Thursday, 8 February 2007

The Last Supper

This is my first submission for Sunday Scribblings. The prompt for this week was: Yummy or Yum. I actually wrote this post on Thursday, after reading a section in a book called Fruitflesh, by Gayle Brandelis; a book to inspire writing. It is actually really very good, even if I did happen upon it in a bookshop bargain bin.

The section I was just reading asked the reader to think about what one might request, should one know they were about to chance upon their final earthly meal. Boy, the thoughts that rained from that one.

My late father-in-law loved food. He was a big man and proclaimed to love REAL food, none of this quick fix dial-up pizza rubbish. “That’s not a meal, that’s a SNACK!”

In November 1999, it was discovered that he had a brain tumour. He died in September 2002, five weeks after my son was born.

He actually lived long after his original, dismal prognosis. He was a fighter. He had surgery to remove the tumour. The biopsy and MRI scan revealed that the brain tumour was a secondary form of cancer, and his body, even at that stage, was riddle with the disease.

Unfortunately for my father-in-law, the price he paid for a few more years, was the loss of his ability to swallow. Never again was this man, who loved food, able to eat as we do. Instead he consumed a liquid and vitamin enriched “meal” that entered directly to his stomach via a peg in his navel.

Sometimes my father-in-law would snatch a piece of food from the table he insisted upon sitting at, while others ate their meals. He would throw the food into his mouth and chew in a frenzied, angry fashion, while we all watched in horror, knowing he would inevitably choke, and could possibly even die, should he attempt to swallow it. But he just wanted to taste the food; enjoy the experience and social aspect of a family meal, like he used to. He wanted to sit at the head of his table, and he was frustrated that his body simply could not perform this seemingly simply function - swallowing, like it had previously been able.

And of course, he would choke whenever he did this, and panicked family members would scold him for attempting to eat. It was scary to witness the drama of it all, but I did not blame him. It was such a cruel fate, and food with the in-laws became a tense ride paved with guilt, after that. It seemed so unfair, that we sat eating a sumptuous meal, when he could not.

I wondered what he would have chosen as his last meal, if he had known his fate in advance.

In stark contrast, I attended a class with a woman who really appreciated food. At the end of our course, the class went out for a farewell dinner, at a local restaurant…nothing fancy, but still nice.

This particular woman was unabashedly sensory, which became evident as I sat, curious and enthralled, as she demonstrated her appreciation for the food presented before her.

I watched as she closed her eyes, and inhaled the curling aroma that exuded from the freshly cooked meal; and then her slow and contented exhale; a thankful breathing out like another might, in savouring the fragrance of a bunch of roses given by a new love.

I watched her pick up her utensils and contemplate the meal in its entirety, before she began to slice it up; her hesitation akin to a prayer. Mindfully… respectfully, she began to arrange small portions of food on her fork and as the food entered her yearning mouth, she closed her eyes again, only opening them once the empty fork was extracted from clutching lips. She chewed slowly, eyes in a meditative glaze as she pulled and dissected each tantalising ingredient, with her tongue.

She ooh’ed and arr’ed like she were making love to her meal. She appeared to be in gastronomic heaven, and the rest of us sat, feeling slightly uncomfortable by the enthusiastic display of her satisfaction.

This chorus of mindful feasting lasted her entire meal, and with every course, and when the wait staff appeared to remove her polished crockery, she made sure she told them how much she enjoyed the experience, insisting her compliments be extended to the chef.

I, along with others at our table, sat mesmerised by the concentrated appreciation she showed for her food, but she cared not and declared to us, unperturbed and unapologetically, “I love my food” – indeed she did. Her appreciation for food certainly made me think about how I mindlessly shovelled edible objects into my mouth – the contrast was glaringly obvious.

So, what would I choose as my final earthly meal?
Well, I think I might choose a basket of hot grainy bread to start off with, and a steaming bowl of New England clam chowder to go with it. I would indulge in a bottle of my favourite wine – Grant Burge Pinot Noir Chardonnay NV and a simple pan seared Atlantic salmon with a hint of lemon, served with a plate of steamed vegetables.

Now for dessert….hmmm the choices. Oh, the choices…
I think, above all else, I would choose my Mum’s homemade hot chocolate pudding; on its own, no ice-cream or cream to take away from the rich bitter-sweet chocolately goodness.

I would then pray to God I were not too full, but then again, it is my last earthly meal, so what the hell, because I would LOVE a latte to finish…with a side of peppermint chocolate truffles! Mmmm MMMMM!

What would you choose?


shishyboo said...

I was saddened to hear of your fath in law's fate. It hits home just how much we take the pleasure of eating for granted.

I am finding it almost impossible to choose what my last meal might be but it might inlcude...

Barramundi (grilled with a butter almond sauce)

Tuscan Roast Lamb with roasted veggies, gravy and mint jelly

Dessert is the hardest to choose, a toss up between a layered meringue with banana, caramel & chocolate with fresh whipped vanilla cream
or a gorgeous strawberry pie we recently discovered at a french bakery in our area
or a platter of all things chocolatey

or maybe I could have all 3?

To drink I would definitely have to have my beloved Pepsi Max, but I wouldn't mind a glass of a Margaret River red wine (maybe Vasse Felix Cab Merlot) and finish with a glass of Happs Pale Gold (white port) served on ice with a slice of crushed lime.

Oooo, I sound (& feel) rather greedy

strauss said...

Its your last earthly meal remember, who cares...have all three desserts. They all sound delightful to me. Hee Hee.
I loved that you revealed some of your favourite meals.
I would love to try some Happs Pale Gold. Is it Aussie?

shishyboo said...

Happs Winery is in the Margaret River region (South West Western Australia).

You could spend all day there wine tasting, there's so many to choose from. if you want to have a read

Waspgoddess said...

What a tragic end to your father in law's life. But I love the story of the woman who enjoyed her food so completely... at work I often mindlessly gobble up what's on my plate, without paying attention to or enjoying it.

But otherwise I love food... so, what would I have as my last ever meal? Lightly steamed asparagus with a modest drizzle of melted butter... and chantarelles fried in butter eaten on a slice of delicious home baked bread... my partner's mother's wonderful aubergine and mince meat dish (it is truly to die for), a plateful of sun-warm wild strawberries with a dollop of lightly whipped cream... oh, I don't know, but I do know I'm very hungry suddenly...

gautami tripathy said...

I can't make up my mind. I don't know what should be my lat meal.

I liked your post.

Do chk mine at:Yummy!!

Regina Clare Jane said...

My dad loved to eat as well but then as he got sicker and sicker, he just wouldn't eat anymore... it was so sad to see...
A last meal for me... hm... chocolate milk, pizza, grilled chicken caesar salad- and cupcakes- any kind...
Thank you for this very touching post and welcome to SS!

Rena said...

Food certainly has an amazing effect on us. Great post.
I also enjoyed reading some more of your blog--I especially liked The Nest and the one about the boss trying to send you out to dinner.:)

KG said...

You describe your father-in-law and his difficulties with eating in his last days very touchingly. The image of him just trying to get a taste of food, even at risk of choking, is really powerful and reminds all of us who read this not to take eating for granted!

There is such a thing as eating meditation, and it sounds like the food lover from your class was schooled in this. I did an eating meditation once — it was part of a class, but none of us were as loud as you decribe! ;)

strauss said...

Mmm Mmmm, I love all these food confessions...tell me more.
Thanks for stopping by my site Rena.
My father-in-laws conditino was heart breaking, so thanks for all teh kind words regarding that. Both stories ultimately made me appreciate and be more mindful of the eating experience. Itend to eat when I am bored, that is almost a sacrilege.

scribbit said...

I'm with you on the crusty bread but then I'd head to a plate of pasta with wild mushrooms and cheesecake for dessert.

Catherine said...

What a great post!! I, too, am sorry about your father-in-law, but you told such a lovely story and bring up such a good point in regard to savoring food... I'd read once that even multi-tasking while eating is sacrilege. I'm guilty of reading while eating or crossword puzzling while eating... it does take away from the EATING experience.

Last meal for me: green chile chicken enchiladas from a place called Chope's. I'd want tiramisu for dessert. And a cappuchino to finish it off. Aaaah. What a great blog exercise.