“…cooking in prison becomes a means to find dignity and a social space among the prison community and, inevitably, also triggers a repositioning within the family of origin.”
“Cooking in maximum security” is a book that certainly doesn’t leave you any indifferent. It’s a collection of recipes from the collective MoCa, which involves inmates from different High Security Italian prisons.
For each recipe in the book before getting to the list of ingredients, you get introduced to the tools needed to realize it accompanied by simple yet accurate illustrations from the artist Mario Trudu. One of the main objectives of the collective is in fact not to teach how to cook, but to give ideas and importance to the most ordinary objects, which can be transformed and used for unusual porpoises: the TV, for example, will be perfect to help rise the dough for the bread, and a grater can be made with the bottom of the camp stove. The name of the collective, which stands for “Mondo Carcerario” (Prisons’ World) actually revokes one very precious object: the Moka. The classic italian coffee maker is not only valuable because the ritual of making a coffee in such a depersonalizing environment gains an extra importance, but also because it can be used for many other unusual purposes.
This book, as his curator says, develops as a “story about the attitude to put our efforts and value the things we have, facing the hard structure and rules of the prisons, and gaining strength from these restrictions. These people are every day challenged to a complex set of operations, just to establish a personal relationship with food”.
From this work, obviously, many ethical issues surface concerning the conditions to which inmates are exposed. Still, the main message that it carries and leave us regards how cooking is not only an act we do to survive, but how it represents a more intimate and deep ritual that we seek also in the most inhuman situations, with the final goal to not only feed our body but also our soul.
If you want to know more about this project, check out the website:
Illustration: Mario Trudu