Follow by Email

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Lady Behind Gourmet Jail Food

Yesterday, as fortune would have it, I attended a meeting of The Friends of the Murrieta Library, where author Louise Mathews spoke about her career and promoted her book titled: Jailhouse Cuisine(From the Right Side of the Bars). I’ve listened to many presentations by interesting authors but this one seemed to be truly unique. First of all, the writer held the attention of everyone for over an hour of speaking, with amazing stories of her career as Chief of Food and Nutrition Services for the
Sheriff's Department in charge of food service management for enormous Prison systems. Feeding over 8000 souls a day had to be a tough job and thankfully, Louise Mathews wrote a book about it.

When interviewing for the top spot, she told them not to hire her if they wanted good food. Challenge accepted, she went to work changing things from old and outdated ways to new and improved ways such as the cook/chill system and no strip searches outside of the kitchen. Inmates benefited from her “laws,” her humor and her family recipes. Her 42 years of experience earning her a Doctorate of Food Service and many awards.

   "I would not recommend going to jail in many of our states 
as some places are better than others if you find yourself incarcerated."
--From Jailhouse Cuisine by Louise Mathews

 The audience at the library was doubling over in laughter when she talked about her lunch that scurried away in the South or the cake that moved. In her book, she even explains why pie seemed to have "magical wings." Overall, I learned so many interesting things that I had to share this information with anyone interested in the truth behind prison food. I found out what Pruno is, and even the unsavory methods male prisoners use to make it. Her broccoli soup recipe, in the book, points out that it's best to use white pepper instead of black pepper because inmates don't trust black flakes in a white soup, something that sounds helpful for anyone raising teenagers. I even picked up a tip about how to use leftover potato chips but I don’t want to give her secrets away. Find out more by clicking here. Her book is chock full of hearty, well-tested recipes and fascinating stories assembled by a hard working and phenomenally brave woman that I had the special honor to meet.


  1. Now that's a job no one thinks about.
    White pepper? I didn't know there was such a thing.

  2. That's something entirely different, Eve!

  3. I prefer white pepper to black pepper. It really works well in strognof, pinto beans, potato soup, etc.

  4. Interesting book. I wonder if how I use potato chips is like what she does,
    Not a fan of white pepper but I have to grind my black pepper super fine to use it.

    cheers, parsnip

  5. My ex-wife was a jail cook for awhile, back when they made everything from scratch. The people who worked there, like me in dispatch, could buy a meal for about two bucks, and the food was usually awesome. "Breakfast hash" -- which was served for lunch -- was my favorite.

  6. I couldn't even cook for a prison. It would be considered cruel and unusual punishment--for the prisoners.

  7. Great post Eve. Love her book cover!