Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Pruno: Prison Nectar of the Gods

Having a dinner party soon? Here's a handy how-to guide for making your own Pruno. If you can get past the smell and the mold, you'll be in flavor country:

"Pruno, a prison wine created from fruit, sugar and ketchup, is such a vile and despicable beast in the California state penal system that prisoners can't eat fresh fruit at lunch.

"Back in December 2002, the warden at Lancaster prison in Los Angeles County removed fresh fruit from box lunches in the maximum-security lockup, as an effort to reduce violence. Apparently, sober, scurvy-addled felons are much easier to control than drunken, violent convicts.

"By most accounts, pruno isn't something a normal human would want to drink, so potent that two gallons is said to be 'a virtual liquor store,' enough to get a dozen people mindblowingly wasted. And while it tastes so putrid that even hardened prisoners gulp it down while holding their noses, they'll go to incredible lengths to make it, whipping up batches from frosting, yams, raisins and damn near everything.

"In a San Francisco Chronicle article from 1990 called 'The Games Guards Play,' author Dannie Martin describes how prison guards -- or hacks -- would search prison cells for any sign of pruno. But instead of taking it away, the hacks who were really hell-bent on getting even would piss in it. As Martin quips, 'Wine that has been urinated in several times is far too presumptuous, even for a convict's palate.'"