Monday, February 4, 2013

Dining With Miss B.

I worked with Miss B. the other night, and it was a good night since she had managed to get a feast of croissants, chicken salad, and potato chips through checkpoint. Getting food through a prison checkpoint is a gamble. Some nights the officers send casseroles through the xray machine without comment, other nights they will not let them through, and confiscate them. After all, there may be a cellphone buried in there somewhere-

Miss B., not a Miss, but a long married woman, brought a pie in one night. The officers were adamant. No pie inside the compound. These officers were crafty. They knew what Miss B. would do. She told them to go ahead and eat it, and I believe that had been their plan all along. She brought in boxes of fruit for the clinic staff at Christmas. No fruit on the compound either. The Director of Nursing went up front to put the fruit into safe-keeping so people could pick up some on their way out.

But the pears and oranges, as we say down here in the South," took legs", and walked away in the officers' pockets.

The chicken salad Miss B. made was not an exotic dish. It is a southern luncheon staple. Recipes abound among old aunts, church ladies, in the old spiral bound community cookbooks such as "Nashville Seasons", in magazines such as "Southern Living" and "A Taste Of Home".

Miss B's version was sublime. Anything home-made that comes into a prison is sublime when the diner's alternative is a snack cake from a machine in the Street Staff cafeteria. I asked Miss B. for the recipe.

"Well, you get you three cans of chicken and add in mayonnaise and celery, and pecans, and cut up grapes", she said.

How many grapes? How many pecans?

Miss B. was puzzled. "Why, you add as much as you want", she said . Later she told me to take the leftover salad home, and I ate it for lunch and dinner-

Miss B. does not stop at feeding people. If you come to work and complain that you cannot find a simple slip to go under a 9 year old's dress, Miss B. will put herself on the case. If she cannot find one in a country store somewhere, she will make one for your little girl. From her hands come christening dresses, and baby blankets, For while she would smuggle in some piece work to keep her occupied during down time in the clinic.

No more. No books(not even the Bible), no magazines, no knitting, no nothing allowed inside. No Internet. No smoke breaks, no leaving the compound to drive to the mini-mart on a food run. No going out to your car either for any reason. Thank God for Miss B.'s food.

And if we are lucky, and Miss B. is talkative, we can hear her take on the world situation, which she considers dire. Miss B. thinks people will be leaving cities and moving out to where they can grow potatoes and lots of chickens. Miss B. grew up in the country up in Kentucky. She told me she learned to drive when she was seven. Her father taught her so she could pull a trailer of hay with the family car. When she went off to school she chose nursing, and she has been doing that for 45 years. For her, as it is for me, work in a prison clinic is the best of retirement jobs.

* A Note-In the South "Miss " is used before the first name of women of a certain age. No one calls a twenty year old "Miss". Whether one is married has no bearing. "Miss" is used as a term of respect.


Kay G. said...

Oh, what a well written post this is.
Your writing of what it is like to work in a prison is something that I never considered. Also, the strength of Southern women and we way we say "Miss" is so true.
I wish you would write a book. I would buy it.

betsy said...

Thank you, Kay. Your comments mean a lot. As for writing a book, I am working on a novel,a hospital story. I doubt anyone would read it though. I can barely get six people to read my posts here!