Nothing says lovin’

By Hyacinth Miles

Now that the holiday season is over and you ate too much, too often, and two too many helpings, you’re probably thinking about the best way to shed some of that excess weight. But before you curse all those tasty calories, take a second to be thankful that you had such good food to eat. Not everyone did, you know. Take Martha Stewart, who in a holiday note on her personal web site ( wrote, “I have had time to think, time to write, time to exercise, time to not eat the bad food.” I guess this means she isn’t expecting to be served the Brown Sugar Gravlax, Leek Dip, and Twice Baked Potatoes with Caviar her Martha Stewart Living web site is recommending for New Year’s Eve.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (motto: “Rated Four Bars by Zagat!”) disagrees with her assessment of the cuisine, saying she isn’t eating sour grapes but rather is them. A spokesperson said, “The quality, service, and cleanliness at any of our prisons is more than appropriate for a correctional setting.” In other words, if you did the crime, don’t expect any thyme. The spokesman went on to say that the government spends more than $2 per day feeding an inmate—don’t ignore the “more than” in that sentence—and food preparation follows military recipe standards, a phrase he uttered just in time for it to be nominated as Best Oxymoron of 2004. Obviously he isn’t a chef. In fact, he probably thinks Lemony Snicket is a fancy French dessert.

I suspect Martha’s problem is, in fact, a case of sour grapes and she’s upset because a group of prisoners at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla (motto: “We we were were bad bad”) beat her to the punch, and it wasn’t a champagne punch, either. They’ve published a 163-page book called The Convict Cookbook, a compilation of hard time-tested recipes that can be made in a jail cell without a stove, refrigerator, or Williams-Sonoma three-in-one lemon zester/garlic press/tuna strainer. The recipes include Jailhouse Pizza, which uses uncooked ramen noodles as a crust, and baklava in which flour tortillas, peanut butter, and bananas take the place of that boring old phyllo, honey, and nuts. Hey, at least they sound better than Cell Block Fudge, a concoction I’m scared to even think about. You have to wonder who’s going to buy this cookbook. After all, why anyone who’s not in prison would want to eat any of these things is beyond me, though I guess it beats microwaving another package of Taste of the Ukraine Cup-a-Dioxin Soup for dinner.

If none of the jailhouse recipes sound like they’d even be fit for a dog, well, they aren’t, at least not judging by The Good Food Cookbook for Dogs. This new book will change the way your dog looks at Alpo—as in turning up his nose and walking away. Featuring recipes like macaroni and cheese with sausage, beef, and bean stir fry, and dog barf with dust bunnies au gratin, the book was written by an insane woman who figures there are plenty of other people besides her who have more money than a life, and she hopes to sell a copy to each one of them.

I doubt it’s going to do well. After all, most people who want their dog to eat freshly cooked meals aren’t going to be doing the cooking. That’s why I’m putting my money on seeing Dining Doggie take-out sections sprouting up in the supermarket right next to the pre-made sushi (“So fresh you’ll think it was made last week!”), nuke-and-serve entrees, and salad bars full of lead-filled pasta salad priced per pound.

Both of these cookbooks are lacking in one department, though—cooking with Twinkies. That’s why it’s good to hear that as a part of the snack cake’s 75th anniversary celebration—and I use the term “cake” as loosely as possible—parent company Interstate Bakeries is searching for the 75 best Twinkie recipes to include in a cookbook. And you wonder why Interbake is in bankruptcy.

They already have recipes on their web site ( ) for Twinkie tacos, sushi, and kebobs, so you’re going to have to come up with something more original than that. And no, I don’t mean fried Twinkies. They already have a recipe for Scottish Twinkie Fritters in which you dip the Twinkie in batter, then fry it.

Hang on, can you? I think I just felt an artery clog.

Actually, a fried Twinkie isn’t as farfetched as you might think. After all, if deep-fried Mars bars are a big hit in Scotland why not dump everything in the fryer? According to The Lancet, a respected British medical journal that should have better things to publish, batter-dipped Mars bars are not only real, popular, and a refreshing change from haggis salad sandwiches, they’re available in more than a fifth of Scotland’s fish-and-chip shops. Kind of takes the mystery out of why Scotland has the highest rate of chronic heart disease in Western Europe, doesn’t it?

Martha Stewart should consider all this well before she writes her Valentine’s Day message. After all, it’s a safe bet she won’t be served Beef Wellington, red grapefruit and fennel salad, and dried cranberry shortbread tarts. Hey, she’s in prison. There’s a reason the word “mess” is in mess hall. n