Loaf without parole.

Loaf without parole.

Loaf without parole.

What to eat. What not to eat.
Dec. 23 2002 6:01 PM

Loaf Without Parole

The sniper complains about the food in the big house.

Illustration by Mark Alan Stamaty

Some perspective for those of you dreading the same old Christmas turkey this week: Sniper suspect John Lee Malvo has been eating the same "vegetable loaf" three times a day at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center since Nov. 19. And apparently he will keep on eating it, despite the fact that the 17-year-old's court appointed guardian, Todd G. Petit, notified the prison late last week that Malvo is experiencing "adverse physical reactions" (i.e., unremitting diarrhea and bloating) from eating the loaf for every meal.


In a publicity move gone only somewhat awry, Fairfax County Sheriff Stan Barry staged a little news conference/taste test late last Friday to prove that what's been described as an oily brown "brick" of bread and vegetable is not all that unpalatable. Cheerfully biting into the loaf, the sheriff chewed for a long, long time before observing to the gathered reporters: "I knew there were going to be a lot of things I had to do in this job that wouldn't be enjoyable. … eating The Loaf in front of witnesses wasn't one of them."

The real problem with Malvo's "humanitarian" complaint is that he himself requested that the loaf be his sole food, insisting that it was the only thing on the prison menu that comported with the dietary requirements of his Muslim faith. The prison refuses to prepare special vegetarian menus for Malvo because all the other Muslim inmates are content with the regulation pork-free menu and because Malvo's vegetarianism turns out to be more a matter of humanitarian preference than religious belief.

Ironically, for the most part the loaf is used in the county jail exclusively for disciplinary reasons: Inmates who have committed serious infractions (usually assault) will be fed The Loaf as punishment. But Malvo requested the meal and got it. And it's become the gift that keeps on giving.

Dahlia Lithwick Dahlia Lithwick

Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate and hosts the podcast Amicus.

Experts suggest that the best way to ensure you're served vegetarian food in prison is to convert to some religion that embraces vegetarianism as a firm tenet. Zen Buddhism would generally be a good choice, unless you've spent this lifetime as a serial killer. In Malvo's case, the rules of karma suggest that he'll come back as a fat ant to be burned by sadistic boys with magnifying glasses.

This is also why John Lee Malvo's humanitarianism—which evidently doesn't extend to humans—is not paramount among the prison's concerns. And why his Christmas dinner tomorrow will be a vile mélange of things dug up from the compost heap. For those of you expecting a crowd of constipated vegetarian felons for dinner this holiday, here's the Fairfax County Prison's recipe for The Loaf, courtesy of Newsday.com:

The Fairfax County, Va., Adult Detention Center's recipe for The Loaf

120 slices of wheat bread
25 cups grated nondairy cheese
10 cups raisins
4 cups vegetable oil
15 cups grated carrots
15 cups well-drained spinach
60 cups vegetarian beans
8 cups tomato puree
15 cups nondairy powdered milk
12 cups instant potatoes
1 pound brown sugar
1 cup white sugar

1. Mix.
2. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes.

Makes 60 servings.