There is something fascinating about last meals. Eating is something we do multiple times on a daily basis; it is what gives us life. Surround yourself with chefs, cooks, and culinarily inclined guests at a dinner party, and you may very well be presented with a particular question: “What would you want for your last meal on earth?” Some will choose indulgent dishes like oysters, lobster, and foie gras, while others will instead favor comfort foods from their childhood or simple dishes from home, like spaghetti pomodoro, steak, and mashed potatoes, mom’s meatloaf, or homemade biscuits.
Read on and discover the last meals eaten by 22 famous people throughout history. Will they surprise you, or will they reinforce famous reputations?
In 399 BC, faced with the two choices, a jury of Athenians selected death for Socrates as punishment for impiety and corrupting the youth of the city. The philosopher was taken to the nearby jail where his sentence would be carried out. Athenian law prescribed death by drinking a cup of poison hemlock.
On August 12, 30 BC, in Alexandria, Egypt, Cleopatra watched her husband Mark Antony breath his last (just after, the story goes, finishing a glass of wine). The distraught Cleopatra then ate a handful of figs, according to historical conjecture, and either chased them with a poisonous concoction of hemlock, wolfsbane, and opium, or subjected herself to the deadly bite of an asp.
On May 5, 1821, while in exile on the island of St. Helena, the erstwhile emperor of France ate liver and bacon chops, sautéed kidneys in sherry, shirred eggs with cream, and garlic toast with roast tomatoes before breathing his last.
On April 14, 1865, before heading out to watch Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater, President Lincoln dined on mock turtle soup, roast Virginia fowl with chestnut stuffing, baked yams, and cauliflower with cheese sauce.
On June 25, 1876, Custer ate roasted buffalo steaks, beans with molasses, roasted wild corn, and prairie hen before recklessly leading a battalion of the 7th Cavalry into disaster at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Custer and his entire detachment were killed.
In the early morning of December 30, 1916, Grigori Rasputin ate honeyed cakes, Madeira wine, black bread, and assorted Russian hors d'oeuvres (most of which had been poisoned) at the home of Prince Felix Yusupov in St. Petersburg. When the poison failed to kill the mad monk, Yusupov and his associates shot him repeatedly and dumped his body in the river.
On April 30, 1945, holed up in his bunker underneath a shattered Berlin, Hitler ate spaghetti with "light sauce" (although some biographers say he had lasagna) — almost certainly meatless, as he was a vegetarian. Shortly after the meal (which had presumably not been vetted by his personal food taster), Hitler and Eva Braun, whom he had married less than 40 hours earlier, went into a private room and took their own lives.
On the evening of January 30, 1948, Gandhi enjoyed one of his standard healthy dinners —goat's milk, cooked vegetables, oranges, and a concoction of ginger, sour lemons, and strained butter mixed with aloe juice — before he was assassinated by Hindu nationalist Nathuram Godse.
On September 30, 1955, a few hours before he fatally crashed his Porsche Spider near Cholame, California, the actor and heartthrob allegedly stopped by a roadside diner and ate a slice of apple pie with a glass of milk.
On July 2, 1961, at his house in Ketchum, Idaho, “Papa” ate a New York strip steak, baked potato, Caesar salad, and no doubt a healthy pour of Bordeaux before taking his own life with a shotgun.
On the morning of November 22, 1963, JFK ate breakfast in his room at the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth. According to the hotel's executive chef, Otto Druhe, he served the president "coffee, orange juice, two boiled (five-minute) eggs, some toast, and marmalade on the side." The president's entourage then left for downtown Dallas, where they were scheduled for a 1 p.m. luncheon to take place directly after Kennedy's motorcade made its way through town. Kennedy was shot at 12:30 p.m.
On September 18, 1970, around 3 a.m, Jimi Hendrix's girlfriend Monika Dannemann prepared him a tuna fish sandwich in her London flat. At 11:27 a.m., the guitar virtuoso was discovered alone and unconscious. Hendrix was pronounced dead at the hospital about an hour later. He was 27.
On December 8th, 1980, Lennon enjoyed a corned beef sandwich with the plan to have a larger meal once he got home. Sadly, on his return, the former Beatle was gunned down by Mark David Chapman outside his apartment.
On February 4, 1987, the flamboyant entertainer ate a bowl of Cream of Wheat with half and half and brown sugar. He died from an AIDS-related illness at age 67.
On May 14, 1998, in Los Angeles, California, Ol’ Blue Eyes ate a grilled cheese sandwich before dying, at age 82, in the company of his wife, Barbara.
On August 13, 2004, Julia Child — appropriately — ate a bowl of French onion soup before her death at age 92.
On December 30, 2006, the former president of Iraq was executed by hanging. Reports say his last meal consisted of boiled chicken and rice with hot water mixed with honey. He was offered cigarettes as well, but refused.
June 25th, 2009, the King of Pop enjoyed a last meal of spinach salad with chicken breast before dying of acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication.
On June 19, 2013, while vacationing in Rome, James Gandolfini had dinner at the outdoor restaurant of the Boscolo Exedra Roma hotel. The Sopranos actor, 51, reportedly consumed a lot of alcohol, along with two orders of fried king prawns and a plate of foie gras. He died shortly afterward of a massive heart attack.