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Booming Prison Fry Shack

Written by: Enigma

One of the greatest delights in life is sitting down to a well-prepared meal. I would feel confident that many of our best moments consist of meals shared with those we love: family gatherings, romantic dinners with our significant other, or feeding our child solid food for the first time. I would also feel confident that for those who have been incarcerated none of your best memories were made in a prison chow hall. What is found in the chow hall is what one friend describes as, “Something closely resembling food but not quite measuring up.” This diet primarily consists of rice, noodles, and bread, and is created to make you appear healthy while ushering in diabetes and persistent cases of hemorrhoids.

After spending over two decades behind the wall I could share a litany of horror stories from our chow hall that would turn the stomachs of our readers. Yet you’ve probably never imagined the spectacular meals that are being created in hot pots, microwaves, and Jerry rigged friers in prisons across the world. Necessity is the mother of all invention, and that aphorism is exemplified nowhere better on Earth, than it is in prison.

When I tell my family and friends about the meals that I eat quite regularly, thanks to their generosity, they are amazed at the microwave miracles I create. From pizzas made with ramen noodle crust to the Jack Mac setup, which is the staple of prison cuisine, to everything in between. Admittedly many of the ingredients for meals are liberated from cafeteria store rooms or horticulture gardens but even meals cooked with items exclusively bought from the canteen can be surprisingly complex and palate pleasing, even if the means of preparation are a bit precarious (a can lid to cut everything and a plastic hanger for stirring).

I’ll begin the prison culinary journey with some personal experiences that I will never forget. While working as a baker years ago I didn’t have direct access to a lot of the food cooked within other sections of the cafeteria, yet I had flour, grease, and eggs aplenty. As the owner of two burners (heating elements) pried from the bottoms of leaking hot pots, gallon cans (from the vegetables served in the kitchen), and an electrical nightmare of electric cords skinned back at the end to connect to the terminal post of the burners, I had all I needed to create a booming prison fry shack.

While I worked 14-hour days in the prison bakery for no state pay or no work credits, I was getting paid in whatever items I could transport back to the dorm in my rubber boots. We worked every other day in the kitchen, so on my off days I fried everything that you could think of: Jack mackerel patties, honey buns, potato balls, onion rings, jalapeno poppers, hush puppies, funnel cakes, turkey strips, all of which once cooked were stored in a pink tub which was originally issued from medical for soaking one’s feet. I fried eggs on a can which I’d meticulously cut down with a pair of toenail clippers. I grilled cheese sandwiches. And I even created the best fish chowder that I’ve ever eaten, in prison or as a free man.

You’re probably wondering how we kept the COs from noticing the unmistakable aroma of fried food wafting from our unventilated cell. Well, I’ll just say this much, COs like fried food just as much as prisoners. And for the COs who wouldn’t look the other way, we came to know them pretty quick and would just hide the burners those days and get a little rest from the grind of cooking. The funniest part of the whole system was the fact that most of the payment for the food I produced was food. In fact, most of the prison bartering is done through the exchange of various food items bought from the canteen. And when I accumulated more food than I could fit in my locker or cram under the bed I would sell great quantities of zoom zooms and wham whams for money sent to a loved one. I must say that after relying on the generosity of loved ones for years in order to eat relatively well in prison it was a great feeling to be able to return the favor.

While chow hall food leaves a lot to be desired there are a couple of notable exceptions to the typical poor fair. On Thanksgiving we are provided turkey, stuffing, rice and gravy, rolls, green beans, canned cranberry sauce (which is the best kind), and sweet potato pie. On the 4th of July we get barbecue chicken, baked beans, rolls, green beans, rice, and watermelon. Yet on both of these occasions the meals are anything but relaxed as you must always observe the instructions painted next to the cafeteria clock, “When your butt hits the seat, you’ve got 10 minutes to eat.”

Most situations in life can be altered by your perspective and your creativity. Prison cuisine is no different. To demonstrate the truth in that statement I challenge those who are free to put yourself in our shoes and eat like a prisoner for one meal. What follows are the ingredients and the instructions to do just that.

Bon appetit.


1- 15oz. can Jack mackerel

1- 8oz. instant rice

2- shrimp Ramen

1- chili Ramen

2- Slim Jim's

1- can corn

1- pickle

1 tsp instant coffee

Jalapeno wheels (to add taste)

2 oz. Sweet & Hot sauce

1 Tbsp. Soy sauce

1 oz. margarine

2- .875 oz. Southern recipe pork rinds

4 oz. Queso Dip

1-empty popcorn bag


1) Open Jack Mac can and pour juice into a bowl (which you set aside). Clean Jack mackerel by removing skin and bones with an orange prison issued spork.

2) Chop slim jim, pickle, and jalapeno Wheels using Jack mack can lid bent in half so as not to cut yourself.

3) Crunch up ramen noodles by throwing pack flat upon a hard floor. Poor ramen noodles and rice into the empty popcorn bag. Add margarine and one shrimp seasoning pack.

4) In a microwaveable bowl combine slim jim, coffee, one ramen chili seasoning, one ramen shrimp seasoning, 1 oz sweet and hot sauce, and soy sauce. Saute microwave until slim jim gets Brown and begins to char on the edges.

5) Add Jack mackerel and juice you set aside, corn, pickle, remaining sweet and hot sauce, and Dr pepper to bowl and heat on high until rolling boil.

6) Heat popcorn bag on high for 1 minute increments. Remove from microwave and shake after each minute before returning to microwave. Rice and noodles are fried when they turn a light brown color.

7) Combine rice mixture with Jack mackerel mixture. Add enough boiling water to cover the ingredients and heat on high for 4 minutes. Remove bowl from microwave and stir. Allow meal to swell and incorporate all those yummy flavors. Top with cheese and pork rinds. Serve with warm prison hooch.


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