Food Court

I've written before about the Chow Hall here at Bastrop Federal Satellite camp, but that's only part of our culinary adventure. Dinner is served at 3:00 pm daily. That's a little early for me, but there is supposed to be a later seating immediately after our 4:00 pm count. Unfortunately, some of the kitchen supervisors like to leave early, meaning that the later seating sometimes doesn't happen. By evening, most of us are hungry. For me, that often means peanut butter and crackers, which I purchase from the commissary. Occasionally I might create some variety with crackers, sausage and cheese. However some inmates are much more creative.

The challenge to creativity is that there are no microwaves, hot plates, or ovens here. Some camps have them, but we don't. What we do have though is artful American and Mexican resourcefulness. There are 8 sinks in the Westside bathroom, 5 being presently operational. In the early evening on most days, every sink is in use, as the bathroom becomes a makeshift kitchen. It's a team sport, as one inmate cooks while one serves as a lookout as cooking is prohibited. Some corrections officers like to bust the food preparation, some realize it's necessary and just ignore it, and some play lip service to policing, giving the cooks plenty of warning before walking through the unit.

So far I've tasted the pizza, Asian chicken and rice, stromboli, enchiladas and a bagel sandwich with pepperoni and melted cheese. Remarkably, they were pretty good. I haven't tried the tamales, but they smelled great. I'm not sure how any of these were made nor do I know the exact ingredients. Honestly, I don't want to know. I've witnessed and smelled it being cooked with makeshift heating elements called "stingers" using boiling water in trash bags inside mop buckets. Once I jumped off that cliff of knowledge, additional information couldn't possibly have increased the velocity of my fall.

As for desserts, I've tried brownies, banana cream pie, and chocolate peanut butter pie. I'm told the brownies are made from duplex cookies, a chocolate bar, peanut butter and some peanuts. All the desserts are quite tasty, but way too rich for me. Half a slice goes a looooooong way.

My late father-in-law, who was an excellent chef, developed his cooking craft in a World War II German POW camp. His stories of making chocolate pie with Red Cross Hershey Bars have seemed almost mythical to me. I always believed him, but I now understand how he did it. Were he here, he would be a big deal, as he did all this without electricity.