Rapper, Prodigy, Creates Healthy Cookbook In Prison
Most rappers, well, at least the hardcore rappers, usually use their time on the street and in jail as like a badge of honor to strengthen their street cred and thus sell more albums. But one rapper’s time in jail was influential in an entirely different way.
Albert “Prodigy” Johnson, one half of the influential hip-hop duo Mobb Deep, who created ’90s hits like “Shook Ones, Part II”, “Quiet Storm” and more, discovered a new talent after he was sentenced for illegally possessing a firearm in 2007.
His new book, Commissary Kitchen: My Infamous Prison Cookbook, is written by Prodigy and journalist Kathy Iandoli.
In the cookbook, Prodigy describes how his lifelong battle with sickle cell made him hyper-conscious of what he ate while incarcerated.
“I couldn’t afford to get sick in prison,” he writes. “My sickle cell is no joke, so I couldn’t eat poorly or not exercise. And everything in jail is designed to do the exact opposite.” This is just a hint of what sets Commissary Kitchen apart from other books in the genre — it’s about Prodigy’s experience of prison as much, if not more than, about the food itself. Unlike most cookbooks, there will also be an audio version read by Prodigy — recipes included.
While the prison menus did change, he writes that there was only one green vegetable that made it onto his cafeteria tray — green beans — and it was served only once a week. Even though he tried to eat healthy, cookbook readers will see his book a little different. “It’s not all healthy stuff,” Prodigy told NPR in an interview. “There’s a lot of butter and seasonings — it’s as healthy as I could get in the prison system.”
Just because inmates have access to the prison cafeteria doesn’t mean that they have enough to eat. Prison meals are often so cheaply made, badly prepared and sometimes unsuitable that they’ve incited riots, caused starving inmates to fight and riot.
In his NPR interview, Prodigy says that the prison “day room” — a common area of sorts — was where inmates did all of their cooking. “In the building I was in, there was about 30-40 inmates in that particular dorm, and we’d all have to share one microwave and one toaster oven and take turns cooking there,” he says.
Only correctional officers can access refrigerators. But despite this, Prodigy managed to make curry gravy, macaroni and tuna salads, baked seafood with vegetables and sweet potato pie – all recipes that are available in the book.