Monday, October 7, 2013

Serial Killer Supper Series: Schnitzel, Fried Potatoes, & White Wine; the Last Meal of the Dusseldorf Ripper

In honor of the wondrous, gloomy, and shadowy month of October - temporal home of the year's best holiday, Halloween - I bring you "Serial Killer Suppers," a weekly series in which I will feature a notable meal of a notorious killer. I'm excited, as the series combines two of the things I love most in the world: food and murder. (Say it with me, Hitchcock style: MUH-deh.)

That's not to say I love the actual killers, or their hideous acts, although I do find serial killers to be particularly fascinating. The psychology of multiple murderers, their peculiar and horrible methods, the pleasure, often sexual, they derive from the act of killing, their unstoppable compulsions, their inability to empathize or sympathize with their victims - all of this makes them seem somehow simultaneously less and more than human. After all, notorious killers such as Jack the Ripper or the Zodiac Killer have become more monster than man in the popular imagination, endowed with almost supernatural powers and superhuman prowess.

But there is one ritual which brings the monster back into the realm of the mundane, back to a human world where basic needs must be met: the paradoxical last meal before execution. Paradoxical, because food is meant to sustain life, but in this instance it's given just before life is taken away.

It's hard to pinpoint the exact origins of this custom, though certainly food is integral to many cultures' death rituals. Hundreds of years ago, in Germany, the condemned sat down to a "Hangman's Meal" with their executioner to symbolize their forgiveness for what was to come, a sort of tacit promise that their vengeful ghost wouldn't come back and haunt the hangman. (Source: Lapham's Quarterly.)

It is doubtful that Peter Kurten, known variously as the Dusseldorf Ripper, the Dusseldorf Monster, and later as the Vampire of Dusseldorf - would have offered his executioner any such promise, given his complete lack of remorse for the many rapes, assaults, and killings he committed between 1913 - 1929 in Weimar Germany.

What's odd (among other things) about Kurten is that unlike most serial killers, his victims didn't fit any particular type - he killed men, women, and children. Nor did he use one method for killing: strangling, bludgeoning, slashing, it was all good as far as he was concerned. (In fact, he is widely considered to be the inspiration for Peter Lorre's character in Fritz Lang's M, though Lang denied it.)

One thing is certain, however: Kurten got off on blood. So much so that he sometimes let his victims live if they bled enough for him to reach sexual satisfaction before they died. He gave himself up in 1930 - he wasn't being heroic or selfless, he was about to be arrested for rape - and was executed by guillotine the next year.

For his last meal, he dined on Wienerschnitzel, fried potatoes, and an entire bottle of white wine. Because my budget doesn't currently allow for cruelty-free veal, I made pork schnitzel, and I hope Kurten doesn't come back to haunt me for it.
I followed Wolfgang Puck's general method for the schnitzel: Pound 4-ounce pork cutlets paper thin. Salt and pepper them, and dredge in flour, then egg, then crushed panko breadcrumbs. Fry in 375 F oil for about 3 minutes and drain on paper towels. Garnish with fried parsley.

For the potatoes, I parboiled baby fingerlings, then cut then in half and fried them in butter and sea salt. I served this with an Austrian Gruner Veltliner.

This would make an excellent last meal, though I don't know that it would be my choice.

As Kurten was being led to the guillotine, he is said to have asked his executioner, "After my head has been chopped off, will I still be able to hear, at least for a moment, the sound of my own blood gushing from my neck? That would be the pleasure to end all pleasures."





16 comments:

  1. I'm also fascinated by serial killers and murder and the schemes people devise to try and get away with it. As far as I'm concerned, Forensic Files is the greatest show ever put on television. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but it ranks in my top 5. An unintended consequence of birthing a child was an enormous reduction in the amount of crime tv I can watch. Damn sweet kid with his innocent, impressionable mind. Your Serial Killer Supper Series is right up my alley.

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    1. Aww, sorry you can't get your fix of crime watching!!!

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  2. What a lovely way to start October! Well done! Personally I don't find serial killers all that fascinating or relatable. Scary? Yes. About all I could relate to here was that last bottle of wine. I think I would request that as well. Can't wait to see what else you have in store for us this month! Do you think it will be...mur DEH!

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  3. Okay - I'm intrigued.
    Typing my youngest's senior paper on the Green River Killer last fall was more than enough serial killer for me - but if a good meal is involved...well, that is a game changer.

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    1. Which may be why Hannibal Lecter is the best fictional serial killer. He really combines it all in one sweet package.

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  4. Ghoulish, ghastly, great! It is interesting the comfort food of a serial killer... good old schnitzel. I won't be able to eat it without thinking of this for a while!

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  5. Wow, that last bit was truly ghoulish. I'm not sure if I'l be able to get that idea out of my mind today. Thanks... :/ The meal, on the other hand, sounds lovely. My kind of eating—simple but delicious. A nice choice before a viewing of M? (I'd prefer that to the guillotine.)

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    1. Yes, I think I would rather watch M than have my head chopped off as well. I'm funny that way!

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  6. Eeeek. I love his final words. What a freaaak. Such a creative series. I can't wait to see the next!

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    1. Thank you! Hope you aren't disappointed!

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  7. Hey, if you're going to offer final words, make 'em memorable, right? Eeeek!

    Loved this.

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    1. Yeah, really. Thing is, I think he meant it ...

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  8. Oh, this is simply TOO fantastic. I can always rely on you to lift me out of the blog doldrums and into the realm of real writing. Damn, but this one is fun. Compelling, too, but let that be our secret. These killers fascinate me. They walk among us. They live beside us, and yet we have no inkling of the horrors in their lives. It's the utter lack of empathy that is most chilling - well, that and the notion that I might fall victim. One never knows.

    Also - this looks like a very nice meal. I almost forgot. I was so overcome by thoughts of serial killers...

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  9. Just wonderful! Very nicely done from the writing to the photography! Serial killers are fascinating.

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