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A bowl of green beans with orange halves, packets of mayonnaise and a bottle of Sriracha sauce.
Illustration by Janelle Retka

Every day you have to improvise with prison food, especially if you’re a vegetarian. The vegetables we receive, for example, are often soggy and overcooked, devoid of nutrients. So you end up just trying to make them taste better.

But even at Thanksgiving, there is a way to enjoy your meatless favorites. Here are three recipes for celebrating the holiday in prison.

Imitation Sweet Potatoes

Since we only get sweet potatoes once or twice a year, we have to be creative and improvise. 

Have you ever had carrots that are so overcooked they just fall apart? Well, next time that happens, mash them up. Then stir in sugar, cinnamon, a couple drops of syrup and, of course, butter. Heat and adjust seasonings to taste. You will think you’re eating sweet potatoes!

Green Beans With Pizazz 

Add a drizzle of juice from a freshly squeezed orange to your green beans. Then add a dollop of mayo (do not smother it!), followed by a squirt of salsa. Stir. Now you have green beans with pizazz.

Stove Top Stuffing Without the Stove Top

Get a loaf of bread. Remove the crust. Since we don’t have a big enough bowl, we use plastic garbage bags — three of them, one inside the other. Add some water and start kneading. Then mix in flavor packets from ramen noodle soups — at least five or six (chicken flavor recommended) — and add pepper. Since onions and celery are not available fresh, you have to pick them out of another meal and rinse them off. Chicken salad is a good source for celery. Put the stuffing in a bowl (whatever fits; you might have to separate it into two bowls), then cook until warm. Put it back in the bag once it’s cool, then start kneading it again. 

It’s a long process because you want to make sure all the flavors are blended into the stuffing. You have to continue to add water for moisture. But soon you will have homemade stuffing.

Enjoy your meatless favorites!

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Tina Lunney is a writer and student enrolled in the NJ-STEP prison college program with Raritan Valley Community College at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women. Lunney aspires to work toward a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice once she graduates.