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Giles Coren's death row meal

The food critic tells us what's on the menu

Giles Coren's death row meal
Danielle de Wolfe
08 November 2010

Our favourite acerbic food critic Giles Coren has teamed up with Sue Perkins once more for another series of raiding the larders of yesteryear. Having gorged themselves in Ancient Rome and made do with a ration book during the Second World War, this time round they hope to emulate the classic 70s sitcom The Good Life and live a life of frugal self-sufficiency. With that in mind, what would Coren, having been convicted for some outlandish crime, eat for his last meal? Funnily enough, it isn't a hamburger...

“I’m constantly baffled by the concept of the death row meal. The idea that I’m going to be executed tomorrow doesn’t exactly make me hungry. And in reality most people choose a hamburger, I guess that’s because the idea of a last meal is only relevant in America and that’s all they eat because they’re fat and stupid.

“So, I’m off to the gas chamber or I’m about to be hung… my world’s falling apart. I’m thinking of all the thousands of meals I’m never going to eat; my wife is pregnant with our first child, so I’m thinking of the baby I’ll never see. Of all the books I’ll never write. And someone wants to know what I want for dinner. I can’t eat before going to see QPR, I’m that anxious. I get dragged to the Nando’s on Uxbridge Road by my mates before going to see QPR and I can’t eat then. And then we draw against Norwich.

“I’d probably want lots of drugs if I was to be killed tomorrow. Lots of wine and pipes of opium; properly wong yourself out. If I was in America, where they’re probably better at killing people than cooking, I certainly wouldn’t feel like eating. I guess people have a hamburger because anything other than that stresses the chef out. If you were to eat something else it certainly would be your last meal.

“I just think I don’t want my last experience on earth to be a meal. I’d rather spend an hour with Scarlett Johansson. Or even just five minutes. Or drive a Ferrari or a parachute jump – one of those activities that happen on stag weekends.

“The funny thing is that as a restaurant critic I spend so much time eating long fantastic meals that the last thing I want to do is eat a meal. Tragically, it’s no longer a treat. But let’s say I’m feeling nice and I do want a meal. Right, first off I want buckets and buckets of caviar. Ordinarily, I only eat food that is sustainable, so that means no farmed salmon, or blue fin tuna, let alone caviar. Even cod is off the menu.

“So, beluga caviar to start with, and it’s got to cost over £2,000 – my captors will have to be rich. They’ll have to be Saudis, saying that they’re probably the likeliest candidates anyway as I’ll have been caught doing something naughty on a beach. Then I’d possibly want some thin strips of marinated panda, precisely because one’s not allowed to. It’s the same as eating cod; in life it goes completely against what I believe, but if I’m being killed tomorrow…

“The other thing I have to say is that I don’t want a famous chef cooking my last meal. They’re all so self- absorbed and I don’t want my last meal to be all about Gordon Ramsay, or Marco Pierre White going on about gravy. I want a young short order cook who’s eager to impress.

“For the main course I’m having Ortolan. It’s a rare songbird and it’s illegal to eat them even in France where they don’t care about anything like that. It’s so wrong and evil and it epitomises everything one shouldn’t do, but I’m being executed. I’m paying the ultimate price. François Mitterand had it for his last meal apparently. These birds – which are the size of a new born duckling, like a plastic Smurf – are gorge fed, then drowned in very expensive cognac. They’re then sautéed in butter and eaten whole. Diners wear a napkin over their heads when eating one; either because it’s so messy or to hide their shame from God. The taste is meant to be wonderful.

“I’m not interested in eating pudding – I’ve never had a sweet tooth. Although I suppose if I was fat and I was being hung it would be a quicker kill. But really, two squares of Green & Black’s butterscotch followed by a double espresso (not from a chain) and washed down with a bottle of grappa.

“Finally, the one place where I wouldn’t want to eat this meal is at a restaurant. Too much like a busman’s holiday. I’d no doubt be served by a fit work experience girl who would come over and tell me something was off the menu – ‘It’s off? How can it be off? It’s my last meal on earth’. And Michael Winner would be on the next table and then the outrageous bill would come and there’d be problems with the credit card machine, and it would be lashing it down with rain outside, and I’d get a parking ticket, and then I’d have to write 1,500 words on the experience.

“So, to sum up, I’d have the meal at home.”

Giles & Sue Live The Good Life begins on BBC 2 on November 8 at 9pm

Pictures: Rex Features