My Last Supper, by Jay Rayner. Pub 2019
Jay Rayner is a journalist, food critic, and author who writes delightfully clever reviews and commentary about food, restaurants, and culture. Part Anthony Bourdain, part David Sedaris, he is honest and insightful, never shying away from mild to moderate deprecation of himself or others. I have read one other book by Rayner, but many other articles and posts from him, including his famous review of a famous Paris restaurant that was famously derided by the French.
In this book, Rayner sets out to develop a quintessential last meal for himself. Considering that famous last meals (i.e. for those about to be executed) are typically uninspiring or unreflective, Rayner posits that a last meal should reflect the life and personality of meal’s designer, and so sets out to craft a menu for a last best meal for himself. Of course, it won’t be his last, just a fantasy-made-real of a meal representing his life and loves and lessons learned.
As he explores the various courses and dishes, he tells his life stories that led to these menu choices. From his early experience with snails, his unusual (for a Jewish man) connection to and love of all things pork, and his adoration of salad, it becomes clear that he is not seeking the best of any of these items, but the best representation of his memories and life with each of them.
I enjoyed this thoroughly, especially his exploration of the various dishes and balancing of the best in the world with the best in his life. I especially enjoyed the chapters on snails and sparkling water. I also liked the inspiration for his book, considering the last meals of those infamous few for whom such things are documented.
From the beginning, I kept pen and paper handy to document my own ideas for a last supper, or at least those foods/dishes that would be signatures or milestones for me. The list quickly became quite long. Like Rayner, while there are a few homemade faves (like mac and cheese or oatmeal cookies), many of mine come from meals and locations from childhood, most of which no longer exist. Things like tea sandwiches and petit fours from Eaton’s, the cellar door Caesar salad from Cru restaurant, and a milkshake from Mr. Greenjeans, to name a few. Perhaps a new blog post series will be emerging from me, with food and memories.