Former Calgary Remand Centre inmate concocts jail cookbook

Raylene Belanger used whatever she could buy at the remand canteen to develop recipes during her seven months in remand.

Raylene Belanger developed recipes with Doritos and juice crystals

Recipes in the Jail Junk Cookbook contain ingredients available to inmates at the Calgary Remand Centre. (CBC)

Raylene Belanger never enjoyed the food at the Calgary Remand Centre.

"It was horrible. It's awful," said the Calgary woman, who spent seven months at the facility.

Belanger would not disclose why she ended up in remand other than to say "bad choices."

On the days Belanger couldn't stomach what was served on the cafeteria food tray, her only other option was to purchase packaged food like candy and instant noodles from the canteen.

Raylene Belanger developed recipes for her Jail Junk cookbook when she was an inmate for 7-months at the Calgary Remand Centre. (Raylene Belanger)

"I couldn't eat it after awhile."

The lack of choices motivated the 32-year-old to start developing meals she could make with ingredients on hand.

Recipes with tongue-in-cheek names like Bail Burrito, Convict Coffee and Root Beer Bandits.

For her Chillin' Like Villian Taco Salad, Belanger tossed lettuce, chili, Thousand Island Dressing and Doritos.

Creative cookware

Because remand inmates don't have access to cookware, Belanger had to get creative.

She would save her instant noodle bowls and chip bags from the canteen and use them for food preparation and serving platters.

Some of Belanger's recipes, such as her Fruity Fraud Salad, requires patience and teamwork.

"We get a full banana, full apple, full orange — everything like that and save it up for a whole week between two inmates. Cut it all up, add yogurt, juice crystals and a little pudding," she said.

"So good. And it's worth the wait."

Jail Junk cookbook

When the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary got wind of what Belanger was doing, they paid to have her recipes published.

Titled, Jail Junk, the cookbook also includes recipes for mascara and disposable shower sandals made with menstrual pads. 

"So they [inmates] don't get foot fungus," said Belanger. 

Her cookbook now available for $15 with half of the proceeds going to the agency's outreach program for women in the Calgary Remand Centre.

Belanger gets 40 per cent of the profit and the remaining ten per cent goes to printing costs.

To order a copy, email or visit the society's Facebook Page.


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