Turkey Patty Night Scott Strothers
Forward By Christopher
Prison food is notorious for being inedible. One of the great scams perpetrated on the public are prison menus. They read like an a la cart offering of pleasantries: cheeseburger with tater tots; spaghetti with garlic bread and salad; breakfast burritos, juice and milk; turkey patty with ketchup, green beans, and fries. In actuality, the food purchased is of the lowest quality, least inexpensive, sourced
from prison farms or vendors of lowest bid. This is important because it has meaningful impact of the quality of the food.
“Cheeseburger” is literally a processed meat patty of “beef byproduct”, with a slice of “processed cheese food” an imitation cheese that’s neither cheese nor food. “Breakfast burritos” (ha, ha, ha!) that’s a good one, are miniature cheap, dry flour tortillas served with a side scoop of potatoes and reconstituted dehydrated eggs mixed together that are first mostly water, then potato, and then egg by content.
But turkey patty? These are unlike any food of similar name in the free world. They’re processed patties of turkey byproducts, butts, beaks, gizzards, innards fused together in a chemical process that involves ammonia, pressed into the form of a ‘patty’ and then served under the auspices of “turkey patty.” When cooked they stink like dead animal. There’s no pleasant smell, and taste. The most hardened of men refuse to eat them.
This story is from a chapter in a book being written by Scott Strothers. He’s incarcerated in the state of Ohio, and like every Ohio prisoner knows well the joy of “turkey patty”.
And now, so shall you.
PART III, CHAPTER 27 Turkey Patty Night
By Scott Strothers 378-003 (OH)
I was walking down to the chow hall with other guys from my block. Of approximately 130 guys in my block, only eight of us were going to dinner that night. There was a good reason for this low turnout: turkey patty. I wasn’t the type to complain about the food, but turkey patty was the only meal where I would request the vegetarian substitute. Unfortunately, the substitute that night, soy sloppy joe, wasn’t much better. The ODRC had to pair these two items together, for if they offered a better substitute nobody would get the turkey patty.
My experience at London Correctional showed how unpopular the turkey patties were. When London was doing that open-call lunch experiment, on the turkey patty days, the staff would announce “last call” about five minutes after “first call” — an amazing speed considering London had a population of nearly 2,500 inmates.
Upon entering the chow hall, I scanned my ID, grabbed a tray, and got in line. When I got to the first food service worker, I asked, “Could I get a sub please?”
“We’re out of subs,” he replied. “Only turkey patties.”
Damn, I thought. I guess I can’t avoid it tonight.
I reluctantly held out my tray and accepted a turkey patty. After going through the line and collecting the rest of my food, I stepped out into the eating area. The first thing I did was scan for my “food guy” — an older white guy who I would trade food with. He would give me some of the mains, fruits and vegetables, and I would give him some of the desserts and starchy food. With this exchange, I would win in the nutrition department, and he would win in the taste department.
Finding my food guy I walked up to his table and asked, “What’s up for grabs tonight?”
“I don’t want any of this sh**,” he replied.
I took his orange and scooped the diced carrots from his tray.
“Do you want this thing?” He asked, pointing to the turkey patty.
“Nope,” I said. “Do you want anything off of my tray?”
“What’d I do to you?” He replied sarcastically.
After exchanging food I then looked around the chow hall, trying to find a good seat. This decision was always a trial, and I had to quickly employ a form of social calculus.
The chow hall was crowded that night, so there weren’t a lot of open seats. Although not many people would come down for this meal, the kitchen C.O.’s would make up for it by calling multiple blocks at once, jamming people in there.
My first choice was always to eat with my friends, but none of them came down to this meal. I then looked for any acquaintances, anybody I knew from the block. The few people I knew, however, were at tables without vacancies.
I would have to sit with strangers that night. Although I harbored no racist feelings, I looked for a white table as that seemed to be the general rule. I didn’t subscribe to that rule, and I would often eat with my black friends, but I wouldn’t eat with black strangers so as not to offend anybody.
I saw an open seat, but the occupants were young tattooed, white guys who gave off a bad vibe, so I decided to keep looking.
There was an open seat near the entrance to the chow hall, but I knew I would be hit with a blast of cold air every time somebody opened the door, so I kept looking.
Finally, I saw an open seat in the center of the chow hall, and the other occupants were older, nonthreatening looking white guys. I decided this was my best bet.
I went over to the table, sat down and said, “Good evening.”
“Good evening,” one of them replied.
I then looked down at my turkey patty, which seemed to be partially burned.
Okay, it’s free protein, I thought. Let’s get this over with.
I picked up the big red, plastic spork the chow hall provided us, cut a piece of the patty, and ate it. As usual, the patty had a rubbery, slimy taste. Tonight however, it was more crunchy because it was burned.
Yuk, I thought.
I endured the taste and ate the rest of the patty.
Halfway through the meal one of the guys at my table stood up to leave.
“Anybody want this?” He said, pointing to an untouched turkey patty on his tray.
Nobody accepted his offer.
After finishing the rest of my meal in silence, I dumped my tray and left the chow hall. When I got outside, I was surprised to see a C.O. shaking guys down. What do they think guys would be sneaking out tonight? I wondered. Surely not the turkey patties.
Then I remembered the oranges. They were worried guys would take those back and use them to make hooch.
“Come here,” the C.O. instructed me. I walked over and assumed the shake-down position.
Damn, I thought. This meal wasn’t worth getting pawed over.
After patting me down, the C.O. said, “Alright.”
As I walked away from him I noticed a graveyard of smashed oranges littered on the ground. They wouldn’t just throw the oranges on the ground; they would stomp on them to make sure nobody else would come around later and pick them up.
What a waste, I lamented.
This was an example of making a rule on top of a rule. There was already a rule against making hooch — they just needed to enforce that rule. This was a minimum camp where most guys were near release. They shouldn’t make everybody go through all this unnecessary hassle for the actions of the few. If guys were making that stuff, the staff should just bust them and ride them out to a higher security camp. Ironically, at Lebanon correctional, a close-security camp, we were allowed to take one orange back with us from the chow hall.
All they’re really accomplishing, I thought, was to take nutritious food away from poor people.
I walked back to the block, glad to have gotten that meal out of the way. I had to endure poor food, poor company, and a pat down, but at least my belly would be full until breakfast the next morning, and that’s what mattered.
Scott Strothers (OH)
Read Scott’s Story at his blog at http://ch872526.wixsite.com/scotts-story.
I began lettersfromchristopher in 2019 to draw attention to the plight of America’s incarcerated. Thank you to all of you for following week after week.