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When Cooking Was a Crime: Masak in the Singapore Prisons, 1970s-80s

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by Sheere Ng
Regular price $45.00

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Researched over the course of 9 years, When Cooking was a Crime explores the illicit act of Masak–the culture of illegal cooking in one’s cell or dormitory–within the Singapore prison system of the 1970s and 80s.

Shedding light upon the unique recipes, tools, and methods devised by inmates to prepare supper in the confines of their cells, the publication explores the ingenuity of cooks within  deprived environments. Cooking supper was the favorite pastime of many inmates, who craved diversion from the monotony of prison food. Their activities were carefully timed to avoid the warders’ scheduled patrols. Chamber pots and mugs were used as cooking pots; plastic bags and blankets were turned into fuel.

The inmates, mostly male and Chinese, called this elaborate operation “masak”, which means “to cook” in Malay. A rare glimpse into the flavors of prison life based on the memories of eight former inmates When Cooking was a Crime explores how food took on new meanings and tastes for those behind bars through interviews and texts by food culture explorer Sheere Ng and photographic recreations of 35 objects and dishes by Don Wong.

A remarkable testament to resilience. An unusual book from an unusual.

Paperback in a plastic sleeve. The book is bound by a variation on traditional methods: the bottoms of many pages are untrimmed and will need to be cut. 128 pages. Full color photography throughout.

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