Prison Food: Not Just For Inmates Anymore

Categories: Wake Up Call

Oahu_Prison_inmates_eating_poi.jpg
Wikimedia Commons
Oahu Prison inmates eating lunch out in the courtyard, sharing from communal poi buckets.
A pretty surprising new trend is begining to appear not just in the states but all over the world. It's not a new ingredient or cooking technique, but rather an interest in eating prison food.

Up till now if you wanted to experience what food made with minimal money and effort and in massive quantities tasted like you had to go way out of your way: commit a crime, go through a fair and speedy trail and get convicted. All before you could finally enjoy that mouthful of shit on a shingle -- er, chipped beef. But hey, least it'd be free.

See also:
- No Seconds: Henry Hargreaves Visualizes Death Row Final Meals
- Bad Prison Wine Blamed for Landing Seven Inmates in Intensive Care

Well, adventurous eaters, not anymore.

Earlier this month the Eastern State Penitentiary held a tasting of historic prison food. To be clear, the penitentiary isn't in operation anymore; it used to be one of America's largest prisons but is now a museum and historic site open to the public year round.

The event featured prison food from the mid 20th century and early 1800s and was prepared by the museum event's caterer, who also works as a correctional officer.

"We wanted to talk about the food served in prisons today, because the prison population has increased so enormously over the last 40 years, driving the cost per meal, per inmate all the way down to $2.30," Sean Kelley, a senior vice president at the penitentiary, told NPR's The Salt. "It's institutional food, and it tends to be heavily processed -- canned, frozen or fried."

And like we said, this isn't just some crazy Philadelphia tourist trap. In the Japanese town of Abashiri, Hokkaido, the public can stop in and experience Japanese prison food everyday. A cafeteria not-so-creatively named "Prison Cafeteria" serves the same food the inmates at Abashirishi prison eat daily. They serve two lunch set options -- both cost less than $10 -- that include miso soup, noodle salad, rice, veggies and fish. According to a review, the foods not half bad and healthy, too. So if you're going to get convicted internationally, make it in Japan.

Back in the states the idea might not work as well since we're known for lethal batches of prison hooch not freshly fried fish. Though one prison has come up with a way to use food and dining as correctional tools. At Northeast Correctional Center in Concord, Mass., inmates work as waiters, cooks, and busboys for the Fife and Drum. For $3.21 four days a week the public can stop by the minimum security facility and get a hot plate of made from scratch food.

As with all things, trends sure do come in waves and it would seem the pendulums swings way far away from the high brow, pate-laden diner's experience. Who knows, maybe soup kitchens will be the next cool thing.

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