This article examines the processes of sensory perception in Past Time (2018), Rideout’s project with prisoners at HMP Hewell (Tardebigge, Worcestershire, UK) that explored both the histories and contemporary experience of food and eating in prison. The article explores how we make sense of perceptual experience (in terms of reflection, meaning and significance), as well as how the sensory encounter itself is guided and framed. The article argues that, experientially, perception is always already framed in advance and that sensory perceptions are not neutral, apolitical information-gathering. The article focuses on a performance for an invited audience in the prison, which was a result of the research and development process conducted by the prisoners and the company. During the performance, the audience were served and ate portions of gruel, soup and bread made from historical recipes (notably manuals on cooking from the Prison Commission). The prison operated as a loaded site for guiding and framing the experience of eating. By exploring the intersection of taste, smell, touch, sight, sound and reflection as part of a performative model of perception, the article considers how language and thought operate as a key part of perceptual experience, while also examining the politics of the site of the prison as a framing device for perception.