Rasputin’s Last Meal

We get some provocative books at CHOW.com. Like just today we got LL Cool J's Platinum 360 Diet and Lifestyle, as well as Love at First Bite: The Complete Vampire Lover's Cookbook. Often, these books are disappointing. What boring-ass vampire would make Toothsome Turkey Tenderloin with Lime for dinner? But sometimes they deliver the afternoon pick-me-up I need to stay away from the bad hot chocolate dispenser in the break room. Their Last Suppers: Legends of History and Their Final Meals is just such a book.

We learn in the foreword that author Andrew Caldwell owned his own "little hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico," where he was able to combine his love of food and history by throwing themed cocktail parties to celebrate "the likes of Attila the Hun and Davy Crockett." These soirees were the inspiration for Their Last Suppers, which covers the diets and deaths of a seemingly random assortment of famous folk such as John Candy and Leonidas, King of Sparta (480 B.C.)

Now, apparently Rasputin (one of my favorite historical dudes) not only horrified St. Petersburg nobles with his "sinister power and advocacy of sexual ecstasy" but also had a weakness for sturgeon in champagne sauce. His last meal, especially notable because it was poisoned, included honeyed cakes, Madeira, soup, and zakuski—a.k.a. Russian small plates (recipes are included in the book).

Here is a simple recipe for the soup that Rasputin probably ate on the fateful night he was poisoned, shot, and then drowned in the freezing Neva River.

Codfish Soup
Adapted from Their Last Suppers

2 small whole cod
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Cut fish into 2-inch pieces; add milk and cream. Simmer gently, without boiling, until fish is tender. Season and serve with toasted bread.