Some people live in a world that the rest of us can't even begin to recognize.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day 8: They call this food?

The jail must get a good discount on orange cheese. Gloppy, gooey, liquid-turned-coagulated orange cheese.

Every morning at 5:30AM I hear a loud, rhythmic Clack Clack Clack Clack as our plastic trays are spread out on the tables in the Day Room.  A small bowl of semi hot cereal (oatmeal? grits? I never know) is dropped onto each tray.  The plastic hitting plastic continues the clacking noise.  Next, a small piece of bread-like food is placed into another section of the tray.  Sometimes, it is a slice of day-old bread.  Mostly, it's half of a nearly mummified bagel. Once it was a Krispy Kreme donut. A fresh one!  Must have been a holiday or something.

I peel off the outer solidly-crusty part of the bread to eat whatever few soft bites are inside.  Then there is always the cheese.  A spoonful of what was recently liquidy orange cheese is poured into another section.  By the time all the trays are set up and each section of each tier is called to get a tray and bring it back to our cell, the cheese is a chilled blob, solidly stuck to the tray. One day we got a hard boiled egg (and the cheese, of course).

We are supposed to be silent while lined up to pick up our trays and bring them back to our cells. On the day of the boiled egg there were secret deals, trades, and hidden signals and messages--all done in complete silence.  Those that wanted more than one egg got silent deals completed with those who did not want their egg at all.  It's pretty amazing how quickly a group of women who never met before develop and learn a new "language" of facial expressions, hand movements, glances and nods to communicate constantly, even when no speaking is allowed.

Lunch is served at 10:30AM.  Same arrangement.  The clacking and clattering sounds begin as trays are spread out on the tables in the Day Room.  Lunch and dinner always have hot food.  The question is, what exactly is it?  I feel like somebody walked along a cheap buffet table and  mixed together a small scoop of about 10 assorted foods.  Then covered it with liquid orange cheese. A jail stew. Or perhaps it should be called miscellaneous goulash.  I usually spot rice as one of the ingredients.  An occasional green vegetable is present.  Some chopped up pieces of overcooked meat, too. Oh, and always long, slimy pieces of some vegetable that look exactly like leeches sitting atop the mess.  All in all, the concoction probably would not have been so bad if it weren't for the orange cheese spread all over it. Lunch always has Mexican spices mixed in.

Dinner is the exact same slop as lunch, without the Mexican flavoring and with a few more pieces of meat.  and two packets of salt! And, yes, of course, covered with liquid orange cheese. Dinner provides for a lot more trading and deals to be made.  Every other day we get to actually sit in the Day Room to eat dinner, so trades and deals are made constantly.  Dinner also includes a bag of chips and a dessert-like object, such as a donut or a cookie. Sometimes, we actually get a banana!  I had already lost 12 lbs in the first week there because the smell and taste of the food made me frequently sick. (I've thought of writing a Jail Diet book, but some people actually did enjoy the food.)
At dinner time I am able to trade my chips, salt packets, meat pieces and cookies for bananas on the days we have them. Some nights I can eat four bananas.  The worst part of the trading aspect of dinner is that, once you make a trade with someone, that person seems to feel you owe them a trade every meal. I'm proud to say that another social skill I've perfected in jail is how to say no to food-bullies.

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