Last meal tradition - when, how, why, where?

I’ve been wondering for some time about tradition that prisoner on a death row can freely choose his/her last meal before execution. Ever since I saw that Timothy McVeigh had ordered mint ice cream for his last mean, really. Google didn’t produce answer to my question, and neither did Cecil’s archives, so I what I want to know is:

  1. When did this tradition start?
  2. How did it start?
  3. Why does it exist? Is there any particular reason for letting prisoner in a death row, who has probably committed quite horrible crimes, to choose his last meal?
  4. Where is it practiced? America, probably, but does is it also practiced in other countries with death penalty?

Well this is just a WAG:

  1. ~36 ad
  2. That wacky Jesus guy.
  3. a) The deciples thought they would do something nice for the son of God before he was offed by the Romans. b) Well, they guy IS going to be dead soon - I’m not sure turkey will all the fixin’s is really that much of a burden to anybody.
  4. This, I have no idea.

You could check out this thread for further info: Last meal requests for Texas death row inmates.

In that thread, astorian makes the following point:

Well, that didn’t really contain answers about questions I asked, but was interesting reading all the same.

Well, neither the Nazis nor the Soviets did this. I don’t beleive they do it in Russia today, or China.

My guess is that it’s a way for the executing facility to say “have a nice trip” and “we’re just doing our duty, it’s not personal” (even if it is); and they probably do this more to make themselves feel good about

You know the cliche about the brave resistance fighter (or whoever) facing execution by firing squad? He’ll always be offered a blindfold and a cigarette, in popular imagination if not in reality. I see a connection. Sure, we have to kill you, because you’re a dangerous person. But it’s nothing personal, and we like to think of ourselves as civilized people, so here, have one last smoke. Or one last double-meat cheeseburger with jalapenos and onions.

Which might explain the why, but not the when or where.

That certainly sounds possible.