A London “pop-up” restaurant planned to recreate and sell dinners requested by death row prisoners as their last meal.  However, criticism lead to the event’s possible cancellation before it was even held.

According to the organizers, the event was to serve “a five course feast of their culinary twists on some of death rows [sic] most interesting and popular last dinners”.  The meal was to cost £50.

The MailOnline reported that the event was promoted using images of men, apparently prisoners, with menus around their necks.  (The images no longer appear on the event’s website.)  This, along with the general concept, led to a strong backlash of criticism. In response, the organizers posted a statement on their website, indicating that they are “shocked and saddened” by the response, and that they are sorry for any offence caused. The statement goes on to say that in light of the response, the organizers are considering their next steps.

It appears that the genesis of the event was innocent enough. The organizers explained that the purpose of the event was to explore the “age-old” question of what would your last meal be.  However, many were offended by the use of the inmate’s images, while others were outraged by the entire concept.

The fascination with last meals is not a new one.  In 2006, New York artist Jonathon Kambouris commenced the “Last Meals Project”.  He matched the mug shots of convicted murders with the last meals that they ate.  As observed in the New York Daily News, “No matter your thoughts of the death penalty, there is something fascinating yet creepy about the last meals of murderers.”

The last meals of death row prisoners have also been the subject of dietary studies.  A 2012 Cornell University research project analyzed 247 last meal choices, and found that last meals are typically not very health: they are, on average, high in calories. (Surprisingly, however, 26.9% of the condemned requested a salad to go with their meal.)

Bon appétite.

Paul Trudelle