More than Meals: A Narrative Criminological Analysis of Inmate‐Authored Cookbooks

21 Pages Posted: 20 May 2020

See all articles by A.E. STEARNS


University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Date Written: March 2020


Cookbooks are cultural artifacts, providing glimpses into the ways in which a society views itself. Cookbooks of incarcerated individuals are notably absent from the landscape of scholarly work, although the genre can tell us much about a largely invisible segment of society. Using a narrative criminology approach, this project situates inmate‐authored cookbooks as narrative and examines 13 inmate‐authored cookbooks to determine how the structural elements of these narratives establish (or fail to establish) links with wider, mainstream society. Results suggest that the majority of inmate‐authored cookbooks employ narrative structures and strategies that engage with outside society by challenging the nature of ‘otherness’. Only a few cookbooks utilise such strategies as inside humour or violent narratives to mark the boundaries of prison culture. Findings help to extend the theoretical usefulness of narrative criminology, broaden and deepen our understanding of the prison experience, and establish the prison cookbook as a valid form of narrative.

Keywords: inmate‐authored cookbooks, narrative criminology, prison cookbooks, prison food

Suggested Citation

STEARNS, A.E., More than Meals: A Narrative Criminological Analysis of Inmate‐Authored Cookbooks (March 2020). The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice, Vol. 59, Issue 1, pp. 65-85, 2020, Available at SSRN: or

A.E. STEARNS (Contact Author)

University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Lafayette, LA 70504
United States

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