Cooking For Cons

There's a new cookbook out: The Convict Cookbook, by the inmates of Walla Walla Penitentary in Washington state.

SPOKANE, Wash. - Talk about your Iron Chefs. Proving that the steel bars of the Washington State Penitentiary are no barrier to fine dining, inmates at the Walla Walla prison have just produced "The Convict Cookbook," which includes recipes that can actually be made inside a cell without a stove.


Po' Mans Burritos, Cell Block Fudge or Jail Mix, anyone? How about Dope Fiend Sandwich or Prizzon Po Carcass Casserole? Those are just a few of the tasty dishes featured in the 163-page book. There's a helpful glossary of prison slang in the back, too.

The cookbook grew out of a community college class on how to make the transition to the outside. ... The book includes short facts and insights into prison life. There is also an essay "Why Do We Cook in Our Cells? or Bad Guys, Good Taste?" by Rick Webb, one of the authors. He explains that while prison food is OK, it becomes monotonous over time, and cell cooking provides some variety and creativity for inmates.

Cooking food in a prison cell isn't easy. Prisoners do not have stoves or microwaves. What they are allowed is an immersion heater known as a stinger, which can heat a cup of water to boiling.

Some recipes can be cooked on radiator pipes. Others require the prison kitchen. Many of the recipes involve plastic bags standing in as mixing bowls.

All involve some ingenuity.


Proceeds from sales of the $17 cookbook - available in bookstores around Washington state - will go to the Children's Museum of Walla Walla. Some of the money will also be used for museum passes for the children of inmates, when they are in town for a visit, said co-author Webb.

"We all agree that it would be `a good thing' to provide other worthwhile activities for children besides seeing Dad," Webb wrote.

I saw the news article reprinted in our local paper, and immediately thought of the applications it would have for those stone-broke skiffy fans who spend their convention dollars on travel and memberships, and eat (if they do) out of a box or cooler in their room.

Alas, the piece gives no direct information on ordering a copy. Not listed on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. The site for the Children's Museum has no mention. Powell's Books, the big-muthah bookstore in Portland, OR, has a listing, but doesn't have it in stock; there's a "Notify Me" service, supposedly, but after waiting about twenty minutes for images to finish loading and the "Notify Me" button to actually show up somewhere on screen, I gave up.

*sigh* Maybe in a few weeks, it'll have gotten into accessible venues.

UPDATE, 11/16/04: Okay! Earthlight Books in Walla Walla, WA has The Convict Cookbook available for $17.95 plus shipping. Orders can be placed via this link at Abebooks.com.

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