Ever wonder what famous serial killers like to eat? Well, it is October. Writer and recipe developer Ashley Lecker actually took this prompt a step further and did the research. She recently spoke with WellWell about her book The Serial Killer Cookbook: True Crime Trivia and Disturbingly Delicious Last Meals from Death Row’s Most Infamous Killers and Murderers. We uncovered weird last meals and why so many serial killers love ice cream.
What was the process like in preparing the dishes and discovering and researching the last meals of these figures?
Well, first in the process, I needed to decide who I was going to write about. I wanted to pick a mix of people with some well-known and others that are generally less so, especially if they had unique requests. Then the food just makes the book feel whole. I just didn’t want to have 14 recipes for pizza. There’s a lot of ice cream in the book, that’s really popular. Southern food, in general, just by nature of where they still have the death penalty is mainly in southern states, so a lot of final requests from the book is that there’s a lot of southern influence as well. For some meals, I made a recipe for their entire last meal, others just parts of it that seemed interesting or appetizing.
In the research, were you surprised by any of the requests? Any jump out as something you wouldn’t except a serial killer to eat?
Yeah, there were a couple specifically but overall, the amount of ice cream really did surprise me. There were people who requested some really unique things. Robert Anthony Buell wanted a single olive, which is kind of creepy. He was around in the 80s and executed in the early 2000s. He wanted a single unpitted olive, so I made a single olive tapenade and some of it was the challenge of looking at people like him who requested something like a single olive and making a recipe of it.
There was a lot of ice cream in here. Is there some connection between sugar and mass murder that we should be looking into?
Maybe. I’m not a psychologist or anything like that but I think we’re looking down the barrel with some of these people. They go for the comfort food of when they first felt good, which for many people is our childhood when we eat ice cream. There’s a lot of nostalgia behind ice cream. The ice cream on the front cover of the book belongs to Joe Arridy, who was one of the only people featured in this book who was likely innocent. He was convicted and executed but he suffered from a mental illness. And so now, they believe his confession was likely false and he probably didn’t even know what he was confessing to. So, it’s kind of ironic to put him on the cover of the book.
The Serial Killer Cookbook has a very light and fun tone. Did you have any difficulty navigating between that light tone and the more morbid subject matter?
Yes. That was probably the biggest challenge with writing the book. It was really important to me to find balance because you still want people to want to see the things in the book and make them completely. But many of these crimes we’re talking about are obviously upsetting and not exactly appetizing. I wanted to find a balance to keep appeal for the reader but also to be able to share the parts of the story of the people who were victims and the people who’ve been on death row.
It reflects something really fascinating at the core of the cultural interest in true crime overall. These are obviously very heinous actions but so many of us really gravitate towards the stories and find them interesting. Where does this obsession and interest into true crime come from?
In my opinion, I think we want to try to understand things that we are nothing like. I think that the ability to do the things that these people do is so far beyond the kind of thinking that many of us have and we don’t know what to think of them. And they scare us a little bit too. We’re just so curious of what motivates the human mind to do atrocious things. I also think that learning about these people and hearing these stories makes us feel safer because we’re more informed. While the odds of meeting someone like a Ted Bundy or a John Wayne Gacy are probably very slim. We now feel more prepared if we did.
Are you a horror movie fan, as well or just true crime?
Oh yes, I am. I’m a big horror movie fan. My favorite is Halloween. Within my blog, I do a lot of Halloween inspired recipes and things like that.
Perfect, I’m just going to throw some fictional serial killers out at you and you tell me what you think their last meal would be.
Okay, great. Let’s do it.
We’ll start with Michael Myers since he’s your favorite.
Candy corn and pumpkin pie.
Coffee. A frosted ice mocha. I feel like he can be a little bougee if he wanted to be.
Absolutely, the hat really sells it.
You’ve mentioned a lot of the southern influence here. What about Leatherface?
Oh gosh, let’s see. He and his whole family, I feel like they’d have this whole barbeque thing going on. If he had his whole group with him, they’d barbecue.
Alright, last one. Hannibal Lecter
I think he would have some kind of pasta and then maybe he would have, if he could, he’d have a friend for dinner, as he does in the movie.
What would your last meal be?
I get asked this a lot and I feel like sometimes it changes. But one of my friends just asked me this the other day. I said, well, because I’m from Green Bay, I would have a really good broth. Then I would probably have some type of a pasta. I would definitely like to eat some pickles and olives because I’m a really big fan of pickles and olives. Maybe add a Dutch apple pie. I think that’s what I would do.
I mean, it’s your last one. You want to get in as much in there as possible.
Get some of your favorites. No ice cream for me though. But definitely olives. I can identify with the guy that ordered the olive. I obviously don’t identify with the rest of him but solid food choice.
About Ashley Lecker
Ashley Lecker is a true crime lover, avid recipe developer, barre lover, and general history nerd. She is a graduate of Edgewood College in Madison, WI, and UW-Green Bay. Ashley previously worked in the public sector for the House of Representatives and at a nonprofit before obtaining her teaching license. She currently works in the local school system and in recipe development while publishing her blog, Cheese Curd in Paradise.