How to Choose Who Gets the Last Meal

Who will get the last piece of food at a dinner party or family dinner? In this excerpt from Branch Is Hell, Rico Galliano and Brendan Francis Newnam outline three common bad decisions (no one eats, everyone shares tiny bits, the alpha guest takes it), and then presents a Witty Five-Point Plan for the Final Play …

The guest may have brought one white truffle worth $ 10,000 as a contribution to the meal. Or perhaps they stumbled on their way to your house, banged their skulls on the railing, and came to your door with a bleeding head wound that is still oozing an hour later. In any case, they have contributed something impressive that none of those present will soon forget. For this, the guest deserves the last part and, if necessary, delivery to the emergency room.

All of their suggestions are cute, but they don’t really require a special ceremony, so they can seem a little rude when meeting in person. Amazingly, none of them use Notting Hill’s solution: have a small competition right at the table. The last piece of food is received by the person with the saddest story.

In fact, in the Notting Hill dinner party scene (pictured here under a dozen watermarks ), the last brownie wins over the saddest life that leads to tears and catharsis. (Fifteen years later, the sweet and heartbreaking Australian show You Are the Worst has made this game even sadder and funnier.)

Real people don’t bounce back as quickly as romantic comedy characters, so you might want to tone that down to, say, “the saddest story of the week.” You can really do whatever you want, but self-deprecation always wins. This not only turns the last ritual into an activity, but also helps to heighten intimacy as guests move from dinner to drinks.

By law, I have to point out that the last portion of the meal is called in Spanish la de la verg├╝enza, or ” portion of shame.” And honestly, if you drop that little fact at the end of your meal, you can probably just grab this piece without a competition.

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