I once took for granted how nice it was to have the option to chew a stick of gum. Nothing is especially special about gum, hell.. there are thousands of equally simple things I can replace with the word “gum”. How about the use of a fork? A butter knife. It’s getting difficult to think of cutting my food with anything but my identification card, where one side has been grinded sharp for just this purpose.

Going back to foods, It has been over ten years since I’ve had tomato soup, asparagus, artichokes, steak, bacon ends and pieces, pea soup.. I could go on, but it would be pointless, as you’ve probably already *got* the point. Comfort foods are something we just don’t see very often, and so I thought it might be interesting for you to hear about the lengths we will go to have that *one* single bowl of pea soup.

It started with an idea to use the peas we occasionally receive in our dinner trays. Nobody eats them because they’re overcooked and come in very small portions. Not a very appetizing part of the meal. But I was imagining how, if we really tried hard enough, we could gather enough peas to feed my roommate and myself.

It became an exercise in logistics. Sure it’s possible… but how? And what would we even put in it? Well.. ham and cheddar. Pork. That’s an item we must buy from a quarterly food package, but I had just bought one and happened to have.. a lot of pork. Then I bought cheese and a new item on the store list. Diced ham. It was looking like the grocery list was nearly complete aside from the peas themselves. Peas seem to show up randomly, and were not listed on the menu that was posted in the unit, and so I’d have to be ready for the day that they just *decide* to serve them in a meal.

The wait took two weeks. When peas were being served for the meal, my roommate gave me about 30 minutes notice. We realized that it would take the peas from a large quantity of trays, and so he waited to ambush everyone walking back to the unit with their food. He stood near the door with a bowl and harvested peas from prisoners.

Knowing that this would not likely make enough to fill us both, I hired prisoners to gather peas from the other two wings, since of course, I’m not allowed to enter another wing. Delegation, we’ll call it. The unit has over 200 people and now we had a system that would ask every one of them.

The peas began rolling in.. When we began, it was a trickle, but after about ten minutes, we had people coming from every direction to give us peas from their trays… peas from trays that they got from other people. Peas peas peas. Peas began arriving from the other wings by the bowl, and we were forced to resort to filling a tub, a three gallon tub designed for medical purposes for soaking feet. The tub filled to the top and we were finally finished gathering, perhaps a bit on the heavy side.

Then I began mashing peas. An hour of mashing millions of peas. The cooking took two days of repeated usage of a microwave with a 6 minute allotted time limit per use. There are two microwaves in a wing, and over 70 people in the wing. However, now it was in constant use because we’d have to cook, and stop then cook and let other people cook. Continuing this through the next day was well worth our efforts, for we finally had a real bowl of pea soup after over ten years.

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