A few weeks ago Cityweekend.com posted an online contest for its readers. The commenter who gave the most creative response to this question would win a 1,000 RMB voucher for Mr. and Mrs. Bund, one of my favorite restaurants in Shanghai: “What would you order for your last meal?” After some online shadiness that saw the website keep pushing back the end date for the contest and delay its announcement of the winner, they finally announced that the winning post was this:
As I have for much too long (almost 3 months…) been cursed with a medical condition that makes it difficult for me to chew, I could almost kill for a really crunchy sandwich with salmon, fresh crispy salad, tomatoes, cucumber, onions, perhaps a bit of fresh basil, some homemade pesto and well, did I mention the really crispy scorp of the bread? Well, of course killing someone for a sandwich like that would probably render me in the situation of choosing my last meal. As I had just eaten a crispy sandwich, I would now instead go for a juicy steak with just slightly fried, garlic broccoli, some really crunchy fresh and mixed salad leaves and maybe just with some added freshly garden-picked asparagus with a wee bit of vinegar-lime dressing and a big loaf of whole grain bread to go with that (could we make that with a big fat slice of brie, just because we can?!). To finish off I would go for caramelized bananas, chewing away as the caramel crust would get even harder. No fancy gourmet needed, when all you really want is to chew!
Here was my submission, written at about 2 AM in the morning before my trip to Qiandao Lake:
So it’s my last meal. Ever. How seriously depressing.
I don’t want my last meal to be some glorious gastronomic gorge of epic proportions; the last thing I want is to leave this world suffering from stomach acid. Yes, there are so many things in this world that I have to eat with my eyes closed because they taste so damn good, but why spend my last moments being reminded of all that I’m never going to experience again? Instead, I’d like my last meal to be a journey through my own relatively short life. I want every bite, every taste to be a memory that I can grasp and hold tightly. I want the meal to last a generation in my dreams.
Let’s start off with a bowl of pink cereal milk. You know, the sugary milk that remains after you’ve eaten all the dried marshmallows and artificially colored corn puffs. This was the food of my childhood, lifted up by both hands and poured down my throat as my mother was packing my school lunch.
Next, how about salty, buttery popcorn and a small plate of nachos drenched in watery, processed cheese sauce. The cheese, not so great. The profuse sweating, not so great either. But the girl reaching over to hold my hand during the middle of that movie made the butter on that popcorn taste like ecstasy.
After that, let’s go with some albacore nigiri and some ikura (salmon roe) on a small bed or vinegary sushi rice. Each taste will remind me of those times my bone-tired dad would take my brother and I down to Japantown for our monthly sushi ritual. He always said the best sashimi he ever tasted was in California and not in Japan. I always said the best I ever tasted was with him.
How can I not have one thick slice of pizza from the pizzeria down the street from my dorm? The place was called Fat Slice for a reason. A greasy, oily, delightfully large slice of cheese-covered dough for $1.50 at 3 AM in the morning during Finals week…and midterm week…and any other day of the week. Man, I sure was productive in college. And fat, too.
Now we’re getting a bit more…mature. How about the lobster ravioli from that first ever visit to a fancy French restaurant? The one I took that very special person to after my first paycheck after graduation. Who knew that a simple pasta dish could taste so rewarding, so hard-earned. I’ve since had ravioli that tasted better on the tongue, but never one that felt so good going down.
There is no question what dessert is. What sums up my years in Shanghai better than the local treat than the warm and sweet fermented rice (酒酿)? For a city drenched in alcoholic decadence, there is something fitting about a wined Chinese rice porridge that is a testament to the unique Shanghai mix of tradition and partying. Leaving the Earth with the taste of sweet rice wine on my tongue doesn’t sound half bad at all.
So there’s my last meal. And if the fates are cruel enough to allow only one dish, may it be a dry and flavorless pizza from Melrose. I’d want to kill myself after that anyway.
Sigh. I guess I’ll have to save up for another taste of that fabulous tartare.