Searching for the perfect, and final, meal

David Fong TDN Columnist

What’s a guy got to do to get a decent meal around here — kill somebody?

Maybe not, but apparently it sure doesn’t hurt.

I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that just before our legal system sends death row inmates to the chair (or whatever piece of furniture they use for lethal injections), they always let them pick a final meal. Really? Who is that really helping? “Well, sir, we’re going to run 10,000 volts through your body, but before we do it, we figure we might as well feed you the best meal possible.”

(Side note: Speaking of death row rules and regulations that make absolutely no sense … could someone please explain to me why they bother sterilizing the needles before they give someone a lethal injection?)

Meanwhile, us law-abiding citizens are left to fend for ourselves with whatever we can scrape together (in my case, usually Ramen noodles).

Apparently, this practice of giving condemned prisoners one final meal before execution dates back centuries. The Greeks, Chinese and Romans all gave condemned prisoners a last meal. Ancient Aztecs would feed their human sacrifices for an entire year (note: if a year’s worth of White Castle hamburgers were somehow involved, perhaps not such a bad deal …)

Since I am not on death row and, hopefully, won’t be there anytime soon (yeah, I know … knock on wood), I’ve been thinking perhaps I should put together a “last meal” of my own. Why should condemned criminals get all the good eats around here?

First, though, I decided to do extensive research on some famous “last meals” throughout history (oh, who am I kidding? I just went to Wikipedia) looking for some ideas. I don’t want my “last meal” to be something mundane. I want it to be something people are going to remember.

Like Victor Feguer, for instance. Executed on March 15, 1963, for the murder of a doctor, Feguer requested a single olive with the pit still in it for his final meal. I guarantee the guards on duty that day were talking about his final meal for years to come.

On April 21, 1992, Robert Alton Harris was executed in San Quentin’s gas chamber. For his final meal, he requested a 21-piece bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, two large Domino’s pizzas, a bag of jelly beans, a six pack of Pepsi and a pack of Camel cigarettes.

I guess when you are about to be executed, you don’t worry about things such as high cholesterol or lung cancer. While that’s a pretty good final meal, I think it would have been much cooler if — in addition to all that fried chicken and pizza — he had asked for a Diet Coke. You know, just for humor’s sake.

As amazing as Harris’ final meal was, however, it’s still not as impressive as the final meal ordered up by convicted murderer Karl Eugene Chamberlain, who requested and received: variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, lunch meat, deviled eggs, six fried cheese-stuffed jalapeños, a chef salad with ranch dressing, onion rings, french fries, a cheeseburger, two fried chicken breasts, barbecue pork rolls, an omelet, milk and orange juice.

Again, no Diet Coke?

Perhaps the greatest final meal in the history of the penal system, however, was ordered by Ricky Ray Rector, who was executed on Jan. 24, 1992. He ordered steak, fried chicken, cherry Kool-Aid and a pecan pie. He did not eat the pie, however, because he said he was “saving it for later.”

Still, though, the fact remains — why is it only folks on death row get to have their final meal? Sometime in the very near future, I am going to have my “dream meal.” The menu will be as follows: A case of White Castles, a slice of my mom’s meat loaf, a large pepperoni pizza from La Rosa’s, a package of Ramen Noodles and a giant plate of hamburger gravy and mashed potatoes made by the staff of cooks at St. Patrick Elementary School (in the 30 years since graduating from St. Patrick, I still dream about that lunch).

Oh yeah … and a Diet Coke.

Troy’s very own David Fong appears on Thursdays in the Troy Daily News. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @thefong

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