Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 15th 2016 Contents A30
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, October 15, 2016
Next time you can t figure out
what to make for dinner, tell your-
self: At least I m not in prison.
That s where Prodigy from the
group Mobb Deep landed after a plea
deal on a weapons possession charge
in 2007, serving most of a 3.5-year
sentence in a medium-security dorm
at Mid-State Correctional Facility
near Utica, New York, upstate.
And that s where he learned to
cook, prison style.
The Queens rapper, half the 90s
hardcore duo with Havoc, has writ-
ten a book with journalist Kathy
Iandoli called Commissary Kitchen:
My Infamous Prison Cookbook. It s
out this month from Infamous,
Prodigy s own imprint at Akashic
Books, based in Brooklyn where he
The book is a frank, touching and
funny collection of prison recipes
and memories about life on the
inside. Using the things available, a
toaster oven and a microwave, he
includes P s Jail Break with Ramen
noodles and Doritos, and Good as
(expletive) Seafood, featuring cans
of calamari, octopus and peas.
More seriously, he described how
scary it was to stare down lousy
prison food three times a day while
trying to manage sickle cell anemia,
a condition he s had since child-
AP: Why tackle prison life in this
way, through the food?
Prodigy: The main reason I did
the book was because of the food
conditions in jail. I wanted to shed
some light on how the food is not
really healthy at all. There should
be some reform, along with other
things about prison that should be
But with food, I have to watch my
diet because of my sickle cell. When
I first went in I realised there s no
green vegetables. They serve, like,
spinach once every two weeks. The
three meals they serve inmates every
day is like slop. There s glass and all
sorts of crazy stuff in the food.
That really made me want to learn
to cook. I wanted to eat as healthy
as possible. I mean, it s still prison.
We would get stuff from the com-
missary and my family would send
me 30, 35 pounds of canned green
vegetables every month. The other
inmates would get things like Oreos
and other snacks.
Food played such a prominent
role in the day-to-day in prison. I
mean, procuring ingredients, plan-
ning meals, cooking.
Yeah, the food part of the day,
when we were allowed into the day
room, it helped us relax for a while.
We could take our minds off of
where we were at. It helped inmates
come together and ease the tension
a little bit. Everybody s angry, intense.
They missed their families, they were
angry at themselves for being in
there in the first place, so coming
together and cooking every day, it
really helped people get along.
We d all chip in some food and
make a dinner. We d sit down to eat
together and talk and laugh about
Butter loomed large in your
prison cooking life.
The only thing we had was butter,
to grease the pans and everything,
and add to things to make sure the
food wasn t dry. We had the little
tiny packets of Country Crock. You d
peel the top open. They d bring these
big plastic bags of those up to our
dorm and we d save them, like 100
little containers at a time. We d stash
a bunch of them to cook with. We
weren t supposed to do that.
You broke into a guard s refrig-
erator once. Tell me about that.
He was so mean that one night
when he wasn t there we took the
hinges off the refrigerator door and
we took all his food. We all ate it.
The next day he thought the other
corrections officers ate his food. He
didn t know who did it.
How did prison change you?
It made me realise the gravity, the
reality of having everything taken
from you. My career, my family, my
You ve got two kids, now 20 and
17. They were pretty young when
you went in. What do you tell them
about the experience?
I just tell them, you know, it was
horrible. You don t ever want to be
in that position. Learn from my mis-
takes. Learn from me. You don t
have go through it yourself.
Prodigy describes prison life through food
The Queens rapper Prodigy.
Kitchen: My Infamous Prison
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