One of the most famous events in the Bible is the Last Supper, thanks to the interpretation of many renowned artists who captured the tension-filled scene (most notably, Leonardo Da Vinci, Albrecht Durer, and Tintoretto). Interestingly, the specific term never appears anywhere in the New Testament; however the Last Supper is described in all four canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) — Jesus, knowing that he will be betrayed and face certain death, shares a Passover meal, consisting of wine and bread, with his 12 disciples (one of whom is the traitor). The depiction of this event forms the scriptural basis for one of Christianity’s most sacred rites, the celebration of the Eucharist, when Christians remember Jesus’s sacrifice to offer redemption to mankind (Jesus explains “Do this in remembrance of me”). For this reason, and its depiction in some of the most famous paintings in the world, the Last Supper is one of the most well-known and important meals in history.
Jesus’s last meal with his disciples underscores the importance of food as a way to celebrate the important events in life, or in this particular case, to celebrate the inevitability of death. Although Jesus was able to choose what he wanted to eat and drink at his last meal, most people (excluding criminals on death row), will not have any idea that the next meal they eat might be their last. According to the World Health Organization, that means more than 56 million people will die this year not realizing what was their last supper. That intriguing dilemma was the inspiration for a fascinating little tome, Last Suppers: A Collection of Final Meals Through the Years, by Caroline West and Mark Latter. Bookshelf presents some highlights from the book, focusing on the last suppers of famous authors.
Sherwood Anderson: Olives and hors d’oeuvres
Christy Brown: Lamb chops
Antov Chekhov: Champagne
F. Scott Fitzgerald: Candy bar
Allen Ginsberg: Fish chowder
Ernest Hemingway: New York strip steak, baked potato, Caesar salad, glass of Bordeaux wine
Dylan Thomas: Beer and whiskey
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For further reading: Last Suppers: A Collection of Final Meals Through the Years by Caroline West and Mark Latter (2014)
The Story of Christianity: A Chronicle of Christian Civilization From Ancient Rome to Today by Jean-Pierre Isbouts (2014)
Into All Truth: What Catholics Believe and Why by Milton Walsh (2013)