice cream and six chocolate chip cookies at his Graceland mansion in Memphis. After that, he went to bed, and then got up a few hours later to go to the bathroom, where he suffered a heart attack
On December 8th, 1980, Lennon enjoyed a corned beef sandwich with the plan to have a larger meal once he got home. Sadly, on his return, the former Beatle was gunned down by Mark David Chapman outside his apartment.
Left:Flickr/its all about rock/CC BY-SA 4.0;Right:Shutterstock.com
On the night of March 5, 1982, the actor and comedian ate a bowl of lentil soup in the kitchen of the Rainbow Bar and Grill in Los Angeles before returning to his bungalow at the Château Marmont hotel where he died of a drug overdose
Left:Flickr/tonynetone/CC BY 4.0 Right:istockphoto.com
On February 4, 1987, the flamboyant entertainer ate a bowl of Cream of Wheat with half and half and brown sugar. He died from an AIDS-related illness at age 67.
On May 14, 1998, in Los Angeles, California, Ol' Blue Eyes ate a grilled cheese sandwich before dying, at age 82, in the company of his wife, Barbara.
Left:20th Century Fox/Wikimedia Commons;Right:istockphoto.com
On August 13, 2004, Julia Child - appropriately - ate a bowl of French onion soup before her death at age 92.
Left:Courtesy of PBS;Right:istockphoto.com
On December 30, 2006, the former president of Iraq was executed by hanging. Reports say his last meal consisted of boiled chicken and rice with hot water mixed with honey. He was offered cigarettes as well, but refused.
June 25th, 2009, the King of Pop enjoyed a last meal of spinach salad with chicken breast before dying of acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication.
On June 19, 2013, while vacationing in Rome, James Gandolfini had dinner at the outdoor restaurant of the Boscolo Exedra Roma hotel. The Sopranos actor, 51, reportedly consumed a lot of alcohol, along with two orders of fried king prawns and a plate of foie gras. He died shortly afterward of a massive heart attack.
On June 8, 2018 celebrity chef, writer and television host Anthony Bourdain committed suicide in his hotel room at Le Chambard , a five-star hotel in the village of Kaysersbery in the Alsace region of France. Though his last meal is not known, Bourdain's last Instagram post-a photo taken at Le Petit Venise in Colman, France, depicting a huge plate of braised pork knuckle, horseradish sauce, sauerkraut and cervelas sausage - uploaded four days before his death, caused the restaurant to become something of a pilgrimage destination for fans of Bourdain, which is no surprise when one considers the many different ways Anthony Bourdain changed the food world.
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