FFS! It’s just a pudding!
I received some fantastic feedback from my previous blog In-Cell Cuisine 1960s to 1980s. Thank you all very much.
But, absolutely no mention of my extensive research or my newly found gift for silly memes and not a word about my imaginative writing. Without exception, it was all about the duffncustard.
When I turned to my experts from HMP Old School Connections, amongst all the comments there was an announcement from a man, who had recently finished a stint inside, that he’d “never heard of duffncustard” and more similar comments followed. It was a sad day for many when they started to realise that duffncustard is being phased out of our prisons, with comments like “I’d have taken my blue bowl on the roof!.” (I haven’t told David yet, I want a quiet weekend.)
Please allow me to pay homage to the legendary duffncustard and tell you what the fuss is all about.
In order to do justice to the sacred duffncustard, I really need to know my stuff, so I asked the Googles to find the information I needed to clue myself up.
It was first known as ‘plum pudding’ before the colloquial word duff took off. It was actually called dough, but became known as duff over the years. Back in ye olden times dough was pronounced like rough and not row. This side of the prison walls it is still known as Christmas Pudding and I’m going to assume that you’re all familiar with the ingredients. If not, Mary Berry is known to like a bit of duff at Christmas, check out her recipe …
Remove all the expensive ingredients and throw in some cheaper stuff and you get duff. It became known as the ‘poor man’s Christmas pudding.’ More on that later.
Back to my research. I typed into the Googles “origin of duff” and discovered it goes right back as far as medieval times, although if you want to go back to when records began, it was in the early 15th Century.
I’m no historian and have absolutely no desire to learn anything more about the history of duff. But if you’re that way inclined here’s a link to History Today fill your boots.
Having lost all interest in the history lesson, I dropped it and moved on to establish the link between prison and duff. Look what I found ….
It was the 17th December 1929 when the following article was published by The Citizen newspaper. Here’s the link so you know it’s true. Not made up by Keef.
Gloucester Gaol’s Xmas “Lags” Now Making Their Way Home to Prison.
“I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there’s a link between duff n custard and recidivism to this day.” A quip from my previous blog and according to the same article in The Citizen, I wasn’t too far from the truth ….
Before I move on, I would like to clear up a couple of myths about the origins of the word duff.
It does not mean this pudding is really duff and tastes unpleasant.
Nor does it mean, give me your pudding or I’ll duff you up.
It’s not derived from the two bars of Dove lard used to make a pudding.
It’s not prison slang for ‘good stuff.’
It’s just a poor man’s Christmas pudding.
I’ve now covered the meaning, the history and the links to our prisons, so I’ll get onto the good stuff.
At this point it would be easy to think that duff is a Christmas Pudding served every day, on every landing in every prison. No way Jose, behind the wall, every pudding is called duff. From what I can work out, anything with lots of sugar and covered in custard is called duff. You can hide pretty much anything when you cover it in custard. Although, the custard itself was described as “nothing to write home about.”
Please note, these photos are for illustration only. Ask the Googles for prison food images and all you’ll find are that photo of that M&S Christmas Dinner that is punted by the tabloids every December.
A duffncustard for the person who correctly predicts when the story will first appear this year. Leave your predictions in the comments at the end of this blog. I’m going with 17th of December 2020.
My prediction for this annual classic tabloid story is 11 December 2020.
As you know I’ve spent my life on this side on the wall, so I have to use my imagination and creativity to understand what goes on and why the puddings I ate at school were so good that they’re a dealbreaker behind the door. I discovered that duffncustard actually IS a dealbreaker.
In the prison commodities market, the food amongst Kings, has always been a good performer.
The duffncustard market has been unaffected by inflation for decades. One portion of duffncustard has maintained its value of one roll up. Long-term investors could trade three roll ups for a week’s worth of duffncustard. At today’s prices one portion of duffncustard is valued at five drags on a vape.
The duffncustard market also caters for the last minute shopper. Like the men who ticked the box for yoghurt and fruit, looking woefully at the orange and craving the duffncustard from next door.
You’ve no doubt heard of the expression ‘Black-eye Friday’ when most trades are concluded on the wings. On duffncustard days the landings would resemble the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, with men lurking in doorways offering you their duffncustard at a very good price.
A word of caution. In addition to losing your one roll up investment, your duffncustard might be served in a dirty stained bowl, the sight of which makes it completely unappetising, if not inedible. Sorry, brother. You’ve been mugged off again.
The duffncustard supply chain begins in the kitchens. If you manage to blag your way up to working in the kitchen you have total power and control over the entire market and distribution network.
Huge industrial trays of apple crumble would appear in your pad as if by magic. Legend has it that many years ago two men from the kitchen scoffed a whole tray in one go and to this day it still hasn’t been digested.
Duffncustard is also widely known for its medicinal properties.
It’s heart breaking to think that even today, there are men who return to prison because their basic needs aren’t being met on this side of the wall. Agreed, it’s highly unlikely that nowadays duffncustard is a reason for returning to jail. But, when you need somewhere to live, you’re hungry and don’t know where your next meal is coming from; duffncustard can suddenly become very appealing and start to feel like home.
We hear too many stories of men, women and even children who have chosen to be recalled, knowing that the most minor breach of license conditions will give them a bed for the night, something to eat and a break from a world where nobody seems to care. It’s as if the Ministry of Injustice set up a committee, with a fancy pants name, four sub-committees, 27 focus groups and they all got out the flipchart and wrote ‘How to meet Mr #uckland’s target of 100,000 men, women and children serving time in our prisons.‘
But none of this makes the headlines. There’s a strong and powerful and message in this blog. It’s exactly the same message as everyone else involved with the criminal justice system. The way the message is delivered might be different, but the message is exactly the same – we need to improve the lives of OUR people in OUR prisons and OUR people under probation who are members of OUR society.
Unfortunately, these are the ridiculous headlines we are more likely to see in the media.
I do hope I’ve been able to do justice to the Holy Grail of prison food. But, this blog doesn’t end there. I need your help.
Throughout December I will be publishing a series of guest blogs written by real-life people with real-life experience of Christmas in prison. I’ve got some amazing people lined up already, but I need more.
If you’re a loved one of a man in prison, or you have been.
Can you help other loved ones deal with Christmas by writing about your own experience? Can you share what it’s like on that first Christmas apart from your man? Any tips for getting through Christmas and what to send him? If he’s in prison now, can you ask him to write a blog on the phone, by letter or by email. Why shouldn’t they be included? They’re living it right now and they are part of OUR society. Their voices should matter.
If you’ve been prison or you’re currently in prison.
Can you help loved ones understand what it’s like? What’s the atmosphere like? Is it quieter or noisier? The door banging? Carol singing? Secret Santa? Christmas trees? Did you make decorations? Do you have a special Christmas Hooch? What do you cook in a kettle for Christmas? Party Games? Funniest story? Tell us what you get up to – we really wanna know!
If you’ve worked in prison or you’re currently working in prison
What can you tell loved ones? What’s it like working on Christmas Day? What do staff do to make it a bit more festive? Did you get your baubles out? Did you put tinsel around your baton? Did you leave little chocolate Christmas puddings on every pillow?
If you’re an author who has published stories about your time in prison – send me extracts of your book relating to Christmas.
I really hope you can help me. If you would like to contribute, please let me know by February 2021 latest or December would probably work better.
And, finally this is where you can buy me a coffee!!