Picturing yourself sitting on death row probably holds little appeal, so let’s sanitize this by having you imagine that you are heading off on a voyage to the stars and will have no access to earthly delights — including your favorite dishes — for a period of many years. What dishes would you choose?
As a foodie, you would probably choose something more artful than Robert Alton Harris did for his … er — “pre-space-voyage” meal in 1922. He ordered 21 pieces of KFC chicken, two Tombstone(!) Pizzas, jellybeans, ice cream, six Pepsis, and a pack of cigarettes. Presumably he was aware that cigarettes will kill you.
Victor Feguer, whose final “meal” occurred in 1963, chose something less filling — a single olive — while Velma Barfield kept it nearly as simple, calling for Cheez Doodles and a Coke.
For his last meal in 1990, James Edward Smith picked something that was perhaps symbolic — dirt — while Ronnie Lee Gardner chose to go out in style. He feasted on lobster, steak, and pie while watching the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
One of the biggest last meals on record was the one consumed by Bobby Wayne Woods in 2009. It consisted of two chicken fried steaks, two fried chicken breasts, three pork chops, two burgers, four slices of bread, a half pound of fried potatoes, a half pound of onion rings, chocolate cake, and two pitchers of milk.
One of the most curious last-meal requests was made by Phillip Workman, who in 2007 asked that a vegetarian pizza be donated to a homeless person in Nashville. Although the prison denied Workman’s request, several homeless shelters in the area did receive pizzas.
Some last meals were ironic — Holocaust mass murderer Adolph Eichmann requested a bottle of Carmel, a dry red wine from Israel — while others were galling. Consider the case of Lawrence Russell Brewer, who asked for the following as his final repast: two chicken-fried steaks with gravy and sliced onions, a triple-patty bacon cheeseburger, a bowl of fried okra with ketchup, a pound of barbecued meat with half a loaf of white bread, three fajitas, a meat-lover’s pizza, ice cream, and peanuts.
What made the request so outrageous is that when the food arrived, Brewer refused to eat it, saying he wasn’t hungry. The stunt so angered Texas penal authorities that they discontinued the last-meal tradition soon after.