Pillowy soft French toast and other prison meals

For 8 weeks, Expressive Artists Tish, Lorilee and Cece came to prison with us to engage the residents in written expressive expression. Below is a gorgeous piece reflecting the fun we had creating new menu items for the prison meals. Salivate with us!

french toast aug 19.jpg

Writing prompt: You have been given the opportunity to create a meal on Donovan’s menu for one day. Writing through your senses, persuade us that your food item belongs on the day’s menu.

All the residents sighed in unison. If you know prison, then you know that the food lacks in flavor and any kind of vitality. The residents reached for their pens and pencils and furiously wrote for three minutes during our weekly writing warm-up. We can tell by their smiles and scrunched faces they had much to write, traveling through their imagination to times and places when they were not in prison, recalling memories of food and favorite flavors, family gatherings, the simple fact of breakfast and a shared meal with loved ones. Three minutes flew by; with mischievous and nostalgic smiles, the residents put down their writing utensils and sat at attention. Anxious to share, many raised their hands.

Immediately a resident stood up, marking his place as first. An intoxicating description of pillowy soft, powdered-sugared French toast came tumbling out of his mouth. Not only was it masterfully written, we - the listening audience - were able to taste it through his writing: its melty texture and sweet flavor. His delivery was passionate and words clear. After reading it, he was satisfied. It was as if, through reading it, he had actually consumed his French toast.

One after the other, was much the same: odes, memoirs and tributes to their favorite food. After each reading, we wrote the name of the food on a strip of paper and put it in the middle of the writing circle. After an hour or so, the floor was covered with our collective menu: spare ribs, apple pie and ice cream, steak, lobster, gumbo, greens, sweet potatoes, fried chicken, a green salad with avocado... We were all on the edge of our seats, waiting to see what people had chosen for their menu item. It was beautiful: the memories, the love with which they wrote and read, the laughter and comradery.

It was clear that you can imprison a person's physical body but you cannot imprison someone’s creativity, imagination and collective memory.