Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Prison Food: Philadelphia 1874.

Monday’s recipe source was The Journal of Prison Discipline and Philanthropy (Philadelphia, 1868,) which was published annually under the direction of "The Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons." I was sure there would be another story or two from a journal with such a theme, and I was right. Today I want to share another prison food story with you, but first, I give you the quotation which appears in the front matter:

And may a good Providence deliver us from the evil of attempting to coin money out of the crimes of our fellow beings, by sacrificing the moral and religious interests of our prisoners to the desire of making a prison a source of pecuniary profit. In this matter at least we "cannot serve God and Mammon."

The society certainly pursued its research with great zeal, and over many decades it obtained information about prison conditions from many locations in the United States, Britain, Europe, and elsewhere, so that they could be compared with those in Pennsylvania. The 1874 volume contains the following information on the dietary in two local prisons:

An opportunity is presented to us to institute a comparison between the practice of prisons abroad and those in our own City, and we use it first in shewing how prisoners are fed in the County Prison and in the Penitentiary in this City, and then presenting the dietaries of European prisons. To those who take an interest in the fare of prisons, especially those who would alleviate the miseries of public prisons, this kind of knowledge must be interesting, if not useful. The same authority which we cite to show the difference between prison fare in Philadelphia and the dietaries of European prisons, gives us the means of comparing the criminal code of the states of Europe with that of this Commonwealth, and especially the discipline of the prisons of this City and those in different parts of Europe.
Among the difficulties of arranging for a steady and satisfactory administration of a large prison, is that of providing a good dietary. Not merely the supply of good food and good cooking, but especially with the insurance of a proper variety so as to keep up the appetite of the prisoner as well as to gratify it. This difficulty is much greater in a county prison than in a penitentiary, because in the former there is such a constant change in the prisoners and in their number, that it is difficult to provide with any exactness.
In the Philadelphia County Prison the arrangement for supply is something as follows:
Coffee sweetened with sugar, white bread.
While these articles are served out with some reference to equality of shares, there is really little or no limit, excepting the appetite of the prisoner, more is asked without exciting the astonishment or ire of any official; and the gauge of the wants of each prisoner is soon taken and a sufficiency for him is served.
On Tuesdays and Fridays, mutton is served. The soup made from the best sheep that are brought to the market, and the meat is served with it. It has been found much better to receive certain cuts of the best mutton than to take the supply in the whole carcasses, and general satisfaction was expressed by the prisoners at the change, when it was made last summer.
On Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, soup is made from beef, and the meat from which the soup is made is served at the same time with the soup, though separate from it. The soup for every day in the year is seasoned with herbs and enriched with rice or some other appropriate vegetable matter, and bread supplied ad libitum.
In the winter, usually once in two weeks, (on Sunday,) pork is supplied to the prisoners, and beans usually served with the meat, and occasionally bean soup is served with the beef. Good potatoes at all times.
For Supper.
Part of the prisoners use cocoa, sweetened with sugar and the others have tea, sweetened with sugar. There is no limit to these supplies, a prisoner can have from half a pint to a pint and a half, with as much good white flour bread as he asks for.
Persons of either sex who are under special care of the physician, receive extra food, and are served at times to suit themselves.
One of the most important parts of prison aliment is bread, and in the County Prison, the bread supplied to the prisoners of all grades is equal to the best purchased at the bakeries of the City, few families have better bread on their tables than is supplied to the prisoners. It has been demonstrated that good flour at a fair price is cheaper than poor flour at a low price. Arrangements have been made for some additional variety in the food of the prisoners.
What may be called "the better class" of prisoners, those who have fared best before they entered the prison, are almost without exception satisfied and gratified with this food. There are usually, in all such institutions, many who, though perhaps finding the food better than they had expected when they first entered the place, are unwilling to submit to rules of order, propriety, cleanliness and regularity, necessary to such a place, without fault finding. Hence it is not unusual while enquiring along the cells of male convicts to hear the inmates of several cells express their satisfaction with treatment and food, while those in a cell next to these declare the food intolerable in quality, and deficient in quantity. These evils of the grumblers are scarcely known in Europe, strict discipline and severe application of penalties, lead the convict there to quiet submission; while excessive out-of-door interference leads a few of the inmates of our Prison to undervalue the advantages which they enjoy beyond what they had in foreign jails, and to overrate the inconveniences of confinement, and the want of artificial stimulants, and the necessity of conforming to general rules.
Enquiry shows that the amount of beef supplied to each prisoner daily is a little over twelve ounces of meat, independent of bone and gristle. This is by far a larger amount of meat than is contained in the dietary of any European prison, and is found, with very few exceptions, satisfactory to the prisoners.
For The Sick.
The physician of the prison has complete direction of the dietary of every prisoner reported as unwell, and food of a good quality, from beef tea to chickens, is supplied, and such appliances as may be prescribed by the "Doctor." Mutton chops, beef steak, and butter for the bread are usual for the convalescent. Of course such provisions are furnished only on the order of the physician.
Eastern Penitentiary.
The following is the established dietary of the Eastern Penitentiary, in this City; of course all gives way to the wants of the sick, and the directions of the physician:—
Breakfast.Every Morning.—Coffee made of Rio coffee, two pounds, and roasted rye, two pounds; with one pound, or one and a half pounds, bread.
Dinner.Sunday.—Beef, soup, with beans and potatoes.
Monday.—Beef and soup.
Tuesday.—Mutton, soup, and potatoes.
Wednesday.—Beef and soup.
Thursday.—Mutton, soup, and potatoes.
Friday.—Beef and soup.
Saturday.—Mutton, soup, and potatoes.
Supper.—Tea and bread.
During three months of the year, sour crout and pork, one dinner in each week.
Quantity of meat about one pound for each individual.

There is a dearth of historical recipes for prison food, for the obvious reason that it was generally considered necessary for humane reasons only to provide food with sufficient caloric value and basic nutritional requirements, and for disciplinary reasons to be bereft of any enhancement or artifice.  

I did however find a recipe for soup from the dietary of the prison system in Newcastle, Northumberland, England, 1838.

The soup is prepared according to the following recipe (as given by the contractor) at 8d. per gallon.
For 100 gallons of soup.
100 lbs. of beef.                    10 ½ lbs of onions or leeks.
67 lbs. of barley.                   10 ¼ lbs. of salt.
53 lbs. of peas.                      10 oz. of pepper.

The food appears to be of good quality, and, as will be seen, is abundant in quantity. Some of the prisoners, however, remarked, and I did not at all doubt their declaration, that "they could eat more if they had it." Many of the prisoners are keel-men and pit-men; and it appears that these people are in the habit of living very well, and are blessed with a strong appetite. This circumstance was mentioned in explanation of the unusually liberal dietary. Notwithstanding the supply of food is considerably above the average (at least the average in my district), the cost is very moderate; being at the present time about 3\d. per day, without any addition for cooking, &c, the food being supplied ready cooked. Additional supplies from friends outside the prison are allowed to the untried, but not to the convicted.

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