Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Last Meal and Shoti

I love to watch Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. Bourdain’s cynical attitude is so infectious and entertaining. Every now and then, he’ll ask someone on the show what their last meal would be if they were going to die the next day. I ponder the question myself every time I hear him bring it up. One would think that I’d simply choose whatever is my favorite food is, but different foods can evoke different emotions and memories. My favorite food (the jury is still out on this one) may not carry the sentimental significance as other foods.

jookpate chaud

cha giodosa   

The things that would typically come to mind are pho, bot chien, cha gio, murgh makhani, dosa, my grandma’s Thanksgiving turkey, my mom’s “Rice, Butter, Maggi, Egg” (exactly what it sounds like, the egg cooked sunny-side up), jook/congee/chao with fried donut and 1000 year old egg, my grandma’s vegetarian pate chaud, moussaka, unagidon, hummus, and baba ghanoush. (pictures via http://www.mightysweet.com/mesohungry and  http://www.flickr.com/photos/goincase/)


Then I heard David Chang’s response to Bourdain when he was asked “what’s food porn for you?”  Chang’s response was “bread and butter is probably my favorite thing.”  That’s when it hit me.  Bread and butter.  Nothing more. Nothing less.  That’s what I want my last meal on Earth to be.  Whether or not the butter is salted or not is still up for debate, though.

But why such a simple thing as bread and butter?  I kind of had think about that myself after my initial epiphany.  To start, I can remember my family’s kitchen usually being stocked with a baguette.  I suppose it was only naturally for my mom, who is Vietnamese.  Breaking off a piece of bread and popping it in the oven for a quick snack wasn’t uncommon for me.  Later on in my life, having a baguette at my disposal every day became routine.  Almost every day at work for a solid 2 years I ate it for breakfast and my mid-day snack.  Every time I went grocery shopping I would buy multiple baguettes and freeze some so I’d have enough for the entire week.

What’s more, my slightly disturbing quirk of being able to remember the most mundane and auxiliary details of events predisposed me to remember almost every piece of bread I’ve had as part of a meal since bread is not typically the main focus of a meal.  If I’ve had bread during a meal in the past couple years, I can probably recall it fairly accurately.


One such memory that comes to mind is when I was in Montreal eating at a cozy French/Quebecois restaurant (I thought it was called L’Heritage, but I can’t seem to find anything on it).  I remember the food was really good, but can’t remember what I ordered or what my mom ordered.  All I can remember is the bread that was served that night.  With a chewy inside, crusty shell, and bready flavor to die for, it was perfect in every way.  There were a perfect number of holes on the inside and none of them were too big or too small.  I must have eaten an entire baguette that night and felt bad asking for more.  I honestly would’ve been more than happy to just eat bread all night, skip the main, and pay the full tab.

Another fond bread memory has to do with visiting one of my aunts.  She buys baguettes from a French bakery (the name escapes me) run by Vietnamese-Belgians and they are some of the best I’ve ever had.  For breakfast, my aunt typically prepares a generous spread of Vietnamese fare, pate, eggs, bread, and butter.  The Vietnamese meats and pate are nice, but the real star of the meal is the bread and everyone knows it.  I cannot stress how much I usually look forward to eating breakfast at her house.

So I have lots of memories related to bread, and it’s pretty much part of my daily life.  Why shouldn’t it be part of my last day in life?  If I had to choose what type of bread I could have, hands down it would have to be a traditional French baguette.  My second choice would be sourdough.  Coming in a very close third would be shoti.  Yes, finally.  I’ve gotten to shoti.


Shoti is a traditional Georgian bread that’s really grown on me.  So much so that for the past year I’ve completely ditched buying my weekly baguettes in favor for loaves of shoti.  I happen to buy my shoti from Argo Georgian Bakery via Marketplace on Oakton.  Shoti may be eaten as is, but it really shines if you reheat it in an oven.  Unfortunately, I’ve never had the opportunity to try a loaf straight right after it’s finished baking.  However, when reheated, the crust develops a nice crispness to it that is much different than something like a baguette or sourdough.  I’ve gotten my gums cut up pretty badly from gorging on baguettes that had a fairly hard crust, but I don’t have to worry about this with shoti.  The crust crumbles away delicately with each bite but still offers a satisfying crunch/snap when biting down.  The inside of a loaf of shoti is more similar to a baguette than its outside is.  The chewy inside is full of holey goodness, but is denser than a baguette.  Flavor-wise, I find it very similar to a baguette, which is one of the reasons why I liked it so much the first time I tried it.

For now, I’ll probably keep sticking with buying shoti on a regular basis unless someone can point me to a superb baguette.  Who knows, maybe I’ll be on my deathbed requesting some shoti and butter.  Also, I just realized that I eat bread more often than rice.  I’m probably going to Hell for that.  Feel free to share what your last meal would consist of.


  1. Interesting choice. As for my last meal, I'd probably have to go with a slice of Pagliai's Pizza, located in Carbondale. Nothing special by any stretch, but I would be content with this being the last thing I eat.

    The crust would be thick and crispy and the toppings would consist of onion, green pepers, pepperoni and black olives. My family used to do this combo all the time as a kid and that taste just brings back lots of good memories. I haven't gone there in years though because when I'm back in town the friends who are around inevitably want to go to another

    I've sampled many different pizzas from all across the country and ultimately none have ever come close to these places. Childhood associations probably have everything to do with this.

  2. I totally agree that associations and memories play a big part in the choice.