Sometime during Operation Desert Storm, when one of my brothers was home on leave from Iraq, he’d said to me that the soldiers were always looking for ways to stay alert and to stay awake on long shifts. I asked him, “What do you guys do to stay awake?” To which he replied, “Energy drinks and coffee.” Wow. You’d think that the military would have a better solution to something like that, kinda like MREs in a pinch. I guess there’s no substitute for good old fashioned caffeine.
I knew where he was coming from. I drank a lot of coffee back then as I wrote short stories while practicing excercises in my Writer’s Digest. I drank so much I could literally drink a cup and go immediately to sleep. Unfortunately, the more you drink, the less the benefit.
Eventually drinking coffee became more of an exercise to stave off caffeine headaches than utility as a pick me up. I needed a solution. Leave it to convicts to find one: enter the “foxy.”
Foxies are prison made energy drinks consisting of enough coffee, koolade, and soda to blow your kidneys 5 feet across the room. A single foxy is capable of energizing anyone to the point of jitters and excitability, and I’m pretty sure smashes FDA health and safety guidelines. Retail energy drinks can’t hold a candle to foxies. It’s just what our soldiers needed! I remember thinking.
So I told bro’ about foxies and heard the excitement in his voice. I promptly mailed him a bag of koolade, coffee, and pop in a care package along with precise instructions on how to prepare the concoction.
Foxies aren’t for everyone. They’re strong, and I’ve seen convicts recoil from first sips. The biggest and baddest MF’s sometimes lets out a ‘woo-wee!’ upon first swig. So when bro’ reported back that foxies were a hit with the soldiers I immediately felt proud. From the oppositite side of the planet, a convict had made it easier for an American soldier to stay up long enough to snipe that one S.O.B. and send him to his virgins.
Then there are “coffee bombs.” These didn’t exist back then, and are something the girls at the South Dakota Women’s Prison recently hipped me to. A full shot of instant coffee, wrapped in a single ply of toilet paper origami style, placed into the back of the mouth and then chased down with soda, water or that cup of coffee you’ve already made. I had to try it!
The first time seemed awkward, and I could taste individual crystals assault my tongue with bitter force, but by the second coffee bomb, I’d mastered the art of the wash down. I even discovered that a coffee bomb chased with a can of pop was the perfect way to energize for several hours. Don’t blame me though, should your heart do weird things in the mean time.
There’s more to prison life than foxies and coffee bombs. Convicts love making ‘breaks,’ prison made food comprised of ingredients purchased in commissary, through state approved vendors in the form of food boxes or obtained from the kitchen.
What’s a break? A break is any prison made meal. It’s name is also a verb in addition to being a noun, as in “Bubba is breaking right now” and can be an adjective as in “Did ja’ break already?” But the name itself aptly describes the act of the moment, which is to literally take a break from the madness going on around you to make something to eat.
Every convict breaks. As I wrote this post over the weekend, I initially made a bagel break each consisting of shredded roast beef, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, Velveeta, and onions. Everything was purchased through commissary (save for the onions, but we won’t get into that). I then individually wrapped each bagel, stored them in zip locking baggies, and ate them over the next 2 days as lunch, dinner, and snacks.
Everything sold in commissary or via food boxes comes processed, precooked, and ready to eat out of the package. So there’s little worry of anything spoiling over 24-48 hours, so long as you keep things out of the direct sun and heat.
Guys break for a number of reasons, whether it’s celebrating holidays and birthdays, or the fact that it’s Sunday again and football is finally on — the list is long. Nowadays I break so I don’t have to step foot into our COVID petri dish here known as the Chow Hall (aka cafeteria), where no chemical ever touches a table lest a germ die. I also break to decompress from a tough day. There’s nothing more relaxing than stuffing your face simply because you can.
Convict diets span a wide spectrum from unhealthy to outright deadly. Most of this stems from a lack of nutritional options in commissary and through meals in the chow hall. At my institution there are 3 different types of nuts and seeds, but 50 different types of chips, candy bars, pastries, Ho Ho’s, Ding Dongs, ice creams, etc. Don’t get me started about the food served in the chow hall, this post is already long enough.
So, all that said, I now leave you with a handful of recipes and convict secrets on food survival in the Joint. I’ve tried all of them, some more than a thousand times, others I recently discovered. The “Taco Bravos” and “Orange Chicken” recipes were sent to me by women at the Dayon Correctional Institution in Ohio. I’ve tried them and they are excellent. All other recipes are creations by guys at institutions throughout Ohio.
One last thing: in some of these recipes I’ve listed the exact retail brand and product name, because these are what we have access to and nothing else. So if you want the entire experience, you should buy the exact food brand. However, you can substitute with other brands and still come away with a very good understanding and experience. Totally up to you — enjoy!
This tried and true prison energy drink is guaranteed to wake you up, if not stop your heart.
You will need 1 can of ice cold cola (Coke or generic equivalent is best), Instant coffee, and a bag of your favorite flavored koolade (sugar only, no sugar free crap)
1. In a tall cup, pour 1 centimeter ONLY of hot water. It’s important you DO NOT pour more than that. You can use hot water from the sink, that’s what we do. The hotter the better. Spoon in a heaping tablespoon of instant coffee, swish until it dissolves.
2. Add 4 heaping tablespoons of your favorite flavored koolade. Swish until it dissolves. You may need to use a spoon to stir and to get it to dissolve. Don’t be too worried if you still see crystalized koolade, just do your best because you’ll be stirring it again soon. If you did this correctly the bottom of your cup should look like a dark, ominous puddle of insanity.
3. Fill the cup with ice until cubes poke above the rim.
4. Crack open the cola and VERY, VERY, SLOWLY pour the cola onto the ice until the entire can has been emptied. The coffee and koolade may react with the cola if the can is not already ice cold, causing the mixture to bubble up ominously as you pour. If it reaches the rim, stop and allow a moment for the bubbling to settle. Continue slowly, repeat process if necessary. Once the entire can is poured, with a long spoon, stir for 10-15 seconds. You are simply getting the contents to mix, that’s all. Stirring should be a bit difficult due to all the ice, but trust me you’ll be glad that ice is there (and so will your kidneys).
5. Drink at your own pace. Enjoy!
The girls at the South Dakota Women’s Prison sure know how to shock you back to life with this one. What are they doing up there anyway? Do they not have water?
You will need Instant coffee, a cup or can of something to wash down the coffee (it can be a soda, water — whatever) and a single square of toilet paper. If your toilet paper is double ply, peel it apart until it’s a single sheet. Here in the joint toilet paper is unscented, thin, single or double ply–like sandpaper. If you’re dealing with that soft, fluffy stuff like Charmin, I recommend you find something else. Maybe swipe a single square from the local gas station restroom.
1. Lay the single ply square of toilet paper on a table.
2. Spoon a single spoon of instant coffee onto the square. The amount should be the same amount you’d use for a full cup.
3. Carefully fold the square into a smaller square so that the coffee is inside. Be careful that the square doesn’t break open, as it will be full.
4. With the square between two fingers place it far back into your mouth and onto your tongue.
5. Promptly wash the square down with your soda, water — whatever. It may seem awkward, and you may think something like that won’t go down, but as soon as the liquid hits the square, it’ll burst open dissolving and slide down your throat. If you do it correctly, you should barely taste the coffee.
That’s all there is to this one. Enjoy!
SPICY CHICKEN BBQ WRAPS
Flavor Mate Southwest Chipotle seasoning
10 Packets BBQ sauce
Sweet & hot Asian sauce
1 Pack 8″ flour tortillas
1 Pre-cooked package brown rice
1 Can Isadora Black Beans
1 Pack sweet corn
2 Packs Comal Pollo Deshebrado (shredded chicken)
1 Johnsonville original summer sausage (Large)
2 Eastview Farms Smoked Pepperjack Cheese
1. Combine rice, 1-2 Tbsp. Tabasco sauce, 2 Tbsp. Southwest Chipotle, and enough hot water so it barely covers the rice. Stir, cover, and set aside.
2. In a bowl, add both chicken packets, summer sausage (cut into small pieces), all 10 packets of BBQ sauce, 3 Tbsp. Tabasco sauce, 3-4 Tbsp. Southwest Chipotle seasoning, 2 Tbsp. minced garlic, 2-3 Tbsp. onion powder, and 1/4 bottle of sweet and hot Asian sauce.
3. Microwave meat mixture for 3-4 minutes and stir. Repeat process until sauce thickens (normally around 12-14 minutes). Set aside.
4. Rinse black beans. Combine with corn and cook for 4 minutes, then drain. Add to rice mixture and stir well.
5. Cut cheese into small pieces. Put in bowl with water and microwave until melted.
6. Lay out tortillas and equally distribute rice mix, then BBQ mix, and then melted cheese.
2 orange drink packets (these are small koolade packets)
1 bag pork rinds
1/2 bag instant rice
1 veggie seasoning
1 pouch of chicken
2 packages jalapenos
1. Marinate the chicken for a few hours in equal amounts of soy sauce, mustard, BBQ sauce, hot sauce and several jalapenos.
2. Cook rice with veggie seasoning.
3. Mix orange drink mix with water and soak pork rinds in it until softened.
4. Mix chicken, mayo, sun flower seeds and jalapeno cheese to taste.
5. Add rice and pork rinds.
6. Stir well. Serves two people. Enjoy!
1 Pack flour tortillas
1 bag nacho chips
Jalapeno cheese spread
1 bag refried beans
1. Prepare refried beans in a bowl and set aside.
2. Dollop beans on a tortilla.
3. Lay chips on each side.
4. Spoon rice, meat, and jalapeno mix into the middle.
5. Put on cheese spread and cream cheese.
6. Fold in half.
*If you enjoyed any of these great prison made meals and drinks, share these recipes with others. We can’t always have all the fun you know.