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Dining Critic Tries Nutraloaf, the Prison Food for Misbehaving Inmates
ChicagoMag.com ^ | September 2010 | Jeff Ruby

Posted on 08/27/2010 10:42:05 PM PDT by LibWhacker

JUSTICE IS BLAND: I eat Nutraloaf, the all-in-one "disciplinary loaf" served at Cook County Jail

Inmates at Cook County Jail are allowed three privileges: television, books, and food. The staff has no compunction about denying its most difficult residents either of the first two, but under the Constitution, correctional facilities can’t withhold food. Nothing in the Eighth Amendment, however, says the food has to taste good. “This is not the Four Seasons,” says Tom Dart, the Cook County sheriff. “Inmates who are injuring people in jail will get their nutritional needs met, but we will not cater to their culinary desires.”

Nutraloaf, a thick orange lump of spite with the density and taste of a dumbbell, could only be the object of Beelzebub’s culinary desires. Packed with protein, fat, carbohydrates, and 1,110 calories, Nutraloaf contains everything from carrots and cabbage to kidney beans and potatoes, plus shadowy ingredients such as “dairy blend” and “mechanically separated poultry.” You purée everything into a paste, shape it into a loaf, and bake it for 50 to 70 minutes at 375 degrees. Eat two a day and, boom, all your daily nutrients, right there. If you want the recipe, ask me.

Or just get yourself tossed into Cook County Jail, where an inmate who causes serious food-related problems buys himself a one-way ticket to Nutraloafopolis. Get caught making homemade hooch in your cell toilet? You get Nutraloaf. Hurl food at a guard or stab someone with a spork? Nutraloaf. Of the jail’s 9,000 inmates, 21 have endured the Nutraloaf program since it began in June. One begged—No! Anything but Nutraloaf!—and another went on a hunger strike. Both men, and virtually every other Nutraloafer, straightened up enough to get back to the usual diet of oatmeal and processed bologna.

In July, I took the afternoon off from my job as Chicago magazine’s dining critic and drove to 26th and California to dine on Nutraloaf. Cook County’s stridently gray-brown cafeteria would never be mistaken for Naha, and the dish’s presentation aims less for the wow factor than the break-your-spirit factor. An employee from Aramark Correctional Services—a branch of the Philadelphia-based company that also provides fare for college dorms and NFL stadiums—presented me a Styrofoam container sagging with a blunt ginger-toned mass roughly the size of a calzone and with the appearance of a neglected fruitcake. It had nothing else in common with either.

The mushy, disturbingly uniform innards recalled the thick, pulpy aftermath of something you dissected in biology class: so intrinsically disagreeable that my throat nearly closed up reflexively. But the funny thing about Nutraloaf is the taste. It’s not awful, nor is it especially good. I kept trying to detect any individual element—carrot? egg?—and failing. Nutraloaf tastes blank, as though someone physically removed all hints of flavor. “That’s the goal,” says Mike Anderson, Aramark’s district manager. “Not to make it taste bad but to make it taste neutral.” By those standards, Nutraloaf is a culinary triumph; any recipe that renders all 13 of its ingredients completely mute is some kind of miracle.

I ate two-thirds and gave up, longing for any hint of flavor, even a bad one. That night, my stomach’s rebellion against the loaf was anything but neutral. I felt so full and lethargic that I skipped dinner and the following breakfast. And let’s just say I finally had a lot of time alone to catch up on my New Yorker reading.

Even though inmates in several states, including Illinois, have sued over Nutraloaf, alleging cruel and unusual punishment, correctional departments everywhere are introducing their own versions of the “disciplinary loaf.” None of the lawsuits have been successful. “We’re not trying to dump Tabasco sauce on their tongues or anything like that,” Dart says. “It just tastes like nothing.” In other words, they found a loophole: Nutraloaf is not cruel; it’s just unusual. Soon it may cease to be either.


TOPICS: Food; Society
KEYWORDS: critic; dining; food; inmates; misbehaving; nutraloaf; prison
That'd be enough to put me on the straight and narrow.
1 posted on 08/27/2010 10:42:09 PM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: LibWhacker

On the one hand, it sounds like something out of a dreadfully dark, dystopian SciFi novel.

On the other hand, it should become standard fare (24/7/365) for inmates in Guantanamo Bay.


2 posted on 08/27/2010 10:47:39 PM PDT by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilization is Aborting, Buggering, and Contracepting itself out of existence.)
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To: LibWhacker

I just outfitted a survival bag for my personal plane and I purchase a box of mainstay bars. They are basically the same thing. I ate one out of curiosity and it’s not half bad.


3 posted on 08/27/2010 10:49:17 PM PDT by The Magical Mischief Tour
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To: ArrogantBustard
standard fare (24/7/365) for inmates in Guantanamo Bay

I LOVE that idea!

4 posted on 08/27/2010 10:49:46 PM PDT by LibWhacker (America awake!)
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To: ArrogantBustard
Maybe it is made of...
PEOPLE!

5 posted on 08/27/2010 10:51:05 PM PDT by StarfireIV (Atlas Punted)
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To: ArrogantBustard; LibWhacker; The Magical Mischief Tour
On the other hand, it should become standard fare (24/7/365) for inmates in Guantanamo Bay.

Especially if they were made with pork by products.

6 posted on 08/27/2010 10:52:14 PM PDT by Paleo Conservative
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To: LibWhacker; Squantos; Travis McGee

I do believe this was invented in military messes many years ago.


7 posted on 08/27/2010 10:53:03 PM PDT by razorback-bert (Some days it's not worth chewing through the straps.)
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To: razorback-bert; StarfireIV
Dunno 'bout military, but it sure sounds like a mess.

Soylent Orange?

8 posted on 08/27/2010 10:54:25 PM PDT by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilization is Aborting, Buggering, and Contracepting itself out of existence.)
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To: razorback-bert

Nope.

My first wife beat them to it...


9 posted on 08/27/2010 10:57:11 PM PDT by The Magical Mischief Tour
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To: LibWhacker

“Nutraloaf is rowdy prisoners!” /Heston


10 posted on 08/27/2010 11:04:05 PM PDT by Secret Agent Man (I'd like to tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.)
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To: LibWhacker

Make our prisons more like the Japanese Prisons and feed them this stuff and we will be starting out on the way to making this country better in no time.


11 posted on 08/27/2010 11:06:44 PM PDT by GraceG
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To: LibWhacker
Photobucket

signing off, have a good evening - GandB out

12 posted on 08/27/2010 11:16:11 PM PDT by GunsAndBibles
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To: LibWhacker

Excellent! My idea was to feed all prisoners organ scraps, oatmeal, and a vitamin pill, but this is virtually the same.

Yeah!


13 posted on 08/27/2010 11:51:30 PM PDT by ConservativeMind ("Humane" = "Don't pen up pets or eat meat, but allow infanticide, abortion, and euthanasia.")
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To: LibWhacker

Looks better than fruitcake.

14 posted on 08/27/2010 11:54:19 PM PDT by martin_fierro (< |:)~)
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To: martin_fierro

Looks a bit burnt around the edges, but at least that will give it texture.


15 posted on 08/28/2010 12:00:49 AM PDT by mware (F-R-E-E, that spells free, Free Republic.com baby.)
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To: martin_fierro

Frank Zappa talked about something called “Confinement loaf”
on his 1988 album Broadway the Hard Way. Same thing?


16 posted on 08/28/2010 12:24:31 AM PDT by raccoonradio
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To: LibWhacker

Dining Critic Tries Cornbread, the Prison Food for Misbehaving Presidents


17 posted on 08/28/2010 12:44:21 AM PDT by bunkerhill7
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To: LibWhacker
My mother emptied the refrigerator of leftovers into a big stew-pot and cooked it. It had every vegetable, every piece of meat and chicken that we had partially consumed weeks previous. It had leftover gravy, sloppy joes, Maltomeal, corn bread, chocolate pudding, coleslaw, mustard and even a hint of dill relish.

She served it in bowls and my father, who has a high metabolism and will eat anything, asked what it was and she said, "It is Glump Stew."

Nobody touched it.

We had Kentucky Fried Chicken that night.

18 posted on 08/28/2010 12:51:41 AM PDT by Slyfox
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To: LibWhacker
I like the suggestion on the comments page that this stuff be used as a replacement for food stamps...
Make it freely available everywhere and to everyone. Those who don't need it won't eat it; those who refuse to eat it because it's not tasty... well, they clearly don't need food assistance. Unlike food stamps, it can't be used as cuirrency in underground economies... nobody is goign to trade freely available nutraloaf for crack or cash.

19 posted on 08/28/2010 12:54:28 AM PDT by Redcloak (What's your zombie plan?)
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To: razorback-bert

Our food was so bad on the Princeton, that we would steal “C” and “K” rations from the grunts. On one Pacific crossing, we got SOS for breakfast, chicken a la king for lunch and chop suey for supper, EVERY SINGLE DAY.


20 posted on 08/28/2010 3:05:22 AM PDT by NTHockey (Rules of engagement #1: Take no prisoners)
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To: StarfireIV

“Maybe it is made of...
PEOPLE!”

Soylent Green!


21 posted on 08/28/2010 3:18:51 AM PDT by rickb308 (Muslims need to check with Native Americans & ask how that whole cowboys & indians thing worked out.)
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To: LibWhacker

If this stuff causes constipation, as the author says, or hints at, it’s not right to make it the only food prisoners can get. That is cruel, not just unusual.


22 posted on 08/28/2010 3:28:33 AM PDT by firebrand
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“NO! Anything but Nutriloaf!”
Wow, it must be bad... :O


23 posted on 08/28/2010 3:47:43 AM PDT by ThePatrioticArtist (It's not the painting itself, but the message it sends that's important.)
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To: LibWhacker

When I was in the Marines in the early 1980s, the least favorite MRE among us was “chicken loaf”. Perhaps that was the precursor to this “nutraloaf.”


24 posted on 08/28/2010 4:25:24 AM PDT by SamAdams76 (I am 99 days away from outliving Curly Howard)
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To: LibWhacker

“If you want the recipe, ask me.”

I used to make something like this except I used potatoes and teriyaki sauce. It was actually pretty good. Teriyaki sauce makes all the difference, I guess.


25 posted on 08/28/2010 6:28:28 AM PDT by MontaniSemperLiberi
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To: razorback-bert

Sounds like a weee bit of wheat germ in there as well.....


26 posted on 08/28/2010 6:55:48 AM PDT by Squantos (Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everyone you meet)
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To: LibWhacker; ChocChipCookie

When we did a self contained 3 week patrol our customized aka bastardized MRE was stripped down an we added large slices of fruitcake from Collins street bakery in Corsicana TX an Beef Jerky made near FT Lewis / McCord AFB in WA.

Also a mix of wheat germ an oatmeal with raisins.

We brought food back in some cases...

3000+ calories per ration pack we estmated. If this nutraloaf would keep in normal temperatures no doubt DOD would have an equally bad ration for such long term patrols....


27 posted on 08/28/2010 7:07:07 AM PDT by Squantos (Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everyone you meet)
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To: razorback-bert

Sounds like school lunch, or college dorm. food.


28 posted on 08/28/2010 9:22:44 PM PDT by tdscpa
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To: firebrand

And they have somewhere else to be?

Gives em something to do.


29 posted on 08/29/2010 10:00:41 AM PDT by Fire_on_High (Stupid should hurt.)
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To: Slyfox

Are you kidding? That is a favorite recipe in our house.

L2 Stew - leftover leftovers.

I love it!


30 posted on 08/29/2010 10:09:53 AM PDT by patton (Obama has replaced "Res Publica" with "Quod licet Jovi non licet bovi.")
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To: Squantos

Gorp. Chocolate, raisens, peanuts, anything else handy...


31 posted on 08/29/2010 10:14:51 AM PDT by patton (Obama has replaced "Res Publica" with "Quod licet Jovi non licet bovi.")
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