Death Row Dinners

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Words by Billie Jenkins

This week the media saw a small storm erupt around the opening of a new pop-up resteraunt in Hoxton, Death Row Dinners. Offering a set menu of five courses recreating the strangest and most popular last meal requests by those facing death row’s final toll, it suffered the voice of those who argued it romanticised the inhumane act of state sanctioned killing. Here at Corinne& it is a generally accepted fact that the death penalty, in whatever context, is pretty shitty. The fact it still exists in a large part of the civilised world is a striking reminder that we are not really that civilised at all, and are in fact the same barbarians of old with a much more paperwork heavy process of legitimisation. A prime example is the IQ test for inmates facing extermination, utilised to determine whether they are intelligent enough to be killed on good moral foundations. An IQ test. An invention of the fallible. It’s more offensive to invest this faux factuality than taking the more honest approach of ’we don’t like you, we don’t understand you, so it would be easier if you didn’t exist’.

No one should be dicking on the last supper though. An institution that implies a respect for simple human pleasures that contradicts the killing it preludes, it is rightly a fascinating phenomenon despite its morbid context. From a foodie perspective, the last things people choose to taste and savour says so much about our relationship with food. From the more human side those specific choices, the final investments we make or those things we abstain from say much about a man – whether it’s the Eucharist Sacrament or a bucket of original recipe for a man who had managed three KFC outlets in his life. Crude though the branding for Death Row Dinners was, photographs of the inmates with boards bearing their final requests alongside the restaurant, the concept itself isn’t something that should suffer the same fate. Maybe it’s important to think about the very specific choices we make in the face of death, with death row inmates being one of a very, very small minority in this world who knew exactly when they would die without wishing it. Victor Fegeur ate a single olive in the hope to represent a branch growing from within him in his last moments, dessert pies feature often – a nod to the comfort of home. Perhaps eating your way through these ideas isn’t such a terrible thing after all.

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