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a matter of etiquette

Francois Mitterand organized his last supper to be a series of courses. as told on NPR. And described in a film on the former French president.

Public obsession with requests for final meals. Here’s an LA Times article compiling stats from Texas. Wikipedia offers a more expansive article on the subject.

The last meals of the Iceman were deer and ibex meat.

Mrs. Beeton has some thoughts:

1879. Man, it has been said, is a dining animal. Creatures of the inferior races eat and drink; man only dines. It has also been said that he is a cooking animal; but some races eat food without cooking it. A Croat captain said to M. Brillat Savarin, “When, in campaign, we feel hungry, we knock over the first animal we find, cut off a steak, powder it with salt, put it under the saddle, gallop over it for half a mile, and then eat it.” Huntsmen in Dauphiny, when out shooting, have been known to kill a bird, pluck it, salt and pepper it, and cook it by carrying it some time in their caps. It is equally true that some races of men do not dine any more than the tiger or the vulture. It is not a dinner at which sits the aboriginal Australian, who gnaws his bone half bare and then flings it behind to his squaw. And the native of Terra-del-Fuego does not dine when he gets his morsel of red clay. Dining is the privilege of civilization. The rank which a people occupy in the grand scale may be measured by their way of taking their meals, as well as by their way of treating their women. The nation which knows how to dine has learnt the leading lesson of progress. It implies both the will and the skill to reduce to order, and surround with idealisms and graces, the more material conditions of human existence; and wherever that will and that skill exist, life cannot be wholly ignoble.

Beeton aptly quotes Milton’s depiction of Eve’s culinary exploits:

That Adam’s “ration,” however, was “simple,” is a matter on which we have contrary judgments given by the poets. When Raphael paid that memorable visit to Paradise,—which we are expressly told by Milton he did exactly at dinner-time,—Eve seems to have prepared “a little dinner” not wholly destitute of complexity, and to have added ice-creams and perfumes. Nothing can be clearer than the testimony of the poet on these points:—

“And Eve within, due at her home prepared
For dinner savoury fruits, of taste to please
True appetite, and not disrelish thirst
Of nectarous draughts between….
…. With dispatchful looks in haste
She turns, on hospitable thoughts intent,
What choice to choose for delicacy best,
What order so contrived as not to mix
Tastes not well join’d, inelegant, but bring
Taste after taste, upheld with kindliest change—

* * * * * * * * * *

“She tempers dulcet creams….
…. then strews the ground
With rose and odours.”

The degradation of the Western meal:

A medical analysis of family dining.
British data on degrading meal structures.
Cases of feral children confirm the fragility of social habits

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