Their Last Suppers: Legends of History and Their Final Meals by Andrew Caldwell* has been on my bookshelf for years. I finally pulled it off and started reading. Then I couldn't stop. I read it in one sitting last night while the boys watched a movie.
On the Page
Caldwell explores historical figures, describes what made them significant (perhaps), and - finally - details what they ate for their last meal. Then he shares some recipes from that meal. This work, part cookbook and part history, is less macabre than you would imagine. It was an enjoyable look at people from Martin Luther King to Princess Diana and from Adolf Hitler to Abraham Lincoln.
Here are a few things I found interesting...
- Captain Edward John Smith, of the Titanic, had naval mishap after naval mishap...and they still let him helm the Titanic. The last meal on the ship included Filet Mignon Lili with Pommes Anna, Calvados-Glazed Duckling with Apple Sauce, and Fresh Asparagus Salad with Champagne-Saffron Vinaigrette.
- Before the Battle of Waterloo, Napolean enjoyed an elaborate breakfast that included Liver and Bacon Chops, Shirred Eggs with Cream, and Garlic Toast with Roast Tomatoes. One of his favorite foods was Chestnut Soup to which he had been introduced in Egypt; he believed it to be a cure-all.
- Montezuma was killed by the Aztecs, not the Spanish. And he purportedly drank fifty goblets of spiced chocolate everyday.
- On its ill-fated final voyage, the Hindenberg carried 300 pounds of caviar, 220 pounds of butter, 800 eggs, 220 pounds of cheese and marmalade, and 55 gallons of mineral water.
- Elvis Presley's last meal was a snack of cookies and ice cream, though not long before he ate spaghetti and meatballs. Besides his favorite - fried peanut butter and banana sandwich - he loved the 'Fool's Gold Special' made of creamy peanut butter, grape jelly, and bacon piled inside a hollowed out loaf then deep fried. This was from a restaurant called the Colorado Gold Mine Company.
- Adolf Hitler was a declared vegetarian though he often indulged in his favorite liver dumplings. And his personal chef for years was Marlene Kunda until he discovered she was Jewish. And he loved sugar, adding at least seven spoonfuls into his eat and even into his wine.
Actually, I found something interesting in every chapter! But these were some things that stood out in my mind.
On the Plate
Though many of the recipes included looked fascinating, I was drawn to the chapter about Captain James Cook. When King Kamehameha III host a banquet for his people, they cooked for over 12,000 people. The damage included: 271 whole hogs, 482 calabashes of poi, 602 chickens, 12 oxen, 12 barrels of lai lai, 4000 heads of taro root, and 180 large squid. Wow.
I was inspired into the kitchen with the recipe for Chicken Long Rice. It reminds me of Filipino Arroz Caldo though I have never made that myself. My version is slightly adapted from the published recipe as his didn't include lemons or soy sauce. Even still, my trio found the dish bland.
Ingredients serves 4
- 2 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
- 1" knob fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
- 1 organic lemon, quartered
- 2 C long grain rice
- 6 C liquid (I used a mixture of homemade chicken stock and water)
- 4 green onions, trimmed and sliced
- soy sauce to taste
Place long grain rice in a large pan and pour in the liquid. Bring the liquid to a boil, then cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let it stand while you cook the chicken.
Place the chicken, ginger slices, and lemon quarters in a pot and cover it with cold water by at least 1". Bring the pot to a boil. Let it cook until the chicken is cooked through. Mine took about 30 minutes. Drain the chicken, but reserve at least 2 C of the cooking liquid. Carefully pull the meat from the bones and place it in the pot with the par-boiled rice. Reserve the bones and skin for making stock later.
Pour in the 2 C of cooking liquid and bring the pot to a simmer. Cook until the rice is softened and the liquid has been reduced by half. Stir in half of the green onions. This should still be soupy, but thickened like a stew.
To serve, dish into individual serving bowls. Garnish with more green onions. Serve immediately.
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Click to see what everyone else read in September 2019: here.