Friday, January 31, 2014

Prisoners’ Bill of Fare.

The Annual Report of the Correctional Association of New York in 1864 gave considerable detail about the bill of fare served to inmates at Clinton Prison, and even included recipes for several of the dishes. That the men “enjoyed very much” the ersatz coffee and gruesome gravy probably says more about prisoners’ expectations and experience than about the food quality, taste, and nutritional value!

Bill of Fare.
Breakfast is uniform throughout the week, and consists of coffee, corned beef, bread, potatoes and gravy.
The coffee is made by browning crusts of bread in the oven until the outside is black. Then 8 lbs. of these burned crusts and 2 gallons of molasses are boiled with 30 gallons of water; this makes a pleasant and healthy drink, which is much liked by the men. We believe it to be far the best substitute for coffee in prisons and alms houses that can be made.
The beef is corned beef, boiled in the ordinary way.
The gravy is made by melting 13 lbs. of lard, and warming 20 lbs. of flour; the warm flour is then rubbed evenly into the melted lard, and cooked fifteen minutes; 24 gallons of warm water are then poured in to the flour and lard, and the whole boiled together half an hour; it is seasoned with salt and pepper well stirred together, and it is then fit for use. Each man receives one gill of the gravy. The men like it very much.

Dinner.—Boiled beef and pork with bread.
The use of cake in the dietary of a prison is, so far as we know, a novelty. We do not disapprove of the innovation. It is made as follows: 20 Ibs. of lard is melted, and 1 lb. of ginger and 1 Ib. of saleratns are then stirred in; 160 Ibs. of flour are weighed, and enough of this flour is taken to mix with the lard until it is of a proper consistency, and 7 gallons of molasses are then mixed with enough of water to form the remainder of the flour into a stiff paste; this paste is then thoroughly incorporated with the lard and flour mass, rolled out and cut into 410 cakes, which are baked in tin pans. They are highly prized by the men for their Sunday supper.
Dinner.—Pork and boiled beans. 150 Ibs. of beans are allowed for 410 men. The beans are cleaned on Sunday night and put to soak in cold water. On Monday morning they are parboiled for fifteen minutes, the water is then mostly drawn off, and they are boiled three hours. Salt and pepper are added just before they are finished.
Supper.—Mush or bread, with half a gill of molasses to each man.
Dinner.—Salt beef boiled, bread, potatoes and gravy.
Supper.—Bread and molasses, half a gill per man.
Dinner.—Meat hash, corned beef and potatoes, with lard and half a gill, of vinegar, which is much relished. Supper.—Same as Monday.
Dinner.—Fresh boiled beef, with potatoes and soup.
Supper.—Same as Tuesday.
Dinner.—Codfish hash with vinegar.
Supper.—Same as Monday.
Dinner.—Peas soup with corned beef.
Supper.—Same as Tuesday.

Peas soup is made by soaking them the preceding night, as was done with the beans. 120 lbs. of peas are then boiled with 20 gallons of water, until they are quite soft; they are then diluted with the liquor in which the corned beef has beeu boiled and seasoned with pepper.
On Tuesday morning codfish gravy is served with boiled potatoes. It is made as follows : on the preceding afternoon, 100 lbs. of confish are put into a bag and simmered long enough in water to loosen the bones. The bones are then removed, and the fish is picked into fine pieces. Next morning, 15 lbs. of lard are melted, and the picked fish put in; 20 lbs. of flour is then wetted evenly with water; then add to it six pails of water, and stir in the lard and fish; boil for fifteen minutes, and give a pint to each man.
The mush at Clinton prison is made thus: Soak 40 lbs. of meal in 25 gallons of4cold water for an hour; then put in 5 lbs. of lard, and boil for 5 hours. This would be much improved by putting in half a gill of molasses for each man, about half an hour before the boiling is finished. When the molasses is thus cooked with the mush, it has never been known to cause bowel complaints.
The bread at Clinton is made by the following process: 314 Ibs. of flour; 130 lbs. corn meal; 2 lbs. saleratus; 4 lbs. salt; 357 Ibs.-water. At night, mix half a gallon of yeast and two pails of water with sufficient flour to thicken it. In the morning dissolve the salt and saleratus; wet up the flour with the remainder of the water, and incorporate the mass thoroughly with the sponge; let it rise sufficiently; then put into pans and bake. The above amount of flour and meal makes 632 lbs. of bread when weighed, as it comes from the oven, and 615 Ibs. when kept for 24 hours.

We have been thus particular in giving the dietary economy of Clinton, believing that it will be of much interest and advantage to the prison officers, into whose hand this report may fall. As much meat, bread, and vegetables, are allowed to the men as they desire. The appearance of the men and the hospital register concur in showing that the diet is well suited to the condition of the prisoners.


Shay said...

This menu probably compares favorably with that given to soldiers during the same era.

SometimesKate said...

It probably compares favourably to the diets in most jails in America. I know someone who was jailed for being behind on child support, and he said lunch was a sandwich made of 2 slices of white bread and 1 slice of bologna, an apple that was mealy, and a carton of milk.