If I mentioned pancakes with blueberries and maple syrup, lemon tart or maybe a dark chocolate and almond torte would I have your attention?
And what if I threw in roast beef with a red wine glaze; linguine with garlic prawns and chili, or a roast pumpkin, spinach and ricotta pie?
We all have our favorites, but can you imagine not being able to eat the foods you love? In an article published in the New York Times, Anna Stoessinger – a self-confessed ravenous, ungraceful eater – told of a shock diagnosis that left her unable to eat the things she loved.
“My husband and I have been known to spend our rent money on the tasting menu at Jean Georges, our savings on caviar or wagyu tartare. We plan our vacations around food — the province of China known for its chicken feet, the village in Turkey that grows the sweetest figs, the town in northwest France with the very best raclette.
So it was a jarring experience when, a few months ago, at 36 years old, I learned I had stomach cancer.“
Doctors told Anna she would need to have a total gastrectomy – part of her oesophagus and all of her stomach removed. She would come to rely on her small intestine to digest her small and frequent meals that would have to be consumed slowly.
“You can live without a stomach,” my doctor told me. I have often thought about what I could live without, if I had to: a savings account, an extra bedroom, the new Prada suede platform pump in burgundy. But a stomach never entered my mind. And food? It was so much more.
As a little girl, sharing food with my mother was a solace, a joy, and a way of communicating. Sharing it with my husband has been as intimate as anything I’ve experienced. We fell in love one taste at a time: roadside cheeseburgers, bonito with ginger sauce, hazelnut gelato. After the first bite had lingered on our tongues, we’d say to each other: Wait for it. And then: Did you get that? The smoke? The spice? The texture? We always did.
I know I will mourn my loss. Because for me, food — and eating it with abandon — is about shared experience. It’s about love and memory and the capacity to conquer even the worst hours with something warm and wonderful.”
Anna and her husband decided capture the food that meant something to them before the operation. So for 10 days they travelled the US determined to eat as much as possible. She and her husband ate peanut butter and jelly doughnuts, ginger ice cream and sashimi. They ate “candy in the car like kids” and savoured the seared scallops her mother made “like no one else”. And for her final meal, Anna and her husband dined at New York’s Le Bernardin, the the “best place in the city for a final meal with a stomach, the best place in the city, arguably, for any meal.”
“And what a magnificent meal it was”, she writes.
If I had to chose a final meal, I too would tap into the comforts of home cooking. I’d ask my mum to make me a bowl of pasta with fresh tomato sauce and basil. Maybe some crusty sourdough bread on the side. Simple. Delicious. Comforting.
What would your last meal be?