Most prison cafeteria meals are terrible enough to make inmates want to escape. That’s what I hear, anyway. I’ve never been incarcerated for a felony, so I don’t have much first hand experience (or street cred). Nevertheless, we’ve all seen glops of sludge flung onto plastic trays in the movies or indescribable piles of goop described in the pages of novels. But over 50 years ago, the food in America’s most notorious prison wasn’t quite so bad. Actually, scratch that. The food at San Francisco’s infamous Alcatraz Prison was pretty damn good.
This Sunday, Discovery Family Channel’s show Secrets of America’s Favorite Placesfeatures Alcatraz, which had the best food in the federal prison system. The cafeteria menu was actually pretty on par with the lo-fi comfort food we love today. Chili dogs, butter drenched potatoes, fried pork chops, biscuits and gravy, banana pudding, and a well-balanced breakfast of cereal, eggs, fruit, and toast to start the day all sound pretty on point. No need for spending all your cigarettes at Mikey D’Angelo’s mysteriously well-stocked snack cabinet. No need for sneaking in charcuterie or cheese or candy bars.
Now that could be taken lightly, but as a testament to how good the food actually was, the guards and prison staff ate the same exact meals as the prisoners. Alcatraz’s warden believed, “Most trouble in prison is caused by bad food.” Dinner may not have been on the level of Henry, Vinnie, Johnny, and Paulie’s beautifully orchestrated Italian feasts in Goodfellas, but meals in the Alcatraz mess hall were definitely worthy of praise. Paired with a little toilet wine, some might even call them exquisite.
So now the obvious question: If the food was so outstanding, why did Clint Eastwood need to escape so badly in Escape From Alcatraz? Our guess: the cafeteria probably didn’t cater to his gluten intolerance.