Valentines Day was an extra-special day here at prison camp – if you were a Buddhist (or at least signed UP as a Buddhist).
You see, once a year, each religious group gets to have a special dinner. For this special dinner, it seems that the standard meat is duck. Now I don’t give a quack about duck, but this year we really lucked out; we had tons of fresh veggies AND plenty of tofu! Yeah!
I want to give a big shout-out of thanks to many people involved: the wonderful officers that were on duty over the four week planning process, and the actual two days of preparation, the food warehouse officer and staff, who went above and beyond to secure for us the special orders (fresh veggies, etc.), the lead kitchen cook – who’s help proved invaluable, and her helpful staff; patient with our ignorance of kitchen protocol. A doubly big thanks to the inmate who organized the whole shebang; planning for four weeks- a nearly overwhelming task that was handled only with many hours of effort.
It wouldn’t have been so special without the help and cooperation of these people; heck, it wouldn’t have happened at all!
What would be a one day chore on the ‘outside’ (prepare list, go shopping, cook food, eat!), truly is a four week process here in prison; fraught with many frantic lists and trips to various officers and offices in an attempt to secure the location, ingredients, schedule, religious service plan,etc.
Prison is one place where perseverance can make-it – or lack thereof will break-it!
For every frustrated officer who can, in turn, frustrate us, there is an outstanding officer who goes above and beyond to help us. Heck, who just sees us a real people. With real feelings; not just a ‘felon’ with an 8 digit ID#.
We were very blessed in our timing to draw the latter; making gratitude very so much easier to feel on our special day. I was honored to be on the three person kitchen food-prep and cook team. I was the gopher. I was happy to go-for this, and go-for that, chop, chop, chop, and wash, wash, wash! I didn’t even WANT to be responsible for ruining a meal for 30+ people! (chicken-shit, huh?)
Not having been in a kitchen (much less a huge commercial kitchen) in almost 2 years, it felt…like real life. In other words – I had fun!
What did the four weeks of planning and seven hours (spread over 2 days) of prepping and cooking culminate in? An hour and 20 minutes of pure, blissful feasting and fellowship. What more could we ask for?
This was our menu:
* Roast duck w/fish sauce (which I heard was superb)
* Deep Fried, spiced Tofu (which WAS superb)
* Orange chicken w/sesame (thumbs up)
* Fresh grilled veggies, with fresh jalapeno and fresh ginger and spices (double yum)
* Stir-fry rice, with tofu, fresh veggies and ginger (fresh spinach and mushrooms too!) (unreal!)
* Hot from the wonderful baker’s oven: Individual fresh apple turnovers (OMG!!) AND
fresh baked apple chunk and raisin muffins (triple yum)
** AND: thanks to most of the attendees; who purchased ice cream from the commissary for this event (and the officers who let us STORE the ice cream in their freezers):
Butter-Pecan Vanilla ice cream (the finishing touch of perfection!)
Good grief! Does this sound like prison food? That’s because it isn’t our normal, high starch, canned and salted diet. No. This was…NIRVANA!
We were all on such a high (maybe it was a sugar rush), some of us had trouble sleeping that night!
Thanks to all the hard work and assistance from so many, this day will be one of my (many) ‘good’ memories that I will take with me from this challenging place.
Nirvana – on a plate!