Gabrielle Hamilton is the chef and owner of Prune restaurant in New York City.
The Last Supper idea is so intimidating and personally ironic because I’m constantly telling my staff, “It’s not The Last Supper for Christ’s sake!” when they become paralyzed by perfectionism and anal-retentive ways. And now I find myself paralyzed by the question. I think the correct response to imagine one’s last meal is to grab at one last chance to have all those super deluxe items that are only trotted out during life’s most special occasions. Even so, I think my preference is one last visit with the foods that have accompanied me throughout my whole life: eggs, salt, bread, butter. I seriously think I would like a couple fat spoonfuls of fish eggs – it could even be salmon roe; it doesn’t have to be the finest beluga – and a few crisp, cold, spicy radishes, followed by a plate of warm, soft-scrambled eggs with sea salt and cracked black pepper and chopped fresh parsley. Last, but not least, buttered, yeasty toast and a handful of good ripe cherries.
My most cherished meals have been seaside, on vacation, in that grayish-blue hour of dusk. It’s very hard for me to eat during the heat of the day or the heat of service. Because I’ve spent my entire life deep in ruthlessly noisy and relentlessly hot restaurant kitchens during mealtime – when the rest of the world eats, I work – I love to be alone during my meals, silent, and outdoors in the fresh air. And I have a real thing with the ocean. There is something about being one-on-one with the ocean just after the sun has set – the vast expanse of bright dusky sky before you – that makes me feel like I am a good person with a pure heart. Plus, I have fierce appetite at that hour. After a long day in the sun, and a cool shower, changed into a white cotton T-shirt and with a healthy little sunburn, I can ravage a bottle of champagne and some salty food with remarkable gusto. Actually, that would be the real requirement of my last supper: that I have a perfect appetite, a good healthy hunger, not the shaky, wired, “I’ve waited too long and now I’m starving” kind nor the wishy-washy peckishness.
The splurge I would make is that I would drink endless Billecarte-Salmon rosé champagne, probably two bottles all by myself, because I could drink that stuff from the minute I wake up in the morning until I died that night.
I’d want the sound of the waves and nothing else.
The dining-companion question is tricky, as I would love to have my last supper with my children, enjoying them, enjoying feeding them. I really love it when Marco (who’s two) loves and eats what I cook, and I also love the perfect feeling when my boobs are brimming and Leone is very hungry and latches on with serious intention. When this works, it’s blissful. But then I would really love for them to go away and fall deeply asleep so that I could eat quietly, contemplatively, and pretend that I was a single, younger person without intense, bone-crushing responsibilities. Somehow, part of my fantasy about this last meal includes me traveling back in time to those carefree days when I was sans employees, children, or saggy boobs!
I would cook this meal myself, cherishing the pleasure of cooking for so few, and to cook without thinking about timing, food cost, profitability, and customer satisfaction.
December 13th, 2011 12:00 pm