Prison food was no picnic, unless you were incarcerated at Alcatraz. James A. Johnston, first warden of The Rock, knew bad food led to bad moods, and bad moods led to riots. So, he made sure the prison population at Alcatraz had three squares a day from a well-conceived menu. They were even permitted to go back for seconds provided that they cleaned their plates. (Wasting food was a no-no.) The wardens who succeeded him kept the policy in place.
Former prisoner William Baker said recently that his favorite meal was spaghetti, prepared by an old Italian convict cook and served with an antipasto salad, a side of butter beans, and apple pie for dessert. “Man it was good,” he recalls. “Every meal was good! I doubt if anyone outside of Alcatraz would believe it.”
Obviously, this was no ordinary prison grub, and if you’d like to sample it yourself you can. From August 8 through September 2, the Eclipse restaurant at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco (from which cruises also depart to the island) is doing a commemorative Alcatraz menu to accompany “Alcatraz: Life on the Rock” and “Alcatraz: The Last Day”—exhibitions currently in the hotel’s lobby to mark the 50th anniversary of the prison’s closing.
And please join us this Monday through Friday for more special features about and from prison during Criminal Element's Week Behind Bars.