At Bites, we often ask our chefs and readers about what they’d choose as their ideal last meal. But what if, unexpectedly, you knew your next few meals would actually be your last?
Food lover and self-proclaimed “ungraceful eater” Anna Stoessinger was tragically faced with that dilemma when, at age 36, she discovered she had stomach cancer and needed to have her stomach removed.
Stoessinger wrote a moving piece in last weekend’s New York Times, sharing the journey she took to indulge her sense of taste and relive some of her favorite meal memories, just one last time.
…with just 10 days left with my trusted stomach, we set out to capture all that food meant — all the memories it conjured, all the happiness it brought. We were determined to eat as much and as well as possible. We made lists. What categories of food needed attention? Which meals did we want to recreate? We went from lowbrow to high, and everywhere in between. Peanut butter and jelly doughnuts, ginger ice cream, sashimi, grilled porterhouse, wild blueberries. We came up with a plan. Travel options were limited (health, timing), but we would go from Connecticut to Maine to New Brunswick, and finish in New York City three days before my surgery.
Stoessinger went for a mix of comfort food that took her back to her childhood – scallops, wild boar terrine and Guinness vegetable soup – as well as indulgences like foie gras and butter-poached smoked lobster.
She took her final meal at the high-end seafood restaurant Le Bernardin in New York City, which she called “the best place in the city for a final meal with a stomach, the best place in the city, arguably, for any meal.”
Stoessinger ended her love letter to food with a heartbreaking goodbye.
“It had been a long time since I had experienced such satisfying fullness,” she wrote. “There was comfort and exuberance, a familiar feeling like a long embrace, a coming in from the cold — that I fear I will not know again. 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.”
What would you miss most if you were forced to give up the foods you love?