Prisoner’s Thai Noodles
by Byron Case
For afternoons on which the prison chow hall serves the truly inedible—turkey Tetrazzini (spaghetti, powdered cheese, ground turkey), sloppy joe (white bread, tomato paste, ground turkey), or beef chow mein (bean sprouts, soy sauce, ground turkey)—the discerning inmate will remain in his cell to prepare this salty, savory Asian-inspired dish instead.
You will need:
8 ounces boiling water
1 package ramen noodles with beef seasoning packet
1 tablespoon dry minced onion
1 tablespoon diced jalapeno pepper
2 tablespoons chucky peanut butter (or creamy, with a handful of crushed roasted peanuts)
While waiting for the immersion heater you’ve placed into a small container to heat, open the package of ramen and crack apart the noodles to fit the bowl from which you will be eating. Empty seasoning packet over the noodles, then scatter onion and peppers in as well. Add peanut butter. Lick your spork as desired, provided other prisoners aren’t around to make suggestive comments.
Once the water has come to a boil, pour it gradually over the dollop of peanut butter in your bowl, stirring intermittently to ensure thorough melting. Stop stirring and place lid over the bowl once globs of peanut butter are no longer visible. Leave the covered bowl undisturbed for five minutes, or until the noodles reach preferred tenderness.
* * * * *
Take care staring out your window at the gray buildings around you—numbed as you are by years of ennui—so as not to lose track of time. Far better to tune your TV to the latest Anthony Bourdain marathon on Travel Channel until the first commercial break. As timers go, you could do worse than No Reservations.
Uncover your bowl. The noodles on top will be somewhat drier than those beneath. Using a folding motion, use your spork to mix the noodles into a uniform moistness. As this is a meal for one, garnish is both unnecessary and a bit depressing. Eat immediately, with or without contraband handmade chopsticks, while suppressing the inevitable feeling of melancholy and trying not to compare this meal with any you had before in that long-gone other life.
|Byron Case’s essays, poems and other writing have appeared in Common Ground Review, Meridian, and in the anthologies Requiem for a Paper Bag (Fireside, 2009), and The Moment (Harper Perennial, 2012) among other publications. You can read more at thepariahssyntax.blogspot.com.|