A few days ago, Judge Richard Kopf brought up his unfortunate ruling against a prisoner who complained of being served the vile and dreaded nutraloaf.
Prison Loaf, sometimes called Nutraloaf, disciplinary loaf, food loaf, confinement loaf, seg loaf, or a special management meal, is a food served in prisons to inmates who have misbehaved in various ways. It looks like meatloaf but it is all the ingredients of a meal ground up together. Prison loaf is usually bland, and often tastes awful, but prison wardens argue that nutraloaf provides enough nutrition to keep prisoners healthy without requiring utensils to be issued.
In my head, I juxtaposed the prisoner’s dilemma with the bitching of Oberlin College students, who had to suffer the indignity of an inauthentic bành mí.
Instead of a crispy baguette with grilled pork, pate, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs, the sandwich used ciabatta bread, pulled pork and coleslaw. “It was ridiculous,” Nguyen said. “How could they just throw out something completely different and label it as another country’s traditional food?”
Forget that baguettes are French. Instead, ponder how Nguyen would feel if he was forced to eat nutraloaf instead. At least it’s authentic. Authentic nutraloaf.
Food is too spicy or bland, according to your preference. But its purpose is to introduce nutrients into your body. You know what does that really well? Nutraloaf. But it is nutricious, if not delicious. And if it’s good enough to feed to prisoners, who are certainly marginalized, are college students so much better? Check your higher ed privilege, kids.
While no one wants to be there, we’re heading to a life of nutraloaf because of the never-ending whining about everything else. Anyone enjoying anything else does so for reasons that are now characterized as malevolent, or worse. The cries, and the screams, of the most seemingly inconsequential problems, the trifles that cause Judge Kopf to toss the nutraloaf complaint, as if every one of them causes such pain and trauma that it’s unsurvivable.
Oh sure, they survive. They thrive, in fact, despite their incessant complaining. No college student has yet been struck dead by a building named after Woodrow Wilson. No college student has lost a limb from reading a Greek tragedy, or a classic written by a dead white European male.
Perhaps there have been tears when someones delicate ears heard a cuss word, or a dirty joke, or someone discussing the Washington Redskins. But if it’s a microaggression to call America the land of opportunity, or even the melting pot, then cry away. But you’ll get over it.
Instead, we can offend no one by never asking for food that’s too spicy or bland, so that someone’s taste buds are sad. We can never tell a joke, funny, silly or even stupid, lest someone be offended by its references. We can hate Harrison Bergeron for how he refuses to give a shit about anyone else’s feelings of inadequacy.
We can all eat nutraloaf. No one will like it. But it will provide us with the lowest quality of food necessary to survive. If you don’t stop whining about everything, our lives will be reduced to the mediocrity of nutraloaf.
There will be things, many things, during the course of life that will be unpleasant and contrary to what you might wish the world to be. Others will differ. You’re neither right nor wrong, but you don’t get to ram your way down other people’s throats. Even the bad things add a richness to life. Even a bruised knee teaches a child a lesson.
You won’t like nutraloaf, but it will be all that’s left when you’re done purging everything that brings flavor, and color, and joy, and misery to life. That’s what makes life worth living. Nutralife is merely survival.