We’ve just met and have already discussed the pleasantries of hometowns, mutual friends (or lack thereof) and ridiculously oppressive heat. The beginning of an awkward silence hangs over the conversation like a buzzard.
I have to keep it at bay.
“If you were on death row, what would your last meal be?”
Sometimes the question surprises people, and they awkwardly answer predictable lobster. Others go whole hog. They envision Almas caviar, Kobe beef and the ice cream sundae they once saw on a Travel Channel food show.
I’m not really looking for a particular answer. Like all good questions, it’s meant to open a door and change dialogue.
It’s a trick I learned from my dad, a true conversation artist. As a teenager, I rolled my eyes and apologetically shrugged as Dad posed this question to each of my allegedly criminal friends. I thought learning someone’s last meal was pointless and awkward.
Today, I know better.
Some people use last meals to try something new or unattainable. They think, “If I don’t have it now, I’ll never try it.” These individuals are the go-getters, the experimentals. Their conversations travel to faraway countries and obscure dishes.
Others, like me, plan meals closer to home: Grandma’s rice and gravy or Dad’s gumbo. Their last meal embodies memories and relationships. These discussions move backward to family stories and favorite vacations.
We may not think of it often, but a person’s last meal connects us through universal experience of food. It dives into the meat of the conversation and gives deeper insight into memories and dreams. Ultimately, it leaves us feeling full or hungry for more.
Photo source: James Reynolds