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Good eatin' on Alcatraz

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  August 30, 2013 09:49 AM

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Alcatraz island was notoriously impossible to escape from, but little has been said about one of its most formidable defenses: The food was so good on "The Rock" that there was really no reason to leave.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the prison's closing (which happened on March 21, 1963), a weekly menu from 1946 has been released. The fare is surprisingly appealing and non-redundant: fresh fruit, beef pot pie anglaise, bacon jambalaya, beet and onion salad. Even the fact that there was a menu at all is striking, indicating a degree of forethought about food that seems downright nurturing (though today's supermax facilities surely have menus, too, regardless of what's on them). When people say things were better in the old days, it's usually good to roll your eyes, but in this case the verdict seems just. To test that assessment, we might also ask Whitey Bulger, who provides a kind of perfect control experiment: He was a guest on Alcatraz in the 1960s and is now set to spend the rest of his life in jail. Maybe he'll be willing to talk about how prison fare has changed through the decades.

alcatraz menu.jpeg

H/T Marginal Revolution.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

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Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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