Happy Meals

Happiness, Prison

Ronald McDonald wasn’t the first to sit down with a sandwich and call it a happy meal. Spreading cheer with food goes all the way back to Aztec times, when human sacrifices were consoled with a year’s worth of free meals. These days, the condemned get only one meal, but they can usually custom-order it.

The Texas Department of Corrections used to host this list on their website. Some last meal requests are simple (the 296th person to be executed in the state only asked for a cup of hot tea and six chocolate chip cookies), but most tend toward the spectacular:
“Chocolate birthday cake with "2/23/90" written on top, seven pink candles, one coconut, kiwi fruit juice, pineapple juice, one mango, grapes, lettuce, cottage cheese, peaches, one banana, one delicious apple, chef salad without meat and with thousand island dressing, fruit salad, cheese, and tomato slices,” requested Texas death row convict #248.

Texas served its very last happy meal on September 21st, 2011, after Lawrence Russell Brewer failed to finish his two chicken fried steaks smothered in gravy with sliced onions, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, a cheese omelet, a large bowl of fried okra with ketchup, three fajitas, a pint of Blue Bell ice cream, a pound of barbecue, a half-loaf of white bread, peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts, a pizza and three root beers. Legislators were so outraged at the waste that they put an end to the entire tradition.

The local ban on last meals may reflect a broader US government initiative to regard food with maximum suspicion. Last month, the FBI suggested that coffee shop owners report customers who paid for their coffee with cash (instead of credit), since not using a credit card to pay for your $1.59 beverage is a typical terrorist move.

Storing more than seven days of food has also been identified as characteristic of the criminally-inclined. That’s likely to pose a problem for presidential candidate Mitt Romney and other American Mormons, who prepare for the coming rapture by stockpiling more than a year’s worth of food in household apocalypse rooms.


Image Credit: "Jefferey Barney" from Matt Collishaw's series Last Meal on Death Row, Texas