Ever wondered what inmates at Cook County Jail eat when they’ve been really bad? Well, Chicago Magazine’s dining critic, Jeff Ruby, not only found out, but managed to snack a bit on the substance. It’s called nutraloaf, and according to Ruby it is “a thick orange lump of spite with the density and taste of a dumbbell.” Yum. So, what is this glorious creation? It contains, among other things, carrots, cabbage, kidney beans, potatoes, “dairy blend,” and “mechanically separated poultry.” Each hunk packs a whopping 1,110 calories, meaning two are all you need to survive in solitary confinement for the whole day. But just like stale lembas bread may get you to the gates of Mordor, that doesn’t mean it tastes good. In fact, it doesn’t taste like anything.
Though Ruby describes it as looking like a “neglected fruitcake” with “mushy, disturbingly uniform innards,” it actually tastes like nothing. “Nutraloaf tastes blank, as though someone physically removed all hints of flavor.” According to the district manager, that’s the whole point.
Taking one for the team, isn’t quite the accurate term for what Ruby has done here. Bland food is probably not going to stop many criminals from committing crimes in the first place. But this does present, more vividly than anything Dante could write, a food lover’s hell. We will be haunted by this for years to come.
Dining Critic Tries Nutraloaf, the Prison Food for Misbehaving Inmates [Chicago Magazine]