From the Big House to Your House

From the Big House to Your House is the title of a recently released cookbook put together by six women, which may not seem all that strange, until you consider that the women are all serving at least 50 years in a Texas prison, five of them for murder.

Inmates at the Mountain View Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the cookbook was published with the help of a mother of one of the inmates and a Seattle-based group called The Justice Institute that works with convicts who maintain their innocence.

The recipes are not what inmates are served in the cafeteria, but rather made inside the cells with items such as empty chip bags for heating and ID cards used to chop ingredients like tuna and mackerel, which are fodder for nachos, according to one of the inmates.

More than 200 recipes fill out From the Big House to Your House written by Barbara Holder, Celeste Johnson, Ceyma Bina, Louanne Larson, Tina Marie Cornelius and Trenda Kemmerer, creatively using items such as crushed potato chips, powdered milk, cream cheese packets, dry seasoning packets and other instant items purchased through the prison commissary.

The website womenandprison.org cites that the women “document survival in an environment where ‘appropriate’ behavior has been all but legislated out of existence by arbitrary and inconsistent laws. And while the recipes invite readers to imagine themselves within this system, their accompanying facts inspire us to challenge and critique it. Ultimately, these women make Lemon Coconut Bars and fun facts tell a very complicated, compelling story.”

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