cooking outside the box
January 8, 2021 9:23 AM   Subscribe

"For the past few years, there has been a cookbook on my shelf whose pages I keep returning to: “Cooking Outside the Box,” a slim volume of recipes by people incarcerated in Michigan state prisons... Reading recipes for dishes like Lynda’s Pizza Rolls and Cass’s Noodle Cookie, I kept hoping for head notes and back stories. Who figured out how to turn crushed Doritos and hot water into masa for tamales? I’ve rarely been as impressed as I’ve been by these portraits of ingenuity, born of the utmost constraints." Chef Samin Nosrat speaks to Ear Hustle host Earlonne Wood about prison cooking (nyt), and updates his recipe for chicken and rice (nyt).

Cooking Outside The Box doesn't seem to be available anymore, but it was part of the Prison Creative Arts Project at University of Michigan.

Earlonne Woods is a co-host of the Radiotopia podcast Ear Hustle, sharing "the daily realities of life inside prison shared by those living it, and stories from the outside, post-incarceration."
posted by ChuraChura (6 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I adore both of these people so much. Thanks for sharing this!
posted by lownote at 10:29 AM on January 8

I liked Ear Hustle when I had a commute on which to listen to it.

spent seven of his 27 years in prison at San Quentin

This makes it sound like he’s 27 and spent 7 years in prison. He’s 49 and spent 27 years in prison, with 7 of them being in San Quentin!

(Outside Death Row, SQ is mostly low-medium security now, which is why it has a podcasting program and why a lot of guys end up there towards the end of a long sentence like that).
posted by atoxyl at 10:42 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]

Those are great links. I have a copy of a similar cookbook written and published by inmates at the state prison here. The recipes are interesting, but so are the pages in there about things like how to keep food cold and hot, improvised utensils, etc.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:05 AM on January 8

I love this so much for how ... humane and big-hearted it is. These are both delightful people and it was just a real breath of fresh air to read something where someone who has been in prison is talked about like a human being, and gets to have his own voice. I realize that's an extremely low bar for praise but it's sadly too rare and I was happy to see it. Also, the recipe looks great.
posted by lunasol at 12:15 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]

Prison cookbooks seem to be quite a thing. There's also the San Quentin Death Row Cookbook, by Albert Jones, a prisoner on death row since 1996:
As well as creating some beautiful handkerchief art, he also has written & self published a cookery book, called "Our Last Meals". In the book several San Quentin death row inmates have provided their own personal recipes which they use when cooking for themselves and fellow inmates from their improvised kitchen in their cell.
You can buy it on Amazon (or, if you don't want to give Amazon any of your money, from a publisher that specializes in books by and for prisoners). I first learned about it from a remarkable catalogue by the California bookseller Ben Kinmont, Gastronomy and Economic Precarity (pdf), published last year.
posted by verstegan at 2:54 PM on January 8

"Prison Ramen" is a great cookbook, and a pretty good book-type-book also.
posted by Chitownfats at 5:56 PM on January 10

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