#4218: Instant Spreads – The Original Mix – United States

For those who aren’t familiar, a ‘spread’ is a term referring to a special meal made in prison by inmates. Here’s what Wikipedia had to say about them –

spread is a prison meal made by inmates. Spreads are often made with commissary ingredients, such as instant ramen and corn puffs. Spreads can be simple meals, or elaborate and inventive combinations of ingredients. Spreads may be used to supplement or replace the government-mandated meals provided to prisoners by the prison, due to the unpalatable and insubstantial nature of many prison meals.[1]

The importance of spread and other commissary foods has led to the use of ramen as a currency in some prisons in the United States.[4][5] The Michigan Department of Corrections reported that ramen was the most sold commissary item in 2016, ahead of coffee, rice, soap and razors.[6] A 2016 study of a male state prison in the United States indicated that Top Ramen noodles were one of the most valuable prison commodities, due to the declining quality and quantity of food in many prisons.[7] Diminished access to commissary food during the COVID-19 pandemic has caused inmates in some prisons to have anxiety over their ability to obtain adequate food.[8]

Spreads are often created using ingredients purchased from prison commissaries or saved from meals provided by the prison. Prisoners are forced to use substitutes for cooking appliances and tools due to prison safety regulations. Common substitutions include hot plates which do not reach boiling point in place of stoves, and ID cards in place of knives or other cutting tools.[9] Some prisoners create heating elements by improvising a “stinger” by using electricity and metal nail clippers to heat up a pot of water.[10]

The base ingredient for most spreads is cooked instant ramen noodles, to which other ingredients are added for flavor and nutritional value.[11] Shelf stable snack ingredients like pork rindscorn puffsdrink mixes and canned tuna are often combined into improvised recipes. Some dishes are approximations of common meals enjoyed by inmates such as dumplingstamales, or soups, while others are more experimental.[2][12] Inmates are limited in the ingredients available to them because of the expense of commissary food, often relying on money sent from relatives outside of prison.[13]

I’ve made quite a few prison ramen burritos, which are kind of similar to this product, but then different. What we have here is an innovative way to make something very similar that an inmate may prepare in prison, however done in a convenient way, ready to go. Shout out to BigTiny for sending this over – let’s give it a try!

Instant Spreads – The Original Mix – United States

Detail of the back of the packaging (click to enlarge). Contains pork. To prepare, add boiling water into the package as you like and seal with the zipper for 3~5 minutes. Finally, stir and enjoy! They also mention after cooking to add mayonnaise, mustard, hot sauce, squeeze cheese, sliced jalapenos, beef sticks, chili beans, etc.

The uncooked product – as you can see, we have spicy corn puffs, pork rinds, and crushed instant noodles.

Finished (click to enlarge). Added cheese, green onion, jalapenos, Cholula Chili Garlic hot sauce, mayonnaise, CHOMP jalapeno beef stick, and Keebler Club crackers on the side. I had thought perhaps I added too much liquid to the bag, but in five minutes, we have a non-watery kind of slurry of the three main ingredients which are crushed noodles, pork rinds, and corn puffs. It’s pretty good I must say; the richness of the pork rinds work better than I expected. I think this would also make a great prison-style burrito as well. I’m serious – I could have sat and scarfed this whole thing down. Very impressed! 4.5 out of 5.0 stars.  No bar code.

Instant Spreads – On Instagram

Watch me cook on Instant Noodle Recipe Time!

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