Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dinner At The Big House

The best thing about prison food is that it is provided free to the people who work there. Whether or not every morsel is fit for man or beast is another story.

I know something about its appeal to beasts since I sometimes bring leftovers home for my dogs and for the possums and raccoons that visit my porch. One would think that animals who like carrion would eat most anything, but this is not the case. Even possums will not eat the mixed carrots and peas, nor will they eat the grits that have the consistency of Spackle. They have no prejudice against rubbery fried eggs however, nor against the hard-boiled ones that are green inside. And no one ever turns down bacon or ham-

Every night,just before one, an officer knocks on the clinic window and asks how many trays we nurses want. Last night we took three, and all ended in the trash.I do not think that even a beagle would have wanted them, and beagles eat anything just on principle.

The entree last night was a Big House specialty.Miniscule bits of chicken floating in a syrupy brown broth innocent of salt and butter and overloaded with pepper. The kitchen sends this out several nights a week under different names though I doubt this fools anyone- Some nights they call it Chicken Fricassee, or Creole Chicken, or Chicken Pot Pie. The pie you build yourself by dumping the liquid chicken over a biscuit.

I tried to eat a biscuit last night, but it disintegrated into powder. It reminded me of pictures of loaves of bread found whole in archeological digs, that turn to dust on reaching the open air.

Several times the prisoner pushing the food cart has whispered to us "I'm sorry Ma'am but this is just gross". Without salt it has no savor, and no sugar comes either since enterprising inmates would use it to ferment alcohol they hide in stills up in the ceiling.

Not all the food is terrible. Some of it is just bad. Perhaps 20% is edible. I particularly favor the hush puppies they serve, as long as they have not been in the fryer so long they are as hard as golf balls. And sometimes we get those rigid corn taco shells filled with hamburger sauce. Not to everyone's taste, but in prison they are the equivalent of a meal from Maxim's.

I suppose there are some critters that would be glad of anything that came out of the kitchen. The House Sparrows pick at crumbs in the yard, there are frequent mice, and I heard tell of an elderly prisoner in mourning because his pet cockroach had died.

Is there anything as omnivorous as a cockroach?

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